By James Ducker
Kevin De Bruyne believes Manchester City can finally silence their critics by winning the Champions League.
City are hoping to claim a fourth Premier League title in five years this season but, for all their domestic dominance, Pep Guardiola’s side have yet to conquer Europe.
Guardiola’s hopes of scratching that particular itch were dashed in their 1-0 final defeat to Chelsea in Porto last June but they will have a second bite at the cherry if they can overcome Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final at the Bernabeu tonight.
City hold a 4-3 advantage from last week’s classic encounter at the Etihad and De Bruyne – who was outstanding in the first leg and also inspired his side to victory over Real in the Spanish capital two years ago – believes the club’s detractors may be forced to change their tune if they can make that final step in Europe.
“I think it would change the perspective from outside,” he said. “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.
“Winning it would change that little narrative. We’ve not won it yet and that will probably be the only criticism we can get.
“We’ve been here loads of times and are always fighting to win this competition so the consistency that we’ve had has been amazing. We just need to try to get over the line and this game in Madrid is another step.”
City were vulnerable to the pace of Vinicius Jr in Manchester but Guardiola is hoping to welcome back right back Kyle Walker, who has missed the past five matches with an ankle injury sustained in the quarter-final second leg against Real’s bitter rivals, Atletico Madrid, three weeks ago. Walker trained on Monday with the rest of the squad and Joao Cancelo is also available after missing the first game through suspension in another boost in the full back position to Guardiola, although John Stones will miss out due to injury.
Guardiola hopes City will learn from their past European failures as they bid to topple Real who, despite being crowned Spanish champions at the weekend, have conceded 95 shots and 10 goals in their previous five Champions League knockout round games and will be without defender David Alaba. “You are talking about experience, but the question is, what do you learn from experience?” the City manager said. “If you don’t learn anything, you make the same mistakes.
“There will be guys that wake up in the morning, and what is going to be their mood and how did their experience help them? The fact we have been there before, I have been there and done well and know how to handle the situation, that helps. But it is not a guarantee. It’s going to be a massive test.”
Guardiola also politely dismissed any notion of his City team giving the Real players a guard of honour following their La Liga triumph as the former Barcelona coach refused to rise to attempts to provoke him on Monday.
“I understand that you ask me something about the league, about Real Madrid becoming champions, but as spokesman for this club, which is what I am, we congratulate them, but this is the Champions League,” he said.