Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini must weigh up how to use Kevin De Bruyne in Saturday’s Premier League home match against West Brom.
De Bruyne returned to the City starting XI following two months out with medial knee ligament damage for last weekend’s trip to AFC Bournemouth and marked the occasion with a goal and a superb display in a 4-0 victory.
The Belgium international repeated the trick by opening the scoring in Wednesday’s thrilling 2-2 Champions League quarter-final draw at Paris Saint-Germain.
With next Tuesday’s return leg against the Ligue 1 champions on the horizon, Pellegrini may be tempted to ease De Bruyne’s workload so soon after his spell on the sidelines.
But fourth-placed City have Manchester United and West Ham in close pursuit as they battle to secure Champions League qualification for next season and can ill afford a slip-up versus Tony Pulis’ men.
De Bruyne has acted as a galvanising influence over the past week for a side that lost four of seven Premier League matches in his absence to effectively end their title bid.
“I’m a little bit better than the [Bournemouth] game. I lasted a little bit longer,” the 24-year-old told City’s official website after completing 77 minutes at the Parc des Princes.
“We’ll see how the next days progress and how it will be for the weekend.
“That’s what we’re going to discuss over the next few days but I’m happy with the way it’s going and physically I’m getting a little bit better.”
West Brom striker Saido Berahino has also returned from a first-team absence, although his exile came as a result of Pulis deeming him not mentally or physically up to scratch to start Premier League matches, as opposed to any major injury problem.
The England Under-21 international has started Albion’s past six Premier League matches, scoring once to take his tally in all competitions up to seven for the season, and he has double figures in his sights over the remaining seven matches this term.
“If I can get into double figures – I am on seven at the moment – it will be brilliant for me and a turnaround after all the things that have happened so it would be good,” Berahino told the Express and Star, before reflecting on the goalless draw at Sunderland last time out, taking West Brom up to the fabled 40-point mark.
“We are just trying to get as much points on the board now. We have got to finish the season strong, that is the main aim for us.
“We are pushing ourselves to 45 points and hopefully we can get that.”
Recent history suggests they might struggle to overcome City, who have won each of the past eight Premier League encounters between the sides.
Pellegrini will run the rule over Yaya Toure (heel/knee) and is set to again be without Raheem Sterling (groin) and Vincent Kompany, although the captain is reported to be progressing well from his latest calf injury.
Callum McManaman was sent off for West Brom’s Under-21 side against Aston Villa in midweek but will be available to Pulis after his comeback from an ankle ligament problem.
Key Opta stats
– West Brom have conceded three times in each of their past five Premier League contests against Manchester City.
– Albion’s last win over City came in December 2008 and they have lost 11 of the subsequent 12 meetings.
– David Silva has scored in four of his last five top-flight games against West Brom, including each of the previous three.
– West Brom have registered seven 1-0 wins this season – the joint-highest figure in the division alongside leaders Leciester City.
– City have won 50 per cent (1.8 pts/game) of their Premier League matches to feature Kevin De Bruyne since the Belgium international’s debut last September and only 27 per cent (1.0 pts/game) without him in the side.