Bernardo Silva believes Manchester City are being unfairly targeted for some rough treatment by opponents.
City players have been on the receiving end of a series of bad tackles over the past two months and manager Pep Guardiola has repeated a call for referees to offer better protection several times.
The controversy continued on Wednesday as Brahim Diaz was caught by a high, studs-up challenge by Matt Phillips late in City’s 3-0 win over West Brom at the Etihad Stadium.
This came after City winger Leroy Sane suffered ankle ligament damage that will rule him out for at least six weeks after a tackle from Cardiff’s Joe Bennett last weekend.
Asked if City were being targeted, Silva said: “Obviously. It’s clear over the last few months – we’ve seen with Leroy.
“It was a terrible accident and now he’s injured for two months – a very important player. (On Wednesday) it could have been Brahim and it could have been Kevin on the second goal.
“We hope that soon they start protecting our players because the way other teams are tackling our players it’s not part of the game, it’s not fair play and they have to try to punish the players that play this way.”
City were not completely blameless with regards to tackles, however. David Silva mistimed a challenge on Claudio Yacob – the Spaniard suffering a knock in the process – while Fernandinho stood on Grzegorz Krychowiak in a challenge which was seen as accidental by the referee.
But when in full flow, City were magnificent. Goals from Fernandinho, the outstanding De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero saw the Premier League leaders sweep aside the competition’s bottom side.
The result lifted them 15 points clear at the top of the table, ensuring a day that had seen City frustrated in attempts to sign Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez ended on a high.
The title is now in clear sight, with potentially just eight wins required, but Bernardo Silva said: “We have to go game by game. Every game we have to try to get the three points.
“That’s what we always do and what we’ve been doing since the start of the season, so now we have to think about the Burnley game.”
Manager Alan Pardew said: “At times I wanted to give my players a cuddle because I felt sorry for them. That was tough.
“You can’t say any of our players didn’t run their hearts out, they did, but when you turn the ball over you’re tired. You need a goal at the right time to unsettle them but we couldn’t manage that.”