De Bruyne thinks opponents have wised up to Manchester City more this season

Kevin De Bruyne believes opponents may have wised up to Manchester City a little but insists last season’s record-breaking campaign can still be eclipsed.

City won the Premier League by a record-breaking margin last term but are locked in a tighter tussle with Liverpool this time around.

De Bruyne feels it is only natural that rivals should find ways to close the gap but, with City still very much in contention for four trophies, the season could still end in spectacular fashion.

The Belgium playmaker said: “In the league we lost a few more games than we did last year but we are still fighting on all fronts.

“I think other teams figure out what we do, maybe, a little bit better. They maybe also have better squads. We just added one player, the rest is the same team.

“The way we play is always going to be the same with Pep, we’re not going to change. Everybody knows that.

“But in the end I don’t think there is a lot of difference. We’ve a lot of points in the league and I think the standard we are setting is still very high.

“Maybe it’s not the same as last year but maybe we’ll win more titles this year. The most important thing is titles. If we win three titles we will have done better than last year.”

De Bruyne was speaking at a press conference in Germany as City prepare to resume their Champions League challenge with the first leg of their last-16 tie against Schalke.

The 27-year-old, however, was unwilling to get drawn into talk of winning what would be an unprecedented quadruple.

He said: “I think the goal is not to win the four competitions. The goal is to win every game and then the further you progress.

“We are happy with where we are but we want to progress in every round we play in. That’s now the Champions League.

“We want to do well and go to the quarter-finals, so we are one step closer to winning it. To set standards to win all four – that’s nearly impossible.”

City will be without striker Gabriel Jesus and defender John Stones at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen because of hamstring and groin injuries respectively.

Manager Pep Guardiola said this was the price City would have to pay for being involved in the latter stages of so many competitions.

But the City boss also hinted at frustration at the burden placed on players, with schedules that include demanding pre-season tours. In what was a sarcastic answer, Guardiola appeared to confirm that City would be travelling to China this summer.

He said: “That’s normal when you play every three days for three months. We played 25 games in three months.

So, sooner or later, we are going to finish the season and we will give them three weeks (off) – no more than that because, if not, we are going to destroy the competitions.

“Then we are going to come back to China to play big clubs in Europe, and we have to win because if we don’t the season will be a mess – and push them and push them.

“In the end the players say ‘it’s enough, need rest’. That happens.

“Maybe FIFA or UEFA is going to organise another competition for these three weeks we have off. No problem!”