Man City sits first, and Kevin De Bruyne is set to return to training

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There’s good reason to believe at least one other Premier League manager enjoyed Daniel Sturridge‘s stunning 89th minute goal to give Liverpool a point against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and that man is Pep Guardiola.

Yes, Saturday’s draw is yet another sign that there’s a real title race in the Premier League, but the reigning champions will be feeling pretty good about their position atop the table after seven weeks.

[ MORE: What did we learn from PL Saturday? ]

Kevin De Bruyne may not have been named the 2017-18 Premier League Player of the Season, but he was Man City’s winner for the second time in three seasons.

De Bruyne has been six league games and three cup games for City this season, all but one on account of the knee injury suffered in training on Aug. 15. And he’s about to begin training again.

It’s no surprise, of course, that Man City having its best player makes it a better team. Since 2015-16, Manchester City boasts the following record depending on De Bruyne’s inclusion.

Manchester City since start of 15-16 season (% points gained)
Overall: 108 wins, 32 draws, 32 losses (68 percent)
With De Bruyne starting: 87 wins, 26 draws, 20 losses (72 percent)
With De Bruyne as sub: 10 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses (76 percent)
Without De Bruyne: 11 wins, 4 draws, 10 losses (49 percent)

It was a small sample size last season, but City won two and lost two when De Bruyne did not play (both losses were in the Champions League group stage). A year in which City went 44W-6D-7L saw them 2W-2L without KDB.

Look, the fixture list helped City a lot during De Bruyne’s absence. City has played four of six league games at home and the opponents list since he last played includes Huddersfield Town, Wolves, Newcastle, Fulham, Cardiff, and Brighton.

The best opponent played? Lyon in the Champions League. City lost 2-1 at home.

The Citizens will be without De Bruyne for a bit longer. Hoffenheim is next, followed by a visit to Liverpool on Sunday. Then, the international break. Perhaps De Bruyne will be ready for a return soon after, before Burnley, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Spurs wrap up October.

Even the Champions League fixture list has been kind to City.

So assuming no setbacks for De Bruyne, Man City can look at its record without De Bruyne in one of two ways: Not too different from what it would be like without him given the opponents, or an unqualified success. Either way, any time Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, or Spurs have lost points since he went down with injury is a significant moment for the champions.