Real Madrid will find Man City a different prospect than in 2016 warns Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne says Manchester City are in much better shape to take on Real Madrid in a Champions League semi-final than they were when they crashed out in 2016. The Belgium ace was in his first season with the Blues, under Manuel Pellegrini, when they drew 0-0 at the Etihad and lost to a Fernando own goal in the Bernabeu.
City were poor that night, looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights, but this time they take a 4-3 lead to the home of the 13-times champions and also carry more confidence, especially after beating the newly-crowned Spanish champions home and away last time they met, in the last 16 of two years ago.
De Bruyne and Fernandinho are the only surviving players from that sobering defeat, and the Belgium ace says City are definitely in better shape than they were then. He also suggested that other clubs might have caught up with a Madrid team that was “the powerhouse” of that time.
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He said: “I think we are in better shape now. I remember when we played that game and didn’t have the greatest of seasons. Madrid was the powerhouse at the time. I know we lost 1-0 in the end with an own goal but it was a pretty boring game if I remember correctly.
“We’re in a better shape right now, we are better set up as a team and play better and have more experience in this stage so we will hopefully be better prepared.”
Pellegrini had already announced he was leaving the club, two months before that 2016 semi-final, and City had revealed that Pep Guardiola would take over the reins in the summer. That has also been significant in the advancement of the club, with City reaching the quarter-finals for the last five years and making the final for the first time last season.
De Bruyne says Guardiola’s meticulous preparation has helped with that: “I think no matter the game we are well prepared anyway – if it is League Cup against a lower league team there are the same amount of details. It is easier to watch a Madrid game on the TV than someone from the lower leagues but every game we play we want to win and there is a lot more focus speaking about the game, so the amount of detail is pretty much the same.”
De Bruyne has yet to add a Champions League winner’s medal to his impressive collection and last year’s final ended with tears and a fractured eye socket that forced his hospitalisation for a night. But he says winning the competition would perhaps only change the way the team, and the club is perceived.
“I think it would change the perspective from outside,” he said. “As a player you want to win trophies and we want to win this one. The fact we’ve been fighting for numerous years and getting to the latter stages means we’ve been doing really well.
“It’s a cup competition and the quality is very high so it’s very difficult to win it but in the end if you look back at the way we performed and I have performed over seven years we have done really well. We have not won it but winning it would change that little narrative.
“For myself, I don’t think it changes the perspective that I look at myself as a player. I’ve known what I’ve done good and bad in my career and I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done. I want to win every trophy that I can get but that’s a hard task. I would obviously love to win the Champions League also.”