Kevin De Bruyne admits Manchester City have missed Fernandinho as the Brazil midfielder prepares to make his return from suspension against West Ham.
Fernandinho was sent off in the 2-1 home victory against Burnley on January 2, his third red card in six games, and subsequently picked up a four-game ban.
During that time City have made it safely past West Ham and Crystal Palace in the FA Cup but they have lost valuable ground in the Premier League title race.
A 4-0 defeat to Everton – Pep Guardiola’s heaviest defeat as a manager – and the 2-2 draw against Tottenham leaves City 12 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
Fernandinho is expected to return to the starting line-up for the trip to West Ham on Wednesday, and De Bruyne says the 31-year-old can make a big difference.
“Obviously we’ve missed him,” said De Bruyne on the club’s official website.
“He’s been an important player throughout his time at City and he plays a pivotal role for us in midfield and helps keep everything organised, plus he’s also very good on the ball.
“Now he’s served his ban and is available for us again, so it’s a big boost for the team because he’s missed seven games this season through suspension.
“If you get a red card in England you’re banned for three or sometimes four games which is unbelievable, but there’s not much you can do about it. I think one game is enough but those are the rules, I suppose.
“I think Ferna’s one of the best holding midfielders I’ve ever played with. We are very lucky to have him.”
Fifth-placed City have won just one of their last four games in the Premier League to leave themselves in a battle just to secure a Champions League spot.
However, De Bruyne, who was rested for the 3-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday, is confident of putting a run of wins together.
After the clash against the Hammers, Guardiola’s side face Swansea, Bournemouth, Sunderland and Stoke in the Premier League – sandwiched between the Champions League last-16 tie against Monaco.
Belgium playmaker De Bruyne added: “Hopefully we can beat West Ham on Wednesday and then put a bit of a run together in the coming weeks.
“I think we’re playing much better than we did last season but then you play like we did against Tottenham and you only come away with a 2-2 draw despite completely outplaying them for 90 minutes.
“We played so well but only got a point and that’s how it’d been going for us this year, so it’s a little bit frustrating. The important thing is we are creating chances so the goals will come.”