As the confetti settled on the Wembley turf following Manchester City's successful defence of the Carabao Cup against Chelsea, realisation set in over the events that occurred during the game, in particular, the injuries sustained by Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho.
The Frenchman was substituted after only 45 minutes after suffering a hamstring injury, while City's holding midfielder went off after 90 minutes due to a groin problem, with Pep Guardiola confirming that the pair will be out for 'some weeks', before giving a targeted return date
Between now and then however, City will play three Premier League games as they look to peg back leaders Liverpool, who are currently one point ahead on 66 points with 11 games left to play, although the absence the aforementioned pair could be a significant one considering their f influence on the reigning league champions' form this season.
City's current tally of 65 points after 27 games is down compared to their superb haul 12 months earlier (72), with Guardiola's side already losing four games this campaign already, as opposed to just one at this stage in the 2017/18 season.
Two of this season's league defeats came back-to-back against Crystal Palace and Leicester City towards the back end of December, as the reigning champions had to make do without their irreplaceable midfield anchor Fernandinho, with John Stones and Ilkay Gundogan deputising in the role in the
While those two are great players in their own right, Fernandinho's numbers this season point to his importance to his team in that position, making more interceptions (38) and tackles (52) than any other City player in the league, while he also tops the club for aerial battles won (64), and is second for headed clearances (46).
For all the attacking brilliance that Guardiola's side display with an alarming regularity, it's the work done off the ball by the likes of Fernandinho that allows those attack-minded players to make runs forward or to play a high-risk ball, knowing full well that one of Europe's best midfielders will be behind him should things go awry.
Guardiola says Stones, Jesus, Fernandinho and Laporte are out tomorrow. Says Stones and Jesus back soon but the other two probably after the international break, perhaps the Swansea FA Cup game— Sam Lee (@Sammy_Goal) February 26, 2019
It's not just Fernandinho that will be missed in a defensive capacity however over the next couple of games, as Laporte is also set for time on the sidelines. His absnece will come as a disappointment for the 24-year-old, who has been one of Europe's standout defenders
The Frenchman, who is still without a senior cap for the national team, ranks second for the team in interceptions (30), fourth for tackles (30) and first for headed clearances (47) in the Premier League this season, while his work at the other end of the pitch shouldn't go unnoticed.
Laporte earned City a point with a header in just the third game of the season against Wolves Another header opened the scoring in a recent 2-0 win against Everton, highlighting a potency in the oppositions box and a capacity to chip in with a vital goal.
It's not just the defensive qualities City will miss during the absences of both Fernandinho and Laporte, but the pair also play a significant role when Guardiola's side are in possession, as would be expected considering how the Spaniard sets his teams up.
Unsurprisingly boasting the highest average possession this season (63.4%), which has led to them scoring a league-high 74 goals, the only two City players to feature in the league's top ten for successful passes are Laporte and Fernandinho, with the Frenchman making the second-most in the league (2,313), while the Brazilian is sixth on the list (1,884).
While the pair only have four league assists between them this campaign, their passing numbers signify their importance to City when in possession, to continually receive and pass the ball on without losing the side's attacking impetus and momentum. This will perhaps only become truly visible during their next three league games due to their unavailability.
Starting with West Ham at the Etihad on Wednesday, games against Bournemouth and Watford follow, with the majority of people assuming that City will come through those three games with nine points, as they look to hunt down Jurgen Klopp's side at the summit of the Premier League.
In reality however, three of City's four league defeats have been against teams outside the top six, which has ultimately given the Reds their slender advantage at the top, and with them set to be without Fernandinho and Laporte, how they come through their next three league games could provide yet another twist in this season's enthralling title race.