Man City given double injury-boost at integral moment
Background Image Via: Flickr/Cleria de Souza. CC BY 2.0.
Manchester City's title race feels all-but run despite some simply scintillating football being played by Pep Guardiola's men recently. The Ctiyzens' offensive genius hasn't wavered, fronted by Kevin de Bruyne's unbelievable ability to pick the inch-perfect pass. It also helps when you've got quality like Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero et al feeding off the Belgian's brilliance.
It's Guardiola's rearguard where the problems have stemmed from. For one usually so keen to plug holes with big-money signings, the decision to let Vincent Kompany leave without replacement was a poor one. Aymeric Laporte was supposed to take over that mantle, but-for an injury in early September to completely derail his season. He'd join Leroy Sane on the long-term injury list as the German suffered ligament damage in the Community Shield. In a weird way, said ACL problem may well have ensured City didn't lose the 24-year-old to Bayern Munich...
Anyway, as we approach the season's crucial stage, City has been given a double lift as both Laporte and Sane are nearing in on returns. Both are back in training and undoubtedly it'll take them a month or so to get back in contention, but timing-wise it's nigh-on perfect for Guardiola. Yes, they'll be no domestic 'threepeat' for the Etihad outfit, though there's still plenty to play for.
City has a commanding 3-1 lead in the Carabao Cup semi against Manchester United where a place in the final for a third successive season is definitely in their hands. The Blues are also fighting it out in the FA Cup, too. Then you have the Holy Grail; the Champions League. A two-legged crunch-match against Real Madrid will almost certainly be an entertaining watch. Win that tie and suddenly, Guardiola's City may find themselves with the favourites tag in European competition once again. Simply put, playing twice a week from now until the season's end requires a deep squad. Laporte and Sane's return provide that - but for differing reasons...
Sane adds extra quality to an already-stacked front line. It wasn't too long ago when I was comparing the speedy winger to Premier League legend Ryan Giggs. I reckon he's already justified that comparison. Competing with Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Sterling allows Guardiola the freedom of time. Sane doesn't have to be rushed back, he can slowly ease the German in again - having him fully fit and fighting come to the business end of the term.
Laporte's situation is different. There's immediate pressure on the former Athletic Club man. John Stones continues to show inconsistency while Nicolas Otamendi is just too rash. The 25-year-old Frenchman is the cornerstone of this City defence. They can't afford to wait and gradually build Laporte back up to speed. They need him instantly.
Simply put, Sane feels like a luxury while Laporte a necessity. They're going to need the Frenchman for those huge continental games against Los Blancos, while Laporte's defensive skill could be key in City's pursuit of a domestic double. Both are vital members of the first-team squad, don't get me wrong, though the numbers (or lack of) in the centre-back position piles the pressure on Laporte.
Either way, it's a huge lift for that City dressing room who'll undoubtedly be disappointed at their shambolic title defence. Still, there's a chance to send out a strong message to Liverpool that next season Guardiola's boys will be right back at that extremely high level that we've become accustomed to. Laporte will definitely be there next term, who knows, this may well be Sane's final hurrah...