Kevin De Bruyne believes Manchester City must win the Champions League to change the club’s perception despite their recent domestic dominance.
Pep Guardiola’s side will reach a second consecutive final if Real Madrid are knocked out at the Bernabéu on Wednesday. City hold a 4-3 advantage from the first leg. Over the past decade, City have won five Premier League titles, the FA Cup and six League Cups, with the European Cup being the main prize that eluded them. The 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup remains their only European silverware.
“I think it would change the perspective from the outside,” he said of the Champions League win. “As a player you want to win trophies and we want to win this one. The fact that we’ve been fighting for many years and coming to the final stages means we’re doing very well. It’s a competition cut 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 played and I played for seven years, we did really well. We didn’t win it, but winning it would change that little narrative.
“I don’t think it changes the perspective of how I see myself as a player. I’ve experienced what I’ve done right and wrong in my career and I’m quite happy with what I I have done. I want to win all the trophies I can get, but it is a difficult task. Obviously I would like to win the Champions League.
De Bruyne is probably the only City player to start on Wednesday who was also part of the XI that lost 1-0 at Madrid in the second leg of the 2016 semi-final, when Fernando scored a decisive own goal.
“I think we’re in better shape now,” he said. “I remember when we played that game and we didn’t have the best end to the season. Madrid were the powerhouse at the time. I know we lost 1-0 at the end with a goal against our camp but it was quite a boring game if I remember correctly We are in better shape at the moment, we are better organized as a team and playing better and have more experience at this stage so we hope to be better prepared .
Wednesday’s game is Guardiola’s ninth Champions League semi-final as a manager. De Bruyne was asked if this experience could help the team. “No matter the game, we are well prepared anyway,” said the midfielder. “Whether it’s the League Cup against a lower league team, we have the same amount of detail. It’s easier to watch a Madrid game on TV than someone from the lower leagues, but every game we play, we want to win.
De Bruyne has scored seven goals in his last 10 games, a return to his best form after the ankle injury that ruined his start to the season.
“The first months of the season were really tough,” he said. “I never felt the pain I had back then. I was trying to come back but I had pain in my ankle every day and it wasn’t something I liked.
De Bruyne struggled to play through this. “Mentally it was hard to get over that, but once the pain went away after a few months I started to feel more confident in myself and my body to get back to where I belong,” he said. declared. “Now, playing all these games week after week, I feel back to the level I was before.”
Guardiola expects the match to be as open as last Tuesday’s first leg. “Probably, but we can play much, much worse than we played and win,” the manager said. “No one knows, football is unpredictable. Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve, sometimes you get something you don’t deserve.
Kyle Walker has missed the last five games with an ankle problem but has returned to training. “He is going to travel and tomorrow we will decide,” Guardiola said. “He went three weeks without training. We’ll decide tomorrow but we’re happy he’s back and he’ll try to be in contention.” If Walker starts, City will have their first four-choice, with the right-back joining Rúben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and João Cancelo, who was suspended for the first leg.
Carlo Ancelotti can field Casemiro again after the midfield muscle problem, although the new La Liga champions’ head coach has denied this will cause Real to change their defence.
“If we bring our defensive line back, we will concede more chances,” he said. “In the first leg, I felt like we had to try our luck, which we did, and we have to do it again. We’re good enough to take them.