Gareth Bale hopes Real Madrid can stop Manchester City in their tracks as the clubs clash in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Bale, the Real and Wales forward, has been impressed by the progress of City in recent seasons as they have developed into one of England’s best sides.
City’s progress on the European front has been slower than they hoped but this season’s leap to the last four could prove an important milestone in their quest to join the elite.
Former Tottenham star Bale said: “If anything I’m surprised they haven’t got here earlier. They’re a club that have progressed a lot over the years.
“They’ve really become a force in the Premier League and are obviously starting to be in Europe. They’ve done very well up until this moment and hopefully now we can stop them.
“No matter who you face in the semi-finals they’re a great team. They’re here on merit. You don’t get to the semi-final of the Champions League by luck.”
The first leg of the tie at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday marks Bale’s first return to England since his world record £85.3million move from Spurs to the Bernabeu in 2013.
The 26-year-old, who scored twice as Real came from behind to beat Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, does not feel he has anything to prove to English audiences.
He said: “It’s great to be back in England. I don’t miss the cold weather too much but we’re really excited for tomorrow.
“We know it’s going to be difficult but we’re looking forward to it and getting prepared. It will be an exciting game for everyone to watch.
“I don’t feel I have a point to prove. I’ve played long enough to be okay about that. We want to stamp our authority on the game and win by as many goals as we can.”
Bale’s relationship with team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo is a regular subject of speculation but the Welshman insists there are no issues between him and the three-time world player of the year.
Bale, speaking at a press conference in Manchester, said: “The media tries to create something that is not there.
“We’ve said many times, both of us, that we get on fine, we get on well. The most important thing is the football – we try and win games and trophies.”