Guardiola urges de Bruyne to improve in a ‘difficult’ season

Pep Guardiola said he wanted more from Kevin De Bruyne ahead of the Champions League game between Manchester City and RB Leipzig.

De Bruyne tops the Premier League assists chart with 12 but has not always been a regular starter since his return from the World Cup.

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The Belgium international has been on the bench in three of their last seven league games and was substituted early in the 2-0 win against Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium earlier this month.

“I would say it’s been a difficult season for all of us, myself included, for the World Cup and a lot of things, so I’d say the same thing, I won’t spot Kevin,” Guardiola said at a press conference on Monday.

“Kevin has the ability to do that. What I would like – I’ve spoken to him many times – is to go to the simple principles and do it well. He has an incredible ability to provide assists, score goals and see passes like no other.

“But I always believe that if the simple things, like not losing the ball, the agility, the incredible ability to be active in movement, the simple things, like not losing the ball, the simple things, make it better and better, they will improve and get better.

“When the simple things are done perfectly, we are at the right moment; move outward, inward and if we have to attack the channels or whatever you’re doing or feeling the actions at that moment to create incredible passes that he – only he – can find – it becomes easier, it gets better.”

City meet RB Leipzig at the Etihad on Tuesday after a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Germany. De Bruyne missed the game through illness but is likely to start the second leg after coming on as a late substitute in Saturday’s 1-0 win against Crystal Palace.

City have not been eliminated ahead of the Champions League quarter-finals since losing to Monaco in the 2017 round of 16, but Guardiola has warned his players that Leipzig pose a significant threat to that record.

“In the first half [in Leipzig] we were better, they were better in the second half,” Guardiola added.

“We watched the game and tried to figure out what we’re going to do. We’re going to try to tweak a few things that might help us have more control and play a little bit better.

“I always believe in transition games, it always is [the toss of] a coin. It can work out in your favor or [not] but it’s a KO game and maybe we need to break more of the game, maybe not. We will see. In the end, the game will determine what we have to do.”

Guardiola is still waiting to win the Champions League with City, having last won the trophy as Barcelona manager in 2011. De Bruyne is hoping to get his hands on the Champions League for the first time, but the 31-year-old said he will not have any regrets if he doesn’t cross the border before his time at City is up.

“I don’t regret the things I do,” he said. “No matter what competition I enter, I try to win it. You lose a lot more than you win, but luckily I was able to win a lot, so I’m really happy.

“If you take care of the noise it will annoy people a bit. We didn’t win it but we did really well in the Champions League.”

“Obviously I want to win, but I know as long as we don’t, I’ll come here [to the news conference] and get the same questions and I’m fine because people judge you by them. We’re just trying to win these games and be the best people and team we can be.” Guardiola urges de Bruyne to improve in a ‘difficult’ season

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