De Bruyne describes mental challenge of injury-hit season

London (AFP) –


Kevin De Bruyne has described how coming back from successive knee injuries was "mentally hard" but says he is happy with the way he is playing.

The Belgium playmaker was pivotal to Manchester City's title success last season but has been restricted to just eight league appearances during this campaign due to ligament injuries, first in his right knee then in his left knee.

De Bruyne returned to action last month but City manager Pep Guardiola has taken a cautious approach with him.

"I'm getting better obviously," said De Bruyne.

"You need the run of games where you play a lot because I'm not used to playing every three days.

"But I'm getting there. I'm happy with the way I'm performing. It's not the same like it was last year, but that's what you can expect.

"I've been out since the World Cup and to come back twice is mentally hard, but I'm happy to be here to play football again."

The 27-year-old made his first league start since December 26 in Sunday's 3-0 win at managerless Huddersfield, which lifted the defending champions back to within four points of leaders Liverpool.

"There's two teams and even Tottenham, who have so many points at this stage of the season," said De Bruyne, whose side finished 19 points clear last season and had clinched the title with five games to spare.

"It's quite remarkable because in a lot of seasons you would already be 10 or 12 points ahead, but this season it's tight and I like it. I like it to be competitive. In the end that's what it's all about."

Guardiola's side notched their fourth straight league win courtesy of Danilo's deflected first-half effort and quickfire goals early in the second period from Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane.

Danilo's opener at the John Smith's Stadium was City's 100th goal in all competitions this season. They have scored 22 in their past four matches without conceding.