LONDON – In one of Wembley’s hot-spot corners, Kevin De Bruyne was locked up and down. He stretched out his nerves with the calves. He made sure that his parents were comfortable and comfortable, and then, with time and great care, he made sure that the ropes were tight. He wanted everything to be clear when the call came.
It didn’t. With Manchester City trailing Liverpool by two goals, with their FA Cup final and ambitions to finish three European and European games, City manager Pep Guardiola did not call De Bruyne, his best player. The Belgian sat for a few minutes in the sun, watching his exchange shift between the game appearing in front of him and Guardiola, then returned to his seat in the shadows.
Whether De Bruyne knew it or not, Guardiola had never considered anything else. He would have liked to throw De Bruyne into an argument – or, be with him in the ring from the start – but he felt, honestly, that he could not.
De Bruyne hit four inches on his feet in a City Champions League match against Atlético Madrid on Wednesday. She was stitched up before returning to England, and was given antibiotics. It began to heal. Getting him into the game after three days, however, could open the wound again. “Then we can lose him in another game,” Guardiola said. “In the end, I did not want to do that.”
Not surprisingly, Guardiola was a bit of a compromise why, exactly, De Bruyne was sent to the line to warm up, as he had no intention of allowing him to take part in the game.
It was probably a way of thinking for the benefit of the players, a little encouragement as they sought to build on Jack Grealish’s second goal and reduce the three goals that Liverpool had scored in the first half. Or maybe it was a bit of a joke to disappoint Liverpool Guardiola’s teammate Jürgen Klopp, forcing him to consider what he would do if De Bruyne, no doubt the most English-born player, suddenly stepped in.
In any case, that De Bruyne was reduced to a mere figment of the imagination is a serious matter that the teams will face within the next six weeks.
Both have reached a climax not only with glory, but with many others – City hoping to win the Premier League and Champions League, Liverpool are now in contention for the last four trophies – and their talents. players with the ingenuity of their coaches, due to being not the most talented teams, but the strongest, the most intelligent and the most diligent.
What is happening from now until the end of the season, will depend on endurance as a skill. The line between absolute success and relative failure is the battle against the war on intelligence. Which will determine who wins the Premier League and, perhaps, the Champions League is not one of those who can climb the most, but who is the one who runs the most.
This is especially true for teams that find themselves competing in a number of categories. Guardiola and Klopp are both in dire straits to make sure that looking too far can lead to destruction, that letting the mind go to the mind can only confuse concrete and tangible.
But the choice of each line, for both, from now until the end of the season should now focus not only on the existing work but also on the challenges ahead.
Guardiola, at Wembley, called De Bruyne a replacement even though he knew he did not play. He was joined there by Ilkay Gundogan and Aymeric Laporte, both on the same boat, who were not left out of the game to qualify for the next, against Brighton in the Premier League, or to be relegated. their chance to play in the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid in 10 days.
Surprisingly, for a team that has been for ten years or more building one of the two most expensive teams of all time – a team that includes the most expensive players in British history among others – a list of players available in the City. it is not “long,” as Guardiola said, today.
“It’s better if everyone is fine,” he said. The bottom line was that this is when the injury and fatigue begin. a little strange; it’s hard to imagine that things wouldn’t change on the summer switch window.
Klopp took another route. Liverpool, who were encouraged by the arrival of Luis Díaz in January and have been plagued by injuries in recent months, are well-equipped these days so they were able to give some of the key relief against Benfica in the Champions League last week – lucky Guardiola, facing the battle against Atlético Madrid, he was rejected – and is still moving forward. This, in turn, led him to name a strong team at Wembley on Saturday, which probably confirmed what he did.
The fact is, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and the rest of the world have just 72 hours left to face Manchester United in the Premier League, and the Merseyside derby against approaching Everton. Their legs will be a little tired in this game because of their clash with City.
Klopp, in that sense, took the same risk as Guardiola; insistence is no less gambling than perversion, after all. It is a place where both courses, and both teams, have found themselves: measuring risk and reward, hoping to name it correctly, knowing that everything is in line.