Manuel Pellegrini has insisted that fit-again Kevin de Bruyne is not an automatic selection for Manchester City’s Champions League quarter-final first leg at Paris St Germain.
Belgium forward De Bruyne transformed City’s attacking threat in spearheading Saturday’s 4-0 thumping of Bournemouth, in his first game since late January after ligament trouble.
The 24-year-old was deployed just off Sergio Aguero but spent much of the Vitality Stadium encounter operating almost as a false nine, creating acres of space for City’s roaming striker, and also playmaker David Silva.
City boss Pellegrini remains adamant De Bruyne must be reassessed before being cleared to face PSG, but there can be little doubt the former Chelsea man will feature in Paris on Wednesday night.
“We are going to see, because now we can start preparing for that game,” said Pellegrini, when asked if De Bruyne will be ready to take on PSG.
“There wouldn’t be any risk to play him again so soon, because it was not a muscle injury.
“But we’ve seen the way he played at Bournemouth and now we have to see how he recovers. We’ll assess that and then decide.
“Of course it’s a boost that he’s in contention though, because he’s a very important player.”
De Bruyne scored City’s second goal with the move of the match, sweeping home a side-footed volley after Silva had laid off Aguero’s lofted pass.
Fernando and Aguero struck for City either side of De Bruyne’s gem, to leave City 3-0 up inside 20 minutes and coasting to victory.
Aleksandar Kolarov rifled a fourth with the last meaningful action of the match to cap a damp squib of a second-half, such was City’s dominance.
City’s challenge rises markedly in Paris on Wednesday, and De Bruyne’s immediate return to sparkling form certainly bolsters the visitors’ firepower.
Pellegrini claimed he was not surprised by De Bruyne’s rapid impact on his return, praising the ex-Wolfsburg man for forging a deadly combination with Aguero and Silva.
“He’s a very technical player, he had worked the last 10 days hard in training, and he worked on football twice in the week and he did very well,” said Pellegrini.
“I was sure that he was going to return the same way that he finished before his injury.
“He’s a very important player; before his injury he was a very good performer. It was unlucky for him to have that injury for about two months, but again he has demonstrated how good a player he is.
“Playing forward near Kun (Aguero) gives him a little space and he doesn’t have to work so hard in the midfield.”
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe was left to reiterate his belief the Cherries are not yet safe from relegation, warning his players not to relent despite already boasting 38 points with six games to play.
Howe had hoped Bournemouth could rubber-stamp their Premier League progress in return fixtures against City and Tottenham, following two October drubbings.
The Cherries were thumped 5-1 in successive league matches by City and Spurs in an October wake-up call, but have built steadily and impressively since.
But Howe’s men have leaked seven goals in two successive matches against those same foes, leaving Howe frustrated but realistic.
“I can only speak about how I feel and I’m as motivated as I’ve ever been to prepare right and have the team playing as well as we can,” said Howe, when asked if Bournemouth’s players might have eased off subconsciously.
“It doesn’t matter what stage of the season it is, for me I want to win every game.
“We’re still not safe and we must refocus again. Tottenham and Man City have been too good for us, again.”