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LONDON, June 11 (Reuters) - Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan said on Sunday that he hopes to be fit for the start of the new season after recovering from the cruciate knee ligament injury that has prevented him from playing competitive football this year.
The 26-year-old Germany international impressed in his first season for the club, playing 16 games before sustaining the serious injury against Watford on Dec. 14.
Gundogan returned to light training last week, working with the ball for the first time.
"I think I'm in a good way," he told the club's official website on Sunday. "I'm working hard. So hopefully I can join the rest of the lads for preseason – maybe not 100 percent but I am increasing day by day the work and hopefully being ready for the first Premier League game.
"Watching from the sidelines is one of the most difficult things," said Gundogan, who joined City from Borussia Dortmund for 20 million pounds ($25.48 million) last June.
"I'm staying longer in Manchester than the rest of the squad. They are now on holiday but I am staying longer and I'm also coming back earlier to have my own little preseason before the rest of the team starts."
Gundogan's recovery raises the possibility that he could feature on City's pre-season tour to the United States where they will compete in the International Champions Cup alongside Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid at the end of July.
The Premier League kicks off on Aug. 12.
$1 = 0.7849 pounds Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Toby Davis