Kevin De Bruyne believes Manchester City have to win the Champions League to change the perception of the club despite their recent domestic domination.
Pep Guardiola’s team will reach a second successive final if Real Madrid are knocked out at the Bernabéu on Wednesday. City hold a 4-3 advantage from the first leg. In the past decade City have claimed five Premier League titles, the FA Cup and six League Cups with the European Cup the main prize to have eluded them. The 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup remains their only European silverware.
“I think it would change the perspective from outside,” he said of Champions League victory. “As a player you want to win trophies and we want to win this one. The fact we’ve been fighting for numerous years and getting to the latter stages means we’ve been doing really well. It’s a cup competition 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 performed and I have performed over seven years we have done really well. We have not won it but winning it would change that little narrative.
“I don’t think it changes the perspective of how I look at myself as a player. I’ve known what I’ve done good and bad in my career and I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done. I want to win every trophy that I can get but that’s a hard task. I would obviously love to win the Champions League.”
De Bruyne is likely to be the only City player to start on Wednesday who was also in 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 are in better shape now,” he said. “I remember when we played that game and didn’t have the greatest end of the season. Madrid was the powerhouse at the time. I know we lost 1-0 in the end with an own goal but it was a pretty boring game if I remember correctly. We’re in better shape right now, we are better set up as a team and play better and have more experience in this stage so we will hopefully be better prepared.”
Wednesday’s game is Guardiola’s ninth Champions League semi-final as a manager. De Bruyne was asked whether this experience could help the team. “No matter the game we are well prepared anyway,” the midfielder said. “Whether it is the League Cup against a lower-league team there are the same amount of details for us. It is easier to watch a Madrid game on the TV than someone from the lower leagues but every game we play we want to win.”
De Bruyne has scored seven goals in his past 10 games, a return to his finest form after the ankle injury that blighted his start to the season.
“The first months of the season were really hard,” he said. “I have never experienced the pain that I had back then. I was trying to come back but was in pain with my ankle every day and it wasn’t something I enjoyed.”
De Bruyne struggled to play through it. “Mentally it was hard to overcome that but once the pain was gone after a couple of months I started to feel more confident in myself and my body to get back to where I belong,” he said. “Now playing all these games week in, week out I feel back to the level that 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,” said the manager. “Nobody 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 past five matches with an ankle problem but has returned to training. “He is going to travel and tomorrow we will decide,” Guardiola said. “He was three weeks without training. We will decide tomorrow but we are happy he is back and he will try to be in contention.” If Walker starts, City will have their first-choice back four, the right-back joining Rúben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and João Cancelo, who was suspended for the opening leg.
Carlo Ancelotti can field Casemiro again after the holding midfielder’s muscular problem, though the head coach of the newly crowned La Liga champions denied this would cause Real to alter how they defend.
“If we bring back our defensive line we’ll be conceding more chances,” he said. “In the first leg I had a feeling we needed to take our chances, which we did, and we need to do so again. We are good enough to take them.”