When defender Nathan Collins was issued a straight red card for a reckless tackle on Jack Grealish as Manchester City faced Wolves at the Molineux in their last league game before the international break, things went from bad to worse for the Wanderers.
Already two goals down and facing an uphill task against a dangerous Manchester City side, the home team had to be at their best to hope for anything out of the game. Even at full strength, they stood little chance of getting a point from the game. But reduced to 10 men, any such hope was quickly extinguished.
While Bruno Lage must have been racking his brain on the best strategy to adopt for damage limitation, his opposite number Pep Guardiola had a different problem to contend with; which players to bring on and which ones to give a well-deserved rest.
It was the perfect opportunity for Kalvin Phillips to enter the fray after spending a considerable time on the bench since moving from Leeds to Manchester. As if this was the perfect day for him to finally make a statement, the man that has been keeping him on the bench, Rodri, was already on a yellow card early into the game.
The Spaniard was the only City player on a yellow. A second booking, though unlikely, would even the men on the pitch giving Wolves a chance of getting back into the game, especially with the home crowd in full support. The sensible thing for Pep Guardiola to do was to pull out the Spanish midfielder and give Phillips some much-needed game time.
But instead of trying to work his way into the team, Phillips was preparing for surgery. He suffered a shoulder injury during the mid-season friendly game at Barcelona. For a player that was one of the outstanding performers at the last European Championships, it’s a shame that he has hardly played any competitive football since moving to the Etihad Stadium in the summer.
The worsening of the injury also comes at a bad time as players are jostling for positions in the national team ahead of the World Cup. Featuring during the international break would have been a way to seal a place in the team heading into the tournament.
The difficulty in getting playing time at club level means that he is supposed to work hard in training, stay fit and be ready for whenever there’s an opening. That way he can slot right in and try to make a case for a starting shirt. Featuring regularly puts him up for selection for the World Cup squad.
With just over seven weeks to England’s first game at the tournament in Qatar, Phillips is in serious danger of missing out. That will come as a huge blow to the player. Having the opportunity to play at the global showpiece is certainly every player’s dream.
Missing out could be a nightmare for him. But expected to recover in six weeks, that may just be the case. Add to that the lack of playing time at City (even when he is fit) and things go from bad to worse for the player.
Given the situation, Phillips’ best bet to make the cut for the England squad to Qatar will be to make a fast recovery. But even if he makes it back within the six weeks, Gareth Southgate has some reservations about his readiness due to other factors.
“There’s the recovery from the surgery - which is an estimated time - and then there’s the reality of how much football he might have and how much football he’s had in the last eight weeks,” said Southgate when asked about the possibility of Phillips playing for England at the World Cup.
It does seem like the midfielder will have to just hope for the best, given the circumstances, and be ready to accept his fate if he doesn’t make it to Qatar. As if he doesn't have enough on his plate already trying to break into City's starting XI.
Injuries can sometimes be a player’s worst enemy!