KEVIN DE BRUYNE is sweating on his place ahead of Saturday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
The Belgian superstar, 30, has been the main man at the Etihad — and at times in the whole Premier League — for much of his six-year stay.
But Pep Guardiola does not care much for the past, just ask Raheem Sterling or Riyad Mahrez.
He goes on what he sees on the training pitch and in matches when he picks his team.
And KdB must be worried in the aftermath of Saturday’s shock 2-0 home defeat by Crystal Palace, particularly when he looks around at the midfield talent in Manchester City’s squad.
Because right now, on form alone, he does not get into their first XI.
De Bruyne was left on the bench at Brighton nine days ago — and City shone.
At West Ham in midweek, he was withdrawn ten minutes from time as the Carabao Cup holders went out on penalties.
And on Saturday, when his ten-man team needed inspiration, Guardiola brought him off on the hour.
City thought they had equalised a minute later — only for Gabriel Jesus’ goal to be chalked off by the VAR.
Class is permanent, of course. But he looks in need of a rest.
Perhaps the traumatic summer, with injuries in the Champions League final and at the Euros, has caught up with him.
Asked if giving him a breather was a possibility, Guardiola said: “Whether they play or rest is my decision because I know a lot of information.
“Our standards as a team, individually and collectively, are so high. We know how difficult it is to maintain it.
“It’s not just Kevin. Riyad, Raheem . . . all the top players who have helped us to win in the past.
Our standards as a team, individually and collectively, are so high. We know how difficult it is to maintain it.
“Everything we have done in these years is thanks to a player like Kevin. He is such an important player for us and an excellent person.
“In all seasons there are highs and lows and the next game is another opportunity. Kevin knows it.”
Guardiola claimed he saw promising signs from KdB as his team struggled to break down Patrick Vieira’s Eagles.
Yet with Ilkay Gundogan fit again and Phil Foden excelling, it may not be enough to keep the Belgian in the team.
The City boss added: “The problem is when he gives up and says it doesn’t matter. That is not the case. On Saturday, he made a step forward.”
The champions have been in such great form recently that few would have seen this setback coming.
Yet despite turning up for the huge games at Chelsea and Liverpool, City have already dropped ten points — most in games they were expected to win.
Aymeric Laporte was chief culprit as he gifted Palace an early lead with Conor Gallagher robbing him and feeding Wilfried Zaha to net.
The defender then hauled back Zaha just before the break for a straight red.
And the Eagles coped admirably with City’s attacking threat before sealing the points late on with Gallagher’s goal.
This is the sixth time in 16 matches — including the Community Shield — that City have drawn a blank this term.
Guardiola said: “We are a team who can do it but against teams that defend so, so deep, sometimes it is difficult to punish them.”