MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Manchester City have learnt the lessons of their previous Champions League failures and their new-found defensive stability has been the key to their run to the final, midfielder Ilkay Gundogan said ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Chelsea.
City’s surprise defeat in last season’s quarter-finals, to Olympique Lyonnaise, was a loss which prompted some soul-searching in their camp and Gundogan said it took time to get over.
“For me personally, it took a while to be honest because it was a big disappointment and something maybe we didn’t expect, to lose that game, we felt quite good, we felt confident and obviously when you feel like that and you lose it then, you are frustrated, you are sad, you might be a little bit angry,” he said.
That 3-1 defeat, in a one-legged game in Lisbon, was the latest in a series of exits from the Champions League in which City’s defending let them down but Gundogan said that this year’s side is much tighter at the back.
“This year a couple of crucial things changed, I remembered before, against Monaco we conceded three goals at home, same against Tottenham and then Lyon.
“This year we are so stable at the back which helped us to win even more. We’re strong, stable, this is so important in these crucial moments in the big games. Defend well, not to concede, it’s a big advantage,” he said.
But Gundogan, who was on the losing side in the 2013 Champions League final, despite scoring a penalty for Borussia Dortmund in a 2-1 loss to Bayern Munich at Wembley, says Chelsea have learnt similar lessons under Thomas Tuchel.
“They seem very stable at the back, concede few goals, maybe on Saturday it’s about who’s able to do better with a team that will defend on a high level,” he said.
But the midfielder does not expect any major change in approach from Guardiola.
“Everything has worked so well during the season, I just feel like we have the right dynamics in the group. Everything is quite set. That’s why I feel we are prepared for it. It is just about repeating what we have done,” he said.
“It’s a final, everyone deals with the pressure differently over playing that big game. What I try to do is to keep up the levels as high as possible, try to get everyone working 100% on every single training session, not to leave 1% out.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)