Man City talisman Kevin De Bruyne is peaking at the perfect time ahead of Real Madrid visit – Joe Bray

De Bruyne peaking at the right time

It was a slight surprise to see Kevin De Bruyne in the starting line-up for Manchester City vs Watford with Real Madrid up next, but it’s hard to drop a player in form. He was brilliant against Brighton and followed that up with a wonderful performance vs Watford, who couldn’t cope with those Yaya-esque runs through midfield.

His assist for Gabriel Jesus’ second was sublime, and the awareness for the Brazilian’s fourth was brilliant in its simplicity. That’s four goals and four assists in his last six Premier League appearances. He’s a player coming into his best form just at the right time of the season, and the fact he was replaced on 55 minutes indicates he will have a big role to play against Real Madrid. When he’s playing like this, he’s the best in the world.

Five starters confirmed for Real?

It could be significant that Bernardo Silva was on the bench against Watford, with Real Madrid up next. Pep Guardiola couldn’t do much rotation with the defence, but he gave Bernardo and Ilkay Gundogan a rest ahead of De Bruyne. It’s probably fair to assume those two will start on Tuesday, and it would be a huge surprise to see De Bruyne not in that line-up too after his early substitution of him.

ALSO READ: Man City player ratings as Gabriel Jesus hits four vs Watford

Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez were also among the substitutes, so could also be rested ahead of the visit of the current Spanish leaders. They will need as much energy going forward as possible to account for potential absences in defence.

No sign of nerves

In his program notes, Guardiola credited the fans for their role in backing the team vs Brighton when it took 50 minutes against a stubborn defense to open the scoring. Even then, the game wasn’t won until Bernardo’s late third. “We felt how close you were to us. When we have this feeling that you are there pushing us to win, it makes us better,” he wrote. “The players can feel it. We will need you so much in the final weeks of the season, believe me.”

After Jesus’ fourth-minute opener, there were no nerves against Watford but the crowd still reacted to Guardiola’s message and got behind their team. This was always expected to be three points for City, but they still had to win them and the crowd played their part, even when Watford made it 2-1.

Jesus answers transfer talk

There were reports before this game that Jesus wanted to leave City this summer and re-focus on becoming a number nine. His two finishes in the opening half were poacher’s goals and his celebrations of him appeared to strike a defiant tone of a player who feels he deserves more chances.

His assist for Rodri’s stunner, when he kept alive the ball in the corner before chipping to the Spaniard 20-yards out, and another bit of impressive wing play to find Raheem Sterling, was evidence of a player with a point to prove. Then he won a penalty to complete the hat-trick in the second half. He may or may not leave in the summer, but he will get the chances he deserves if he keeps playing as well as he did in the first half.

All eyes on Liverpool

With Liverpool playing on Sunday in a potential banana-skin against Everton, this was a chance to open up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League table. City did their part fairly comfortably, and even reduced the gap in the goal difference between the sides to just two.

City will now watch as Liverpool try to keep the pressure on City at home to Everton, but as Guardiola keeps saying – all they can do is win their games and not rely on others.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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