Kevin De Bruyne welcomes competition for places as Man City near full strength

Manuel Akanji is City’s only first-team absentee after Erling Haaland returned against Burnley.

Andy Hampson
Thursday 01 February 2024 12:54 GMT
Kevin De Bruyne feels Manchester City are looking strong (Martin Rickett/PA)
Kevin De Bruyne feels Manchester City are looking strong (Martin Rickett/PA) (PA Wire)

Kevin De Bruyne is pleased Manchester City are close to full strength as the business end of the season approaches.

Erling Haaland returned to action after almost two months out as the champions eased to a 3-1 win over struggling Burnley in the Premier League on Wednesday.

With De Bruyne having made his first start since August and John Stones also featuring after a knock, City are in a healthy position as the pressure ramps up.

Defender Manuel Akanji is now the only absentee as City, five points off the top with a game in hand, battle with Liverpool and Arsenal for the title and prepare for the resumption of the Champions League.

“I think it’s really good,” said De Bruyne, who set up one of Julian Alvarez’s two goals in a comfortable victory over the relegation-threatened Clarets at the Etihad Stadium.

“I think if Manu comes back – and I think it’ll be soon – it’s going to be the first time in the year everybody’s fit, so that can only help us because I think the schedule is getting a little bit harder and harder in the next weeks.

“To have everybody available can only help the team being competitive. Even if you change (the team), there’s big stars sitting on the bench and you can rotate.”

After a difficult spell in November, momentum is growing at City with eight wins in succession and 10 in their last 11 games in all competitions.

That could be ominous for their rivals but De Bruyne insists nothing will be taken for granted.

The Belgian said: “I just think there is that feeling that whenever we lose a game, we’re falling too far behind. And it’s the same in the cup competitions – if you lose, you’re out.

“So I think we’re in a good moment, people are coming back, but we don’t get complacent.”

City, who are next in action at Brentford on Monday, were far too strong for a Burnley side who remain seven points from safety.

Victory was all but secured as Alvarez, aided by some poor defending, struck twice in the space of six minutes midway through the first half.

The Argentinian World Cup winner has excelled this season in the absence of De Bruyne and Haaland.

De Bruyne said: “He’s been really good. I think he’s played a lot in the midfield this year and that’s not really his position, but he did a great job because obviously we had a lot of injuries.

“He’s been banging in goals, giving assists, so he’s probably happy. He’s doing really good.”

Rodri added City’s third goal early in the second half and Burnley barely registered a threat until grabbing a late consolation through Ameen Al-Dakhil.

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