Here are five talking points to emerge from our 0-0 draw with Palace and ahead of Tuesday’s home clash with Watford…
1 Stop KDB, stop City?
Anyone who thinks the above is true is wrong.
The Blues have an abundance of attacking talent and creativity, but Kevin De Bruyne has been inspirational all season and the sum of the parts is most certainly less without him.
De Bruyne may be slightly-built, but he’s a tough competitor and a six-inch graze on his shin after the Manchester derby and a nasty challenge by Dele Alli recently didn’t stop him.
Jason Puncheon’s tackle was high and late and Scott Dann’s earlier attempt to stop the Belgian could have ended worse, too.
We don’t yet know the extent of De Bruyne’s injury and perhaps won’t for a few days, but he is incredibly resilient and as tough as old boots and the moment he is able to, he’ll be back in action.
When he does return, as his manager says, let’s hope referees spot the genuine attempts to win the ball from the cynical attempts to stop a footballer most fans in this country admit take great pleasure in watching.
2 Bernardo to take centre stage?
With no date set for David Silva’s return and De Bruyne almost certainly out of the Watford match, Bernardo Silva is likely to take the creative mantle against the Hornets.
The diminutive play-maker spent much of his time on the flanks against Palace but will probably move to a central role in his team-mates’ absence.
It’s an opportunity to showcase his talent and slip into the sizeable void left by De Bruyne and Silva and Pep Guardiola will encourage the Portugal star to pull the strings on Tuesday evening.
3 Striker crisis?
Crisis is a strong word and while Sergio Aguero remains fit, City will be just fine.
Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane are both capable of playing in a central attacking role, too, but with Gabriel Jesus side-lined for several weeks, any more injuries and Pep may feel he needs to use the January window to find back-up.
Aguero will enjoy the responsibility, just as he did last season when Jesus broke his metatarsal against Bournemouth and was ruled out for two months.
In fact, Kun shifted into top gear and finished the campaign in sparkling form, so expect the same again this time.
4 Home, sweet home
It’s a sobering thought that City have played six away games in the space of 25 days!
Six of the past eight fixtures have been on the road and that means a lot of travelling, a lot of time in hotels and a lot of time away from families.
When Pep says his players are mentally tired and physically tired, it is no wonder with a gruelling schedule that has seen his side travel the length and breadth of England plus a trip to Ukraine.
That’s roughly around 5,800 miles there and back to our December fixtures – compare that to yesterday’s opponents Crystal Palace (three away games and approximately 800 miles) and it’s not hard to understand why some teams might have fresher legs.
Watford are the first of three successive home fixtures for City with Burnley and Bristol City to follow. In fact, depending on whether the Blues progress in the FA Cup, it’s likely the travelling will be less than 500 miles in January – a huge difference and a chance to rest aching limbs and tired minds.
5 Stones return
While the talk has mostly centred on the Blues’ absentees over the past 24 hours, the return of John Stones is a welcoming sight.
His partnership with the excellent Nicolas Otamendi was one of the bedrocks of City’s blistering start to the campaign and with Vincent Kompany’s calf issue in mind, Stones is likely to slot straight into the back four against Watford.
Though Otamendi is unlikely to be rested, Eliaquim Mangala may be – though the Frenchman has performed admirably in a defence that has conceded just three goals in seven matches and had a fine December.