Man City can still have an unbelievable season – De Bruyne rallies dethroned champions

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Kevin De Bruyne has urged his Manchester City team-mates to make 2019-20 a season to remember from the rubble of their failed title defence.

A stunning free-kick from the Belgium midfielder could not avert a 2-1 defeat at Chelsea – a result that ended saw Liverpool crowned Premier League champions and ended City’s two-year stint as top dogs in England.

Attention now turns to an FA Cup quarter-final at Newcastle United on Sunday, with Pep Guardiola’s side looking to add to the EFL Cup they collected thanks to a 2-1 triumph over Aston Villa in March.

Then there is the small matter of a tilt at an elusive Champions League success, after Gabriel Jesus and De Bruyne gave City a 2-1 advantage over Real Madrid in the first leg of their last-16 encounter.

Their focus in Europe’s elite competition might be further sharpened if the club’s appeal against a two-year ban from UEFA tournaments is not overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport next month.

“I think we have still got big chances in the FA Cup and Champions League,” De Bruyne said.

“Imagine if we come out after winning these cups, it will be an unbelievable season. We have got a lot to play for and look forward to it.”

Thursday’s game with Chelsea amounted to City’s season in microcosm, as a moment of De Bruyne brilliance nestled frustratingly alongside missed chances and costly defensive errors.

As such, the 28-year-old has no qualms in crediting Jurgen Klopp’s side for a richly deserved triumph.

“We didn’t play badly, but at the end of the day, too many mistakes cost us,” he said.

“We knew it was impossible [to catch Liverpool after lockdown]. You are always disappointed when you don’t win, but I think we are honest enough to say Liverpool were better this year.

“I think we worked really hard, we played really well but we weren’t good enough and that’s no problem for us to admit.

“If everything goes to plan for us then I think we still have 13 or 14 games, so we still have a lot to play for and a lot of objectives.”

Individual awards at the end of the season might be considered an objective for De Bruyne, given his frequently stellar showings and the likelihood of a split Liverpool vote.

His strike at Chelsea took him on to double figures for goals and assists in the Premier League campaign.

Nevertheless, after missing out to Mohamed Salah for the PFA and Football Writers’ Association prizes in 2017-18, De Bruyne takes a typically phlegmatic view.

“It is not me who decides that,” he added. “Two years ago I was second and we won the title 20 points ahead, so I don’t know how people decide.

“I think I have a chance. It is not me who decides and I think I can make my own analysis of how this season has gone.

“Whatever you get in the end is nice, but we will see.”

City welcomed Phil Foden, John Stones and Claudio Bravo back to training ahead of the trip to Newcastle.

Foden picked up a knock during his two-goal showing against Burnley earlier this week, while centre-back Stones (ankle) and back-up goalkeeper Bravo (hamstring) have not featured since City resumed their season.