Kevin De Bruyne says he can understand why Manchester City team-mate Raheem Sterling would be frustrated at not playing regularly.
Sterling got a rare start on Saturday as City eased past Burnley 2-0. The England man played the full 90 minutes, but it was his first club start since mid-September.
And last week the 26-year-old said he would be “open” to a move away from the Etihad Stadium if it meant more game time.
Speaking at a press conference, De Bruyne said: “Rotation is important. Playing four competitions and mostly going far is a tough ask. I understand the frustration, I’m a player and you have some players who need more rhythm and maybe Raz [Raheem] needs more, I need that also.
“It’s tough to play one game but it’s the manager who has to make choices and it’s hard. We have a group of 22, 23 internationals who are unbelievable. Whoever you pick will be right. Whenever the team plays good you can’t say much as a player. We try to help each other.”
De Bruyne is back in his native Belgium this week as City take on Club Brugge in the Champions League.
The playmaker was forced off injured with a facial injury in last year’s final loss to Chelsea after a collision with Antonio Rudiger.
That issue, followed by an ankle problem, affected him during Euro 2020 in the summer and he was still hampered at the start of the current campaign.
He said: “Coming into the Euros, I was happy to come back so soon but then the ankle injury happened. I got tackled, my ligament snapped.
“I tried to get back in the best way possible but it took some time and it was painful but I feel much better now.”
De Bruyne admits his memories of last season’s final have become a blur.
He said: “After the collision I don’t remember a lot. I don’t remember how I got in the hospital, I remember going back to the team hotel at 10 in the morning still in my City kit.
Raheem Sterling 'hell-bent' on leaving Manchester City
Raheem Sterling is reportedly 'hell-bent' on leaving Manchester City due to a lack of game time, with more updates on Christopher Nkunku and Bernardo Silva.
“We always try to maintain a high level, we always want to compete for titles, we did well last season, two semis and a final.
“These games you can lose, the opposition are very good, that night we lost and move on. In the Euros I was happy I could come back but the ankle injury happened.
“There’s nothing I can do, I got tackles and my ligament snapped. I try to get back as best as possible. It took some time, it was a bit painful but I feel much better now and I’m very happy about that.”
De Bruyne feeling ‘stronger’
Speaking more about his own fitness, De Bruyne, who captained City against Burnley, said: “I feel much, much better. There’s still things that can go up. Even the last two or three months of last season I didn’t train much.
“The last six months have been up and down not much training. I was in pain when I came back. It was good to take time off after the Tottenham game. I feel much better, I feel stronger.”
Brazil internationals Ederson and Gabriel Jesus could return for City against Brugge after missing Saturday’s Premier League victory over Burnley.
The pair had been in action for their country in a World Cup qualifier in South America on Thursday and have flown straight to Belgium from Brazil.
“We will join them tonight in the hotel,” said City manager Pep Guardiola. “Tomorrow they will do the preparation and maybe play, maybe not.”