Kevin De Bruyne believes Manchester City's hectic schedule as it fights for honours on multiple fronts has played a part in his latest injury setback.
De Bruyne pulled up shortly before half-time during Saturday's 1-0 win over Bournemouth due to a hamstring problem, with his replacement Riyad Mahrez going on to score a 55th-minute winner.
The 27-year-old Belgium midfielder was the star performer for the Premier League champion last season but was compromised by a pair of lateral knee ligament injuries before the turn of the year this time around.
He was named in the starting XI for City's 3-2 Champions League last-16 win at Schalke before lining up as it retained the EFL Cup with a penalty shoot-out triumph over Chelsea last weekend.
A Premier League assignment at home to West Ham came before the trip to England's south coast and, echoing the thoughts of his manager Pep Guardiola, De Bruyne felt an accumulation of games had been his downfall on this occasion.
"It happens, you know. I don’t think it’s too bad this time," he said. "I felt a little bit tight.
"I did one action with the pass and I didn't feel too comfortable, so I just took myself out. It’s better not to take a risk.
"I felt something but I don’t think its going to be too severe.
"No [the injuries don't get me down], it happens. I came back and I needed some time because I've been out for six months.
"But the last two months I've almost played everything and I've felt fine. Now, I've felt a little bit but we've had a tough 10 days with four games.
"Maybe it's that. But we have some injuries and I don't think it's too bad."
City and Liverpool are locked in a nip-and-tuck title battle with nine games of the season remaining, the race having tipped marginally back towards Manchester on Sunday.
Everton holding Jurgen Klopp's side to a goalless draw in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park means Guardiola's men are top by a point and hold the outright lead at the end of a matchweek when both teams have completed the same number of games for the first time since December 7.
De Bruyne conceded he preferred cantering to the title last season but is relishing the additional pressure that comes with every Premier League match.
"[Every win] is always big now. Every game is like a cup final," he said.
"[This weekend] we played before them so it's very important not to drop points. It's up and down, up and down – makes it interesting.
"I preferred last year because we knew [around this time] that we were probably going to win it. But in the end we cannot do anything about it.
"They are doing incredibly well and we are the same. We are a little bit below points-wise what we did last year. But still the points we have now, 71, it's unbelievable.
"So we just try to keep going and in the end we will see how much we need."
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