Sports Football 10 Aug 2019 Pep & Co. eye en ...

Pep & Co. eye encore

AFP
Published Aug 10, 2019, 1:36 am IST
Updated Aug 10, 2019, 1:36 am IST
Man City to begin their title defence against West Ham
Manchester City will look up to Raheem Sterling (left) and Kevin de Bruyne for goals as the defending champions eye hat-trick of Premier League titles this season. (Photo: AP)
 Manchester City will look up to Raheem Sterling (left) and Kevin de Bruyne for goals as the defending champions eye hat-trick of Premier League titles this season. (Photo: AP)

London: Kevin de Bruyne can’t wait to play a key role in Manchester City’s bid for a third successive Premier League title as the Belgian star finally returns to peak form and fitness.

Pep Guardiola’s side start their title defence at West Ham on Saturday with De Bruyne providing a reassuring presence for the champions.

 

City have bolstered their treble-winning squad with the £62 million club record signing of Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodri, while also adding accomplished Juventus full-back Joao Cancelo.

But the prospect of De Bruyne driving City forward from midfield is a mouthwatering prospect for Guardiola.

The 28-year-old was an influential figure in City’s 2017-18 Premier League title triumph, but he had only a bit-part role in last season’s domestic dominance due to knee and muscular injuries.

De Bruyne made just 22 starts in all competitions before returning to prove he was still a force to be reckoned with by winning the man of the match award in City’s FA Cup final thrashing of Watford.

 

He is confident those injury issues are behind him after proving to be one of the stand-out players during City’s pre-season tour.

“I’m fine. What happened last year happens to everybody. I have been a professional for 11 years now and had one season where I had some injuries,” De Bruyne said.

“I just get on with it. Now I feel good. I’m happy I could play a whole pre-season.”

Formidable
With De Bruyne back in their line-up, City look more formidable than ever — quite a feat after they amassed 198 points over their last two League title-winning seasons.

 

If they can retain the crown, City will become only the fifth team in the history of English football to clinch three consecutive top-flight titles, after Huddersfield, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United (twice).

But Liverpool seem certain to push City all the way once again after they finished just one point behind Guardiola’s team last term and then won the Champions League. And De Bruyne challenged City to maintain the relentless consistency that carried them to last season’s title with 14 successive league wins.

“You don’t need to be better, you need to be consistent,” De Bruyne said. “At the end of the year, with all the competitions, maybe you don’t need 95 or 100 points.

 

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