This season went too swimming for Manchester City, right?
Cityzens have almost won the Premier League title, they are already planning an open bus parade for the Carabao Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur, and Pep Guardiola has finally come to terms with his Champions League shakes.
Then disaster struck.
And as far as disasters go, this one was as bad as it gets. Two minutes into the second half of their FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea, Kevin De Bruyne hit the grass with a look of frustration and anxiety etched in his face.
The Belgian star had obviously felt some discomfort in his ankle, and that was enough to force him to end his Wembley trip extremely prematurely. He stepped off the pitch, his cheeks bright red with agitation and disappointment.
With his departure, the end of Man City’s dreams of an unprecedented quadruple came. Guardiola threw at Phil Foden – who did the right thing – but it was not enough to stop the heavily rotated Cityzens from slipping to a 1-0 defeat against the Blues, giving West Londoners a second crack at the famous trophy in two years.
Chelsea are on their way to the #EmiratesFACup final ?? pic.twitter.com/Zvm3qsOyvW
– Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) April 17, 2021
Judging by the Spaniard’s choice of team, he probably would not have been too upset if you had told him before the kick-off that his men would fall to Chelsea and crash out of the tournament. After all, the FA Cup ends up in third place in its priority list, behind the Champions League and Premier League.
Had you whispered in his ear that De Bruyne would limp off with a worrying ankle injury, less than two weeks before the first stage of their European super-tie with Paris Saint-Germain, he would have become a ghost white.
Although the midfielder’s maestro did not cool down before leaving on Saturday, his overall impact on the team is undeniable, and there is no player who is more irreplaceable in Guardiola’s line-up. No one in the world can play the role De Bruyne plays, let alone anyone in Manchester.
Down damaged | Pool / Getty Images
The Man City boss tried to fill the void by introducing Foden and then Ilkay Gundogan, a regular start on this site. But none of them could help the losing semifinalists collect a shot of some real tone as they entered a frustrating maze of sidetracks and meaningless, speculative crosses.
It was not for the citizens, and it can happen every day in the football world, especially against a team with Chelsea and the new defensive stability.
But that day cannot arrive under the Champions League light when the English giants travel to the French capital on April 28. Guardiola needs his men to shoot all the cylinders back and forth, but first and foremost he needs his best men on the pitch.
A race against time | IAN WALTON / Getty Images
It will be a race against time and a nervous wait to understand the assessment and severity of De Bruyne’s ankle injury, but anything serious that could seriously exclude him from the Citizens’ most important game of the season.
From April 25 to May 4, Man City will play an EFL Cup final and both legs in the Champions League semi-final, one of the most important bands in the club’s recent history. Going into these battles without its leader and talisman can only bring this promising season to a miserable and all too familiar end.