Kevin De Bruyne’s emergence as one of the world’s best footballers has come as little surprise to Belgium team-mate Steven Defour. De Bruyne has been in sparkling form for Manchester City this season, helping them rack up 17 goals in their last three home Premier League games, and Defour’s side Burnley are next up today at the Etihad Stadium.
The two players shared digs when they were both starting out at Belgian side Genk and Defour saw then in the younger De Bruyne all the attributes that have taken him to the top.
“He really knew what he wanted at that point,” Defour said. “He knew he wanted to be a professional player. You could see when you were talking to him. He just wanted to play football and prove it.”
Defour, key to Burnley’s impressive start this season, was about to break through into Genk’s first team when he and De Bruyne, three years younger, lived in the same house with up to six other young players.
“I was going into the first team so I was away a lot and he was 12 or 13 with the other kids.
“We knew he was good. What struck me about him was right foot, left foot, they were basically the same, which was remarkable for a boy of 12 or 13 years old.
“Even then, he could see things way faster than anyone else, so he could argue with the coach. Not really arguing, but if the coach said ‘you have to play the ball right’ he would say no if he could see a better option, because he was so ahead of his teammates.”
Burnley’s impressive unbeaten Premier League run on the road this season — they have won at Chelsea and Everton and taken a point off Spurs and Liverpool — will come under serious threat today.
Pep Guardiola’s side scored seven against Stoke in their previous home league game and, before that, Liverpool and Crystal Palace were both despatched 5-0.
“It’s a bit early but they’re in good shape. If they continue like this they will be the big favourites,” Defour added.
“We have nothing to lose, that’s for sure. Everybody is thinking Man City are going to win, so we can go there and give our best.”
Pep Guardiola is anticipating that City’s form will dip sooner or later, but believes his team are equipped to cope with a downturn.
“That’s going to happen,” he said. “We are in October. We cannot expect to finish the season like we have done in the last month, when we won all the games. It’s impossible in football in the high level.
“But I want to see how we are going to react in that moment when we drop points. We will see how strong we are, because teams always show in the bad moments. I’m optimistic, because the way we reacted at 3-2 against Stoke was so good.”
City’s attack may have captured much of the attention this season, but their defence has also been impressive. Centre-backs John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi have formed a solid partnership in the absence of captain Vincent Kompany through injury.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche has no new injury concerns following last week’s home draw against West Ham and is expected to choose from an unchanged squad. Jonathan Walters and Dean Marney (both knee) and Nahki Wells (foot) remain sidelined.
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