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No pressure from Man City to leave De Bruyne out, says Martinez

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said he had faced no pressure from Manchester City to allow Kevin De Bruyne to skip Wednesday’s Nations League clash away against Iceland.

Soccer Football - UEFA Nations League - League A - Group 2 - England v Belgium - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - October 11, 2020 Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne speaks with coach Roberto Martinez during the match Pool via REUTERS/Neil Hall

Man City’s De Bruyne appeared to ask to be taken off late in the 2-1 defeat to England at Wembley on Sunday and was in an animated discussion with Martinez on the sidelines.

The coach later said the substitution had been a precaution.

Yet the midfielder, who captained Belgium in the Nations League clash, was then withdrawn from the squad on Monday, prompting reporters to ask whether there had been pressure from City for him to return to the club, who have a key Premier League game against Arsenal on Saturday.

“The opposite, with Manchester City we always had a strong and respectful relationship and in this case it was just to try and get the best solution for the well-being of Kevin,” Martinez told a news conference on Tuesday, without giving any details of De Bruyne’s specific condition.

“Obviously Kevin, or any player for that matter, needs to be 100 percent ready to play. We need to find the right treatment and we are working with Manchester City.

“The decision was to take as long as we can to get Kevin right. We don’t want this to be an issue that he develops through the season. You know how demanding the club season is and then we are going to have the Euros at the end of it.”

Last week, De Bruyne criticised soccer’s crowded calendar, saying “nobody listens to the players”.

His name is added to a long list of absentees for Belgium, whose defeat against England ended a 13-match unbeaten streak that has kept them top of the FIFA rankings over the last two years.

“When you lose that winning mentality, it’s always a worry how are you going to react to that setback,” added Martinez.

“But I think the players are fully focused on the game against Iceland and not looking back at what happened in the past.”

Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Toby Davis

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