07 Mar Gundogan plays down comparisons to Europe’s top dogs
Ilkay Gundogan believes Manchester City still have much to prove before they can be ranked alongside the best of Europe.
The runaway Premier League leaders have been one of the continent’s outstanding sides this season and should secure their place in the last eight of the Champions League on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola’s side head into the second leg of their last-16 tie against Basel holding a 4-0 lead from the first meeting between the sides in Switzerland three weeks ago.
City are now rated among the favourites to win the competition but midfielder Gundogan is not getting carried away with any such thoughts.
The German said: “It is something that it is not in our heads. People like to see us at the same level as Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich but we still feel we need to compete with these teams. We are not there yet.
“But we are in a very good way and if we have to play one day against them, we want to be ready.”
City have kicked on over the past fortnight to win the Carabao Cup and move within four wins of reclaiming the Premier League crown.
Wednesday’s outing at the Etihad Stadium should be a formality but City are determined not to let their current intensity levels drop.
Gundogan said: “It doesn’t matter how the first leg was, even with that result. The Champions League is a big stage for us and of course we want to win it. We want to play in a really serious way and we want to play our way.”
Manager Guardiola sees the game as an important test of his players’ focus. Even though overturning the deficit might be beyond Basel, Guardiola wants his players mentally sharp.
He said: “We start again from zero. We have to be focused not to make a mistake – just be focused on what we have to do, offensively and defensively, to control the game and go through. That is the target.”
Guardiola has stressed the importance of maintaining discipline, highlighting that some of the errors his players have made recently would be costly if repeated in the Champions League.
He said: “If people say we are favourites it is because maybe so far we have done really good.
“But if what happened in Wigan happens in the Champions League – with the red card for Fabian Delph after 44 minutes – you don’t win the Champions League.
“The action from Oleksandr Zinchenko in the first half (against Chelsea) on Victor Moses – it was ‘orange’, could be yellow, could be red – and if it is red you are out of the Champions League.
“Sometimes in the Champions League it’s not about how you play. We have to be calm.”