• February 8, 2023

Gundogan steps up in De Bruyne’s absence but far tougher tests lie ahead for table-topping City

6:24 PM ET

  • Rob Dawsoncorrespondent

WEST BROMWICH – No. Kevin De Bruyne, no problem. Even without their brilliant midfielder Manchester City moved back to the top of the Premier League with one 5-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion.

The city’s ambition to win a third title in four years may depend on how they do without De Bruyne, who has started rehab on the thigh injury he sustained last week Aston Villafor the next four to six weeks. Pep Guardiola’s side have got off to a good start in life without the Belgian, but they will face even tougher tests before their star midfielder and chief artist is back.

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After a 13th loss of the season, West Brom are now six points ahead of safety but Sam Allardyce, who made a debut Robert Snodgrass, was often enough in such situations to know that it is not games against the top teams that decide whether you go down or not. FulhamCheck out the Saturday relegation spots here as well – a must-do if Allardyce is looking to create another great escape.

After brushing West aside for eleven straight wins, City West will appreciate her chances of doing the same Sheffield United on Saturday but in February they will really feel the effort to have their best player on the sidelines. After the beginning of the month with a trip to Burnleythey are then confronted Liverpool, Tottenham and arsenal on three consecutive weekends. Guardiola hopes to have De Bruyne back Manchester UnitedVisiting Etihad Stadium on March 6th but that’s not a guarantee.

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Guardiola has been here before. A string of injury breaks in 2018-19 meant De Bruyne could only play 19 league games, but it didn’t stop City from winning the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup for England’s first national double to record. This saying is easier to use, though Ilkay GundoganIf he plays further than normal, he can stay in shape for his life.

The German scored two goals in the first 30 minutes at the Hawthorns and scored seven goals in his last eight league games. He has scored in three straight league games for the first time since joining England in 2016 and has already set a career high in goals for one season (seven) even though it’s only half the point.

“He has that smell,” said Guardiola.

“Sometimes he plays as the holding midfielder or back, but when he plays near the box he has that smell to make those good runs in the box and the quality with the ball, he’s always there.

He can take a touch, slow down, take a second to compose and finish. We are excited about what he does. Sometimes in football you have to score goals to get recognition, but that’s fine. “

Ilkay Gundogan was on fire for City. In the last eight games he has scored seven goals. Getty

It was telling that Gundogan finished first with the game won at the beginning of the second half. With De Bruyne already absent, Guardiola cannot afford another important midfielder injury.

“Of course Kevin is a big mistake for us, but we have players who have more playing time and we need everyone because each gives us a different quality that we need to keep going,” said Gundogan afterwards.

“I’m more offensive, when I get a chance near the pits, I try to make the right decisions. I was just trying to do my best. I’m in the right places at the right moment.” . “

Gundogan’s first goal of the night was drawn in from the edge of the penalty kick, causing Allardyce to yell at his players, “You’re watching the ball.” It didn’t seem to help and at halftime they’d hit City four times. In fact, Allardyce was so disappointed with his team’s efforts that he locked the team in the dressing room for over an hour after the final whistle.

Allardyce was particularly annoyed by the second goal that Joao Cancelo later rolled into the top corner Bernardo Silva was marked offside during construction. West Brom defenders appeared to have stopped when the ball went in, only VAR Craig Pawson ruling that Silva was on the side and that the goal should be.

“We don’t blame any decision,” said Snodgrass.

“It’s hard to take. When you look back, it was the delay in raising the flag – it was a tough decision.

That’s just one of the things that went wrong. Tonight we’re not going to try to blame everyone else. No hiding in the Premier League, these top guys are punishing you. “

After Riad Mahrez got the fourth just before halftime, Raheem Sterling added a fifth shortly after the break, and despite Guardiola’s insistence that his team fight for goals, they now have 36 in the league season – just like Manchester United and just one less than top scorer Liverpool. At the other end, City remained clean and scored eleven goals in 19 games this season. City has only conceded one goal in the last ten and a half hours of the league. Even without De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, City fly.

“We create more chances and only receive a few and the team is there,” said Guardiola.

“It doesn’t matter who is playing. It’s a good result and now we’re going to take a rest and prepare for Sheffield United.”

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