Kevin De Bruyne provided yet another masterful performance to lead Man City to a comprehensive victory over Leicester on Saturday. The Belgian playmaker dazzled throughout the game with his range of passing, his vision and his uncanny ability to glide past defenders with consummate ease.
In his previous game he scored twice and set up another to put Arsenal to the sword, and he is in arguably the best form of his life right now. Man City might be too far behind Liverpool to defend their Premier League crown, but De Bruyne could lead them to Champions League glory this season.
Manager Pep Guardiola heaped praise on the Belgian midfielder after his team’s 3-1 win over Leicester. “He’s a spectacular player,” said Guardiola. “He won the game for us. He has always been incredible since we’ve been together. His commitment is incredible. He is a fighter and he helps us keep up the intensity when he’s playing further up he helps the press a lot. That was the best he has played in a long time.”
It is hard to argue with that assessment. De Bruyne’s assist for City’s third goal was a thing of beauty, as he waltzed through the Leicester defense and whipped a delicious ball across the box for Gabriel Jesus to tap into an empty net. He is already on double figures for assists this season and we are not even halfway through the campaign yet.
Time to Shine
De Bruyne was hands down the best player in the Premier League during Man City’s 2018/19 title-winning campaign. Mohamed Salah scored a bunch of goals during the second half of the season and seized the PFA Player of the Year award, but De Bruyne was consistently brilliant throughout the campaign and he should have been honored. He suffered a couple of lengthy injury layoffs last term, and that halted his momentum, but he still looked quality whenever he featured.
Now he looks back to his very best after enjoying a long spell in the team. In fact, he is probably playing better than ever before. Not only does he lead the way in terms of assists, but he also has a great eye for goal and he tracks back too. De Bruyne made five successful tackles against Leicester, more than any other player on the pitch. He embodies everything you would want from the modern midfielder and at 28 years old he is now in his prime.
The win against Leicester saw City move a point behind the Foxes, and they should be good for a top-two finish this season. However, it still left them 11 points behind Liverpool, who have a game in hand.
The Reds have been close to invincible this season, and Man City are unlikely to overhaul them now, as they have already dropped points in six of their 18 games. It could be time for them to focus on the Champions League, and De Bruyne could be the man to deliver it.
Domestic Rivals Lurk
Man City were handed a tricky last 16 clash with Real Madrid, who won the competition three years in a row between 2016 and 2018. However, a quick look at Champions League betting odds at Sportsbook Review shows that they are the heavy favorites to sweep Los Blancos aside. In fact, Man City are the outright favorites to win the competition, despite landing such a tricky last 16 tie.
The priority under Guardiola has always been the Premier League and they have dominated for the past two seasons. Yet it would now make sense to focus on the Champions League, and they may have to vanquish domestic rivals in order to pull it off. Man City were beaten home and away in their quarter-final showdown with Liverpool in 2017/18 and they lost to Spurs at the same stage last season.
Right now you would fancy them to beat Spurs and Chelsea over two legs, but toppling Liverpool is another matter entirely. The Reds are the reigning European champions, they just sauntered to victory at the Club World Cup and they are on fire in the Premier League.
If Man City want to win this tournament, Guardiola might have to find a way to outfox Jurgen Klopp. It finished 3-1 to Liverpool when these teams at Anfield last month, and the City should have the psychological advantage if they were to meet in Europe. Of course, there are plenty of excellent teams in this competition, from Barcelona to Bayern Munich via Juventus and PSG, but the Premier League is in the ascendancy right now. Yet De Bruyne is currently the best player in England and he could make the difference for City in the latter stages of the tournament.