De Bruyne, who only recently returned from a two-month lay-off with knee ligament damage, was substituted on Thursday night after Fulham’s Timothy Fosu-Mensah landed awkwardly on his left knee.
This latest knee injury is unrelated to De Bruyne’s previous problem. Whereas the Belgian injured his right knee in August, Thursday’s damage was to his left and unlike in the summer, De Bruyne does not require surgery.
De Bruyne will now miss at least seven games, including Sunday’s meeting with Southampton and the Manchester derby on 11 November, and is also at risk of sitting out of City’s trip to Chelsea on 8 December.
“We’re sad for him,” Pep Guardiola, the City manager, said on Friday. “We don’t like injured players. When you come back you cannot expect him to be the player we know he is in one day. He needs time to settle take the pace, the rhythm, everything.
“Yesterday he came back but it is what it is. We must be close to him. Unfortunately, he’s injured but fortunately it’s not a serious injury, four to six weeks and he’ll come back.”
Guardiola has made do without De Bruyne for the majority of the season so far and, despite losing their most influential player to injury, City sit top of the Premier League table after 10 games.
Even so, Guardiola admitted that his side is weaker when forced to go without De Bruyne, who was the outstanding player of their record-breaking title win last season.
“We are a stronger team with Kevin than without him but we have to live without him and we have to be there when he comes back, that’s all we can do,” Guardiola said.
“I was so sad, I didn’t see him after the game. The doctor said he was sad – today, he was less sad and the next day he’ll be strong again. He’ll spend the time with his new boy and his family.
“Hopefully, after the international break, there’ll be two or three more games and after that he’ll be back. By then hopefully, we’ll be in the knockout of the Champions League when he comes back and up there in the Premier League.
“That will help us in the last part ,that he will be fresh in mind and body and help us reach our targets.”
Though De Bruyne does not require surgery, he will fly out to Barcelona to be treated by Dr Ramon Cugat, the medical specialist trusted by Guardiola to treat medium and long-term injuries.
Thursday’s win over Fulham was De Bruyne’s first domestic start since returning from August’s knee injury and Guardiola said he had no regrets over not substituting De Bruyne earlier, despite the relative ease of City’s victory.
“Football is football, it’s a dynamic game, a lot of contact and it sometimes happens,” the City manager added. “This kind of injury is unlucky, I think he’s so strong and he’s recovered so well, the other was more dangerous than this one. He’ll recover well, we have an excellent department.”
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