De Bruyne’s return key in title chase: Guardiola
Pep Guardiola has backed a fit-again Kevin de Bruyne to give Manchester City an extra edge as they look to defend their English Premier League title from an assault from leaders Liverpool.
The Belgium playmaker marked his latest return from injury with a commanding display as City hammered second-tier Rotherham United 7-0 in the third round of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
De Bruyne, 27, was key as City hit 100 points last season but has twice been sidelined with knee problems this season as Liverpool have stolen ahead of Guardiola's side in the title race.
"I said many times how important Kevin is for us. Without him, last season would maybe not have been possible," AFP quoted the City manager as saying after Sunday's FA Cup stroll.
"So far we have done incredible in terms of results, but we have an opponent (Liverpool) that have done better.
"But they are an opponent that has done better than us without him."
De Bruyne missed City's previous two games due to a muscle injury, including the 2-1 win over Liverpool last Thursday that saw City close to within four points of Juergen Klopp's table-toppers.
And Guardiola believes a City side with de Bruyne can overhaul that gap.
"Now he is back he will be fresh in the mind and the legs, and is going to help give us extra creativity in the last third, in the fight. Today he was our captain and he showed us why."
City starlet Phil Foden, meanwhile, said he won't be following the paths of Brahim Diaz and Jadon Sancho away from Manchester because he can learn from the best in de Bruyne.
Said the 18-year-old Englishman: "I see myself playing here. It's up to them, really.
"It shows the strength of the squad we have here, how good the players are. It is difficult to get in, but we all try our best.
"I just need to keep pushing, do my best in the games and take opportunities when they come.
"We've got the best set of players and the best staff, so I'm in the right position. I'm learning off them every day, so I couldn't be in a better place.
"It's brilliant to play alongside players like de Bruyne. You just learn from the best."
City play Burton Albion in the first leg of the League Cup semi-finals on Thursday morning (Singapore time).