Soccer

How Man City will cope without Kevin de Bruyne amid fresh title race twist

Manchester City ace Kevin de Bruyne could spend up to six weeks on the sidelines after sustaining a hamstring injury in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Aston Villa.

The Belgian hobbled off during City’s controversial victory, in which Villa boss Dean Smith was brandished a red card, and was assessed by medical staff on Thursday.

The six-week verdict comes as a major blow to Pep Guardiola, who could be without his star midfielder for upcoming matches against Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.

It could also be a tight squeeze for him to be fit in time for their Champions League trip to Borussia Monchengladbach on February 24.

Guardiola will therefore need to replace him in the middle of the park over the next few weeks, and shifting Bernardo Silva into a deeper position could be his best move.

Silva operates mainly as an attacking midfielder or a right winger, but he is also capable of taking up a deeper role as part of City’s three-man central midfield.

The Portuguese star could start alongside Rodri and in-form Ilkay Gundogan when they take on West Brom, Sheffield United and Burnley in what will be perceived as a fairly comfortable run of fixtures.

However, Guardiola could opt for a more cautious midfield setup in their next three matches after the trip to Burnley on February 3, which are likely to prove much more competitive affairs.

His side first go away to Liverpool four days after their clash with the Clarets, before Tottenham visit The Etihad on February 13.

Another tough test away at Arsenal then comes eight days later, a fixture Guardiola will hope De Bruyne has recovered in time for.

Should he miss all three games, bringing Fernandinho back into the midfield alongside Rodri and Gundogan will provide extra security.

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Oleksandr Zinchenko could also do a job in midfield if required, while Phil Foden is another potential option to play deeper in what should be routine victories over West Brom, Sheffield United and Burnley.

City were initially hopeful that De Bruyne may only spend two to three weeks out, yet Guardiola will need to have a plan in mind if he is unavailable for the next six.

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