Kevin De Bruyne is nearing a return to action for Manchester City having not played for the club since injuring his hamstring on the opening day of the season.
Pep Guardiola believes Kevin De Bruyne will benefit from his four-month break from action as the Manchester City midfielder closes in on a return to the first-team squad.
De Bruyne has been absent since the first weekend of the season, having undergone surgery on a hamstring injury picked up at Burnley, but he has been back full training for nearly two weeks and is “training with a lot of energy”, according to Guardiola.
The City boss was set to decide on whether De Bruyne will return to the squad for today’s game against Sheffield United after training on Friday afternoon, but with John Stones, Jeremy Doku and Erling Haaland still absent, there were places up for grabs in the matchday squad.
De Bruyne returned to training with the rest of the squad in Jeddah for the Club World Cup and is now close to the point of building up match fitness, having been restricted to around an hour of football this season. Guardiola is trying to hold the 32-year-old back at the moment and is sensing that the lay-off might have been beneficial to him.
“He’s training with a lot of energy. Being injured is not good for anyone but I think for his mind it will have been good to have a few months off,” he said.
“What he loves is playing football but it’s been a long injury, it was major surgery and muscular so we have to be careful. It looks like you are perfect but you are not.
“It’s how many minutes he can handle and do it step by step. It’s not playing 90 minutes then three days later another 90 and another – after that you’d be in trouble.”
De Bruyne played in the Community Shield defeat to Arsenal and at Turf Moor in August before sustaining the injury, but having spent a couple of weeks in training he is now telling Guardiola he feels ready to return.
But the Catalan will consult the medical team before making a decision on De Bruyne’s place in the matchday squad and how many minutes he can play.
“We have to speak to the doctors and physios as well, see if he can play 10 minutes, 20 minutes, a half,” he said. “Now we are in a process where he could play and then have seven days to recover – it’s not a game every three days. So if we need him we are going to try to use him.”
De Bruyne trained with the rest of the squad on Friday afternoon, but Stones and Doku were absent and Haaland continues to train on his own. City face Huddersfield in the FA Cup next weekend and then Newcastle in the Premier League the following Saturday, before a mid-season break.
Haaland is expected to return at some point this month, as is Stones, and having key players back will be a lift to City in an engrossing title race.
“It’s massive, to have Kevin and Erling and Jeremy and John available, Ruben the last game was sick, of course it’s important, there will be a lot of games and we have to go for every one,” he said.
“We’re talking about important figures and important players for us, no doubt about that.”
Stones absence will be problematic for City, with Guardiola previously saying it was a problem being without him due to the skillset he provides, but he’s confident his side will get by.
“We handled it this season and still we are there and we are not far away. We have won already two titles this season and qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League,” he said. “[But] John is important.
“We have the academy, we just need 11 players. I love to beat everyone but when players aren’t there, what can I do? Complain? It is not our style. John is not there, so we will help him to recover, like Erling, like Jeremy, like Kevin and all the players that are not fit and go with the players that we have.”
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