Pep Guardiola has admitted that playmaker Kevin de Bruyne has felt a hangover from last season’s gruelling campaign. The Belgian was integral to his side winning the double last season but has faced a frustrating follow-up campaign on the sidelines.
De Bruyne is targeting an early return to action ahead of a hectic festive period as Manchester City pursue a second league title. The Citizens have enjoyed another impressive campaign under Pep Guardiola but have faced much stiffer competition this time around.
Chelsea inflicted a first defeat of the season on the defending champions last weekend, which saw Guardiola's side surrender top spot to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. The pair now face a tense run of fixtures leading up the all-important clash between the two sides at the start of January.
De Bruyne is hoping to make a difference for his side after suffering through a number of injury setbacks this season. The 27-year-old is yet to complete 90 minutes for City this season and has made just two starts in 17 Premier League games.
De Bruyne made 52 appearances for Manchester City last season, and went on to star in Belgium’s run to a third place finish at the World Cup in summer. Quoted by BBC Sport, Guardiola attributed his stop-start campaign to that fatigue.
"Kevin finished last season exhausted," he said. “It was so tough for him and when he came back I had the feeling he was a little bit tired. Sometimes people recover quite well, sometimes mentally it takes time. We didn't want him to be injured but maybe it helped us because now he's fresh in his mind."
The midfielder's last appearance for the club came in the Carabao Cup tie with Fulham at the start of November. Despite this, he hasn’t left the manager’s thinking, with Guardiola emphasising the qualities De Bruyne brings to the side.
He finished by saying: "Kevin is a special player for us. He needs to recover his full condition. Hopefully, he can avoid more injuries and play regularly again."