Jesus Strike Sinks PSG As Man City Win Group

It’s eight years since Jose Mourinho unwittingly sent old foe Pep Guardiola an incredible birthday present.

Pep turned 51 on Tuesday, basking in Manchester City's 11-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

On his 43rd birthday, when he had a few fewer wrinkles and the same amount of hair, Guardiola was enjoying a maiden season in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich.

Mourinho was back at Chelsea for a second spell and the two were enjoying a little time out of one another’s orbit after the bitter animosity of their years on either side of the Real Madrid-Barcelona Clasico divide.

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At best, you imagine, a “happy birthday” text message might have been sent, but Mourinho left something much better in proximity to Guardiola.

Kevin De Bruyne’s £16.7million move from Chelsea to Wolfsburg in January 2014 was a career reboot for a fiercely ambitious footballer. Pep got a front-row seat as the playmaker scooped the Bundesliga Player of the Year award in 2014/15.

Those performances meant he beat Guardiola to Manchester by a year but it has been a story of near-boundless success ever since - De Bruyne’s matchwinning turn against his old employers at the weekend just the latest example.

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The Champions League remains the final frontier for both. Pep last lifted it in 2011, while De Bruyne undoubtedly had it on his checklist when he left Chelsea behind.

As we look back over some of his very best moments in a City shirt, it's clear that KDB remains the most likely player to realise a burning collective ambition for himself and his boss.

Perfect against PSG

De Bruyne quickly established himself as a focal point of Manuel Pellegrini’s City, so much so that if he hadn’t missed 10 weeks with knee and ankle ligament damage sustained during the League Cup semi-final against Everton, Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title win might have remained the stuff of fantasy.

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final, Second Leg match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 12, 2016. See PA story SOCCER Man City. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after downing PSG in 2016

City did at least reach their first Champions League semi-final in Pellegrini’s final year in charge, thanks largely to their star attacking-midfielder. De Bruyne was on target in a 2-2 draw in the French capital and, on one of the most memorable European nights the Etihad Stadium has seen, he fired home the only goal to down Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals.

Back at the Bridge with a bang

Guardiola’s first season in charge was a learning experience for all involved, although De Bruyne excelled - again shining on the Champions League stage when his free-kick helped to sink Barcelona 3-1.

City began the 2017/18 campaign in authoritative fashion, but they truly showed their mettle with a 1-0 win over Antonio Conte’s Chelsea - a scoreline that did little to illustrate their dominance over the reigning Premier League champions on their own patch. De Bruyne burst from midfield to exchange passes with Gabriel Jesus and thump home the decisive goal left-footed. There was no stopping the Centurions from that point.

Cup final cameo

City followed up their 100-point campaign with a nerve-shredding title retention, having been pushed all the way by Liverpool. Yet, De Bruyne cut a frustrated figure as he spent periods on the sidelines due to two separate knee ligament injuries.

Despite only coming on after half-time., De Bruyne was named man of the match in the 2019 FA Cup final

He made up for lost time with a merciless outing in the FA Cup final, coming off the bench to score, assist and collect the man-of-the-match award against a beleaguered Watford. The 6-0 thrashing ensured City became the first team in English football history to lift the domestic treble.

Capital punishment

Guardiola’s men were unable to make it three Premier Leagues in a row in 2019/20, but De Bruyne took his game to another level with a record-equalling 20 top-flight assists over the course of the campaign.

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He produced a masterclass in a December win at Arsenal, where City were 3-0 up and out of sight by half-time. De Bruyne clattered home a rising strike to open the scoring and netted a second from outside the box, having set up Raheem Sterling to score in between. The cross for the England forward was deflected, robbing De Bruyne of another assist for his collection - something he complained about in his typically dry, no-nonsense style.

Brilliance at the Bernabeu

This was arguably City’s finest performance away from home in Europe and De Bruyne was at the heart of everything as Guardiola’s men enjoyed the lion’s share of the contest.

(l-r) Rodri of Manchester City, Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City, Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City, Nicolas Otamendi of Manchester City, Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on February 26, 2020 in Madrid, Spain(Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Ima
City's players celebrate De Bruyne's Bernabeu penalty

That did not stop Isco giving Real Madrid the lead with an hour played, but the brilliant Belgian crossed for Jesus to equalise and held his nerve from the spot - never a given with City players at the time - to secure a 2-1 last-16 win.

False nine lives

Like all Guardiola's favourites, De Bruyne has shown himself to be a highly adaptable player and proved to be an intriguing option as a false nine last season, as the Blues made it three Premier League titles in four seasons.

He produced another bravura performance at Stamford Bridge in this role back last January, assisting for Phil Foden and scoring the third in a 3-1 win, which made light of a COVID-19 outbreak that had swept through the City squad.

What are your favourite Kevin De Bruyne memories? Follow City Is Ours editor Dom Farrell on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source : https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/football/de-bruyne-guardiola-champions-league-22786583

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