BASEL (Reuters) - Big-spending Manchester City finally feel at home in the Champions League after six years of frustration and are ready to make their mark, defender Vincent Kompany said on Monday.
City won the English Premier League title in 2012 and 2014 and are almost certain to win it again this season, but their forays into Europe’s top club competition have been relatively disappointing.
They are in the Champions League for the seventh successive season but their previous efforts have included two group stage eliminations, three last 16 exits and a semi-final, in 2015-16.
“There was a lack of experience, we have been caught out a few times when we shouldn’t have been, but things have changed now,” Kompany told reporters as his side prepared to face FC Basel in Tuesday’s round of 16 first leg.
“If ever the club is ready to feel at home in the competition, then it’s now. If every year we can go with the same confidence, eventually we will get there.
“In previous years, we’ve felt how difficult it was. We are trying to break into a well-established order, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid...” he added.
Barca and Real Madrid have each won the Champions League three times in the past 10 years while Bayern have lifted the trophy once in that time and lost in two other finals.
The Belgian is in his 10th season at the club and said he had never experienced such high levels of intensity in a team. City are 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League and through to the League Cup final and FA Cup fifth round. “The key thing I’ve noticed is the ability to switch back on for every single game, the motivation and respect for the opponent... that’s one thing I haven’t experienced in any of the teams I’ve been in before,” he said.
“From game to game, I have never experienced these levels of focus and intensity through the team.”
City coach Pep Guardiola said forward Leroy Sane has returned to training after suffering an ankle injury in their FA Cup tie at Cardiff City, having previously been expected to be sidelined for seven weeks.
“He’s worked a lot, he’s not in perfect condition, but he has gained a lot of time and he wants to help us,” Guardiola said. Asked for further details on how Sane had recovered so quickly, the Spaniard replied: “He’s young.”
Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Tom Hayward