Kevin De Bruyne is back! Manchester City will be unstoppable?


Even amidst a day filled with comebacks, the standout personality might not be the one making a return just yet. For the second consecutive weekend at the Etihad Stadium, the most resounding cheers were not for a goal, but for the reappearance of a Manchester City legend.

Unlike the previous match against Sheffield United, Kevin De Bruyne made a came from the bench, marking his first appearance in 149 days and contributing with his second assist of the interrupted season. Jeremy Doku also made a comeback after missing eight games, benefiting from the supply provided by his fellow Belgian.

However, even as Huddersfield Town bowed out of the FA Cup, there might be reasons for gratitude that Erling Haaland, along with a couple of City players, remained sidelined. Despite the home crowd reminiscing about a 10-1 victory against Town in 1987 and chanting “we want 10,” it might be unfair to suggest that Darren Moore’s team, who defended diligently, would have fulfilled that wish if the Norwegian striker were fit. While City may not be as likely to achieve record scorelines without their most predatory player, other players seized the opportunity to take charge of the attack.

Julian Alvarez, potentially returning to a deeper role soon, notched his fifth goal in four games. Phil Foden, breaking the deadlock as a No 10, showcased his versatility and, after Alvarez’s substitution, increased his goal tally to four in as many matches.

These two have been City’s primary scorers in Haaland’s absence, ensuring victories in every game except for the 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace. The fact that substitutions, particularly De Bruyne’s entrance, can steal the spotlight speaks volumes about the heights City has reached, the expected nature of their victories, and the brilliance of their players.

The crowd reached its peak volume when De Bruyne donned the City shirt for the first time since August, overshadowing Doku’s arrival in a double substitution.

Once again, De Bruyne and Doku found themselves in tandem as De Bruyne delivered a perfectly weighted chip, setting up Doku for a clinical half-volley. Both made it look effortless, contributing to City’s comfortable start in their defense of one of many trophies.

Pep Guardiola‘s unbeaten record in the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium continued, reaching 12 games, 12 wins, and an impressive 51 goals scored. The match showcased several standout performances, with Matheus Nunes stepping up earlier than anticipated due to Akanji’s injury, overcoming illness to deliver one of his most influential displays in a City shirt, embellished with a couple of exquisite touches. Mateo Kovacic also excelled, playing a role in three goals, although, in typical fashion, not finding the back of the net.

Debutante Jacob Wright, at 18 years old, nearly mirrored Foden’s style, rattling the bar with a shot. Despite a subdued start that favored Huddersfield, City pulled ahead with two goals in five minutes, followed by three more in the second half, highlighting a clear class difference between the teams separated by 38 places. While one team has its sights on the Champions League, the other is battling to remain in the Championship.

City began to establish their lead when Kovacic played a reverse pass to find Alvarez. Although the Argentinian’s low cross might not have been intended for Foden, the Mancunian intercepted it and confidently dispatched a half-volley.

This goal propelled Foden into double figures for the season, achieving the milestone earlier than ever before. He would go on to add an 11th goal before the conclusion of the match. Before that, Alvarez stretched to apply the finishing touch after Nunes penetrated the box and delivered a cutback to Rico Lewis. Lewis then located the World Cup winner with a precise low pass, and Alvarez’s shot seemed to find the net in slow motion.

Meanwhile, Huddersfield found themselves lamenting two close calls, although neither would have altered the final result; they would have, however, brought joy to the 6,000 travelling fans from Yorkshire. At 3-0 down, Sorba Thomas had a chance to narrow the deficit following a mistake by Ruben Dias, but his shot was saved by Stefan Ortega.

Ortega showed resilience once more as January signing Bojan Radulovic cut inside and unleashed a shot, denying him a debut goal. Despite the missed opportunities, there was some encouragement for Huddersfield.

For City, the return of De Bruyne and the impending arrival of Haaland raises the question of whether they will once again become unstoppable in the second half of the season.

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