Those who felt a twinge of panic when Kevin De Bruyne (£6.3m) was withdrawn just before the hour mark on Wednesday night have had their worst fears confirmed.
The Belgian has been ruled out for 4-6 weeks with a hamstring tear.
It was initially thought he would be sidelined for just two weeks but the injury is evidently worse than first thought.
While this is a problem for Pep Guardiola, it’s a full-blown catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of Dream Team gaffers up and down the country.
De Bruyne is the second-most popular player in the game with a massive ownership of 64%.
And since this unfortunate event has fallen in the final third of the month, many of you will have already used up all your January transfers — nightmare.
For those of you with at least one transfer in the bank, here’s a breakdown of five potential replacements.
You’ll notice Bruno Fernandes (£5.2m) isn’t mentioned, that’s because his current ownership of 71.2% makes it statistically likely the Portuguese is already in your team — if you’re one of the 28.8% of bosses without him and then look no further in search of a De Bruyne replacement.
PHIL FODEN (£4.2m)
Man City’s golden boy is brimming with talent and this season he’s converting expectations into goals and assists in every competition.
The only negative mark next to his name was the frequency with which he found himself watching on from the bench.
With De Bruyne (and Sergio Aguero) ruled out, Foden will surely be a consistent starter for the forseeable future.
Foden is the only midfielder to join De Bruyne and Fernandes in the 100 Club™ at this stage.
JAMES MADDISON (£4.0m)
This is the third time in as many weeks we’ve recommended Leicester’s No10 so we’ll spare you a repeated breakdown of his attributes.
He’s scored in three consecutive games for the first in his Premier League career and he’s now just ten points short of joining the aforementioned 100 Club™.
Jamie Vardy (£5.7m) has been ruled out with a hernia and while that may dent Leicester’s hopes, it’s likely to encourage Maddison to keep shooting as the onus will be on him and Harvey Barnes (£3.1m) – another good option – to keep scoring goals while their experienced striker is sidelined.
JACK GREALISH (£4.4m)
Aston Villa’s playmaker with the miniscule shin pads had an unscheduled break recently as an outbreak of Covid-19 caused fixture postponements.
But he’s back in action now and is one of the frontrunners to replace De Bruyne, a player he studies to improve his game.
Grealish takes on hapless Newcastle on Saturday in the only Premier League fixture this weekend.
The 25-year-old averages 5.6 points per game which is actually slightly better than De Bruyne’s numbers in the same metric.
PAUL POGBA (£3.8m)
We wrote a whole article on the Frenchman’s Dream Team merits and drawbacks earlier this week, such is the complexity surrounding him as a player.
Pogba would be a bold choice but a shrewd one if current form is valued above all.
He’s taken 25 points from his last three games and is a definite Star Man candidate at his confident best.
ILKAY GUNDOGAN (£3.5m)
The 30-year-old is the third City representative in the top ten midfielders after Foden and De Bruyne.
Many believe Gundogan is playing the best football of his career at present, or at least since his pre-injury days at Borussia Dortmund.
Having been tasked with playing a more advanced role in recent weeks, the German international has responded with four goals in his last five league games.
With De Bruyne condemned to the physio room, Gundogan is likely to be on set-piece duty… including penalties.