Kevin De Bruyne has been backed to solve Manchester City’s penalties problem after his spot-kick helped Pep Guardiola’s team sink Newcastle United.
The Belgian drove home a first-half penalty, with Raheem Sterling wrapping up a 2-0 victory in the FA Cup quarter-finals when he fired home from outside the box in the second half.
City saw their reign as Premier League champions ended by Liverpool, and a poor spot-kick record did not help their cause, with Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan all failing from 12 yards this season.
De Bruyne showed precision with the penalty that gave City a memorable 2-1 at Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie back in February.
He was again entrusted with the job at St James’ Park, sweeping the ball beyond Karl Darlow.
When asked about De Bruyne’s penalty prowess, Guardiola said: “Hopefully he can maintain his level because we struggled without him this season. I think we’ve missed five or six penalties. Much too much.
“With different takers, we’ve struggled a lot. I remember many games where we dropped points and now Kevin takes the responsibility.
“We’ve scored three or four since we came back. It’s important for us to have his confident personality and to try and continue to score those.”
De Bruyne converted a penalty against Arsenal in City’s first game back after the coronavirus stoppage, with Riyad Mahrez netting a spot-kick in the 5-0 win over Burnley.
Mahrez took responsibility that time as De Bruyne was a substitute, but when the former Wolfsburg player is involved, which will be in most if not all of City’s crunch fixtures, the duty will be his.
Guardiola wants City to be faultless across all departments over the closing weeks of the season; despite Liverpool being confirmed as Premier League champions they still have a potential treble on the cards, having already won the EFL Cup.
An FA Cup semi-final against former Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal awaits, while City will hope to go further in the Champions League. The second leg of the Madrid tie will be played on August 7 or 8, UEFA recently announced.
“We have spoken [with the players] after what happened in the Premier League,” Guardiola said.
“We need two more victories to qualify for the [2020-21] Champions League mathematically and after lockdown, we said that two competitions are still on course.
“Now we make the first step, a semi-final and it will be good. It will be good to arrive for Madrid in the best physical condition to play these kinds of games. To reach the [FA Cup] final will be the best preparation, to win the title and to prepare [for the game] against Madrid.”