14 Mar Hart: City can win Champions League
Joe Hart believes Manchester City are capable of winning the Champions League.
City are hoping to secure a place in the quarter-finals for the first time as they host Dynamo Kiev in the second leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday holding a 3-1 aggregate lead.
England goalkeeper Hart said: “It’s going to be difficult. It’s a really difficult tournament, but we’ve got to believe we can win it – otherwise there’s no point in turning up.
“You could look at it as pressure, but it’s something really exciting. I can only speak for myself, but it’s really exciting being in this situation, going into the last-16 game with a good option of going through, doing something I haven’t done before and creating history for this club.”
City have made steady progress in the Champions League since first entering the competition in 2011. After group-stage exits in their first two seasons, they were knocked out by Barcelona in the first knockout round in 2014 and 2015.
Bettering that this time will continue the upward trajectory and further enhance the club’s name on the European stage.
Hart, 28, said: “You’ve got to do well in Europe to get that label. We’re fighting on a personal basis, a team basis. We’ve worked hard, we’ve been together a long time now and we need to improve, because it’s a short career and we have to take advantage of the opportunities we’ve got at this club.”
Despite Hart’s optimism, City still have some work to do to ensure they are competing in Europe’s elite competition next season.
Saturday’s goalless draw at Norwich has left them fourth in the Barclays Premier League, just two points above fifth-placed West Ham with nine games remaining.
Hart said: “It’s very important (we qualify) – but it’s more important we focus on one game at a time.
“Obviously the next game is the Champions League and to try to progress in the tournament, and we’ll take care of the Premier League when it comes along on Sunday.”
City, who face rivals Manchester United in that next Premier League game, appear to have fallen out of contention for the title but Hart is not giving up on that.
He said: “I’m never going to concede anything while it’s still up for grabs, and the Premier League is still up for grabs. But we have put that tournament to one side for the moment and concentrate on the Champions League.”
Manager Manuel Pellegrini has warned against complacency and intends to field his strongest side to ensure progress is secured.
Pellegrini, who will have Yaya Toure available again after a heel injury, said: “I think the most important thing is to know that we are not already qualified for the next stage, so tomorrow we must be focused in our game, we must be concentrated. We play against a big team that knows how to play this kind of games.
“We are not going to play with the score that we had in Kiev, we are going to play starting 0-0 and trying to be a better team here at home.
“Tomorrow we put out our strongest squad that we need to win the game.”