Dortmund (Germany) (AFP) – Manchester City’s improved defensive record means they are better prepared for the fine margins of the Champions League latter stages this season, midfielder Ilkay Gundogan said on Tuesday.
City are aiming to reach the semi-finals for the first time in five years under Pep Guardiola when they take a 2-1 lead to Gundogan’s old club Borussia Dortmund for the second leg of their quarter-final tie on Wednesday.
Marco Reus’s away goal for the Germans in Manchester last week was the first goal City had conceded in more than 800 minutes in the Champions League since their opening group game in October.
Defensive mistakes have been a consistent feature of City’s exits in Europe’s premier club competition under Guardiola.
They were knocked out on away goals by Monaco in 2017 after a thrilling tie ended 6-6, lost 5-1 over two legs to Liverpool in 2018 and again missed out on away goals against Tottenham in 2019 after a 4-4 draw on aggregate.
Last season it was Lyon, who shocked Guardiola’s men in a one-off tie, winning 3-1 in Lisbon.
“For me it is very important (to take the next step in Europe). I have expectations to myself, I have expectations to my teammates, to my team,” said Gundogan in a pre-match press conference.
“I know we have great players and a great team and should have been to the semis earlier. We were lacking something. We made little mistakes which led to goals.
“When you concede this amount of goals in the leg at home, it is not easy.
“I feel like we are much more stable at the moment. We are defending well.”
However, Guardiola believes scoring in Dortmund will be the key to reaching the last four given the threat the German giants pose going forward, led by Norway attacker Erling Haaland.
“We have to control emotions, but sometimes you need emotions to win these games. We go there to win. Each player will need to be a leader on the pitch,” said Guardiola.
“We start 2-1. In the last 26, 27 games they have scored, so we have to score goals and to do that we have to play our game and be effective up front.”