For anyone wondering if Manchester City missed Kyle Walker in the last few games, Vinicius Junior’s solo goal for Real Madrid in the Champions League last Tuesday, where he took full advantage of Fernandinho’s lack of pace provides a clear answer.
Since limping off injured against Atletico Madrid in the Spanish capital, he has not featured for the last several matches. He missed the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Wembley, the Premier League fixtures against Brighton and Watford as well as the Champions League first leg encounter with Real Madrid.
The Englishman has not been at his best for parts of this season. Yet, he has been a key feature for City and plays a vital role in helping the team succeed. The grueling fixture against Atletico Madrid took its toll on the Blues and Walker was one of the players who suffered injuries during the game.
Unfortunately, the English man is no more his youthful self. At almost 32 years old, injuries cannot be expected to heal as fast as they used to. Hence he has failed to recover on time to feature in City’s subsequent matches.
Just when the former Tottenham man was expected to be making a comeback, Pep Guardiola relayed some bad news in his press conference ahead of the Leeds United game. It will be the fifth game straight that the player will miss.
Unfortunately, given the critical nature of this period of the season where City are fighting to hold off Liverpool and reach the Champions League final, his presence would have done the team a lot of good.
Combative, forceful, possession strength and exceptional speed, Walker would be a great asset in the City backline in the final games of the campaign. Against Real in particular, he would have been the best man to hop off the fast and tricky Vinicius.
Although both John Stones and Fernandinho did good jobs in an unfamiliar position, as a specialist, Walker would do a much better job.
That’s especially the case in the UCL return leg at the Santiago Bernabeu. No doubt, his absence will be a setback for the Blues. Going by the manager’s response when asked about the player in the press conference on Friday, he is unlikely to feature again this term.
Asked when or whether Walker would return this season, the City boss didn’t give any timeline. His answer suggests the Englishman is no longer part of his plans for the campaign.
“I don’t know right now. I’m not worried at all, he’s injured unfortunately for all of us and him especially. I must focus on the rest of the players,” Guardiola stated.
Fortunately, Joao Cancelo is available for selection to man the right back position. That leaves Oleksandr Zinchenko as the best option for the left back. Although the Ukrainian has been in fine form recently, the team is stronger with Walker in the lineup.
Having the best legs available to feature in the remaining games of the season is crucial as just one misstep could be very costly. City cannot afford any slip-ups at this point both in the league and on the continent. The stakes are too high at this point.
Hopefully, Walker recovers fast enough to help the team in the quest for the double.