It says much to the form of Julian Alvarez this season that there is no panic to bring Kevin De Bruyne back too quickly for Manchester City.

De Bruyne's season was cut cruelly short after just 22 minutes of the opening Premier League game against Burnley, the Belgian midfielder suffering a recurrence of a stubborn hamstring issue and requiring surgery. He is expected to be out until at least the turn of the year but it helps that his creative presence has not been sorely missed.

The 32-year-old played notably higher up the pitch last season, acting more as a No.10 rather than the attacking No.8 he had been before Erling Haaland's arrival. And perhaps that more advanced position has been of benefit to Alvarez, naturally a No.9 but built perfectly for the supporting role.

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Alvarez started that win at Turf Moor in August and has started every Premier League game since, registering an impressive four goals and three assists in the process. In the world of Guardiola's unpredictable rotation policy, the Argentinian has been as close to nailed as they come.

Such has been the 23-year-old's importance that Guardiola has thrown him straight back in after both international breaks. Argentina had twice played into the early hours of Wednesday morning and yet Alvarez was straight onto the plane, into training and into the starting line-up for the following weekend.

"We had doubts because he came from Bolivia with the jet lag, he was so tired the day before yesterday," Guardiola said after Alvarez got two assists against West Ham just days after the September break. "He felt better and we spoke with him last night and he said he felt good.

"He's learning a lot how to move in the pockets, he's a threat with goals and assists, the work ethic. We are delighted that the club brought him last year.

"[Ilkay] Gundo[gan] left and unfortunately with the injury to Kevin [De Bruyne] he has his chance and he is using it. Now he is almost undroppable."

Games against West Ham and Brighton - the latter following the October break - were both at 3pm on Saturday but Guardiola faces his biggest test of Alvarez's fitness when City host Liverpool on Saturday lunchtime. Similarly to previous South American trips, the striker played 80 minutes on Wednesday as his side beat Brazil.

The game was marred by a major crowd disturbance, with travelling Argentinian support seemingly charged by Brazilian police. Alvarez was among the players watching on in horror at what teammate Lionel Messi warned could easily have turned into tragedy.

That would have added mental fatigue to the obvious physical challenge of facing Brazil in a feisty World Cup qualifier, and so when Alvarez reports back to City a decision needs to be made. The Blues forward has shown twice already this season that he can get back into the swing of club football - as well as the two assists at West Ham, he scored against Brighton - but neither affair was this short a turnaround and neither was against Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp's side look back to their best and will provide City's biggest challenge of the season. Points dropped at the Etihad could see Guardiola's side fall from the top of the table and everyone will need to be 100 per cent at it.

Alvarez has been 'almost undroppable' by Guardiola's own admission but the weight of the word 'almost' will truly be tested come Saturday.