Manchester: Kevin De Bruyne’s wretched luck with injury has given Bernardo Silva the chance to continue his superb start to the season in Sunday’s Premier League visit of Southampton to the Etihad.
Playmaker De Bruyne injured ligaments in his left knee during Thursday’s League Cup win against Fulham — just his second start of the season — sidelining him for five to six weeks.
And that has all but assured Bernardo Silva’s spot in the City first team for as many as the next seven games as he continues to shine in De Bruyne’s absence.
The Portuguese’s form will soften the blow of having to do without De Bruyne next week’s Manchester derby for coach Pep Guardiola, who said that he will not rush the Belgian back into action when he does recover.
“It’s not about the derby, that’s three points, like Southampton. The Manchester derby will not be a final, it’s another game,” said Guardiola on Friday.
“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.”
De Bruyne initially injured his right knee after the opening game of the season, forcing him out for just over two months and allowing Bernardo to showcase his talents.
It proved a glorious opportunity for the Portuguese, signed from Monaco for £43 million ($56 million; Dh205.13 million) last year and limited to just 15 league starts last season as he struggled to compete for regular football among City’s talented squad.
This season, Bernardo has started all but one league game to date and could almost match last season’s total of 15 starts by the time De Bruyne is ready to return to action at the end of the calendar year.
He has also contributed greatly to City’s unbeaten start to the domestic campaign, scoring three goals and forming a formidable midfield partnership with David Silva and Fernandinho.
However, De Bruyne’s recent return had inevitably sparked speculation over which City player would make room to accommodate the Belgian, who was arguably the team’s best performer in last season’s record-breaking title-winning campaign.
Bernardo appeared the most likely candidate to make way, so De Bruyne’s fresh injury will keep the 24-year-old on the team sheet for at least the next few weeks.
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and defender Nicolas Otamendi are the only other injury absentees for the visit of Southampton, managed by former City boss Mark Hughes.
The last time City faced the Saints, on the final day of the 2017-18 Premier League campaign, Guardiola’s side required a last-minute winner from Gabriel Jesus to beat Hughes’s team and break through the 100-point barrier.
That result followed another last-gasp deciding strike from Raheem Sterling in the meeting between the clubs at the Etihad in November, and Guardiola is expecting a similarly difficult test this time around.
“When I see them it’s a surprise they are in the position they are in,” said the City manager.
“I’m impressed with the players they have. We suffered a lot last season, against [former Southampton manager Mauricio] Pellegrino and Hughes.
“They are so deep, so physical, it was so complicated to beat them. We have to be sharp, move well in small spaces, be clever and concede few set pieces. They’ll have had a week to prepare, it will be tough.”