Kevin De Bruyne can see passes other humans cannot, according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
De Bruyne was benched by Guardiola for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Tottenham, which City lost 1-0.
But the Belgium international was recalled for Saturday’s Premier League trip to Crystal Palace and City’s 3-1 win featured a pair of De Bruyne assists.
He sent Raheem Sterling clear for the opening goal at Selhurst Park then Gabriel Jesus finished off at De Bruyne pass late on to seal City’s ninth straight league win.
The midfielder made his case to start Wednesday’s return against Spurs at the Etihad Stadium with a masterful performance, helping to offset the loss of Fernandinho to injury.
“In the last three or four games De Bruyne was incredible and we missed him a lot when he was out injured,” Guardiola said at post-match news conference, referring to the two medial knee ligament injuries that decimated the first half of De Bruyne’s season.
“He has the ability and the vision to see passes the rest of us human beings can’t see.
“With him around, our passes in front – especially in the final third – are incredible and today he was so committed to defensive work, winning duels and being in that position.
“And of course, he is fresh mentally – and in the legs – in those situations. That’s why he made not just the two assists that are so important, but all the other situations where we needed him.”
The race continues… pic.twitter.com/BiuCWa77Ui
— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) April 14, 2019
Although Luka Milivojevic scored a free-kick to make it 2-1 after Raheem Sterling’s brace, Jesus struck in stoppage time to close out a victory that briefly moved City back above Liverpool in the title race.
And Guardiola was impressed with his side’s defensive display despite missing out on what would have been a seventh clean sheet in their last eight Premier League matches.
“[Christian] Benteke is so strong in the air and Vinny [Kompany] is the best defender at heading the ball we have,” he said. “Of course, he has the experience and he can play at a high level – he trained well for the last few weeks and that’s why he played today.
“[Aymeric] Laporte was incredible, breaking up the play and switching play to the wings and breaking the lines.
“We know what Aymeric has done has been really incredible – a central defender needs to defend and defend well, and the first pass is to play it five metres – he can do that, but also he commits going forwards, creates extra passes for the players up front and helps us to play better. Today was at the level he’s been at all season.”
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) April 14, 2019
Sterling took his tally to 17 Premier League goals this season, with his former England manager Roy Hodgson highlighted the forward’s latest high-class contribution after he missed an early sitter.
“Very impressed – he deserves a lot of credit as an individual, for doing the work he needed to do on his game to take his game to the next level,” the Palace boss told reporters. “I am pretty sure he has had a lot of assistance from his manager and the manager’s coaching staff, and the quality of players around him.
“I don’t know if he pays tribute to that, but I am sure he would, and it has certainly been a factor in his development, and he has developed so well thanks to himself and the effort he’s put into the game.
“It is interesting for us to see what efforts players like him will put into their game. Not really when they’re on the attack and the things everyone gives them credit for, but the side of the game that a lot of quality players don’t really want to do.
“Seeing him chase back to get Wilf Zaha, to prevent Zaha getting into a situation where he might be 1-v-1, I think that is a great credit him.
“He has always had that in him from the beginning, but he has retained all that while improving aspects of his game like his decision-making, his goalscoring and ability to control the ball and beat a man.”
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