Monday 23 October 2017

Kompany: City need to make a statement

Paul Pogba at the Etihad Stadium yesterday. After the depature of several senior players, Pogba is even more central to the Italian side’s hopes
Paul Pogba at the Etihad Stadium yesterday. After the depature of several senior players, Pogba is even more central to the Italian side’s hopes

Luke Edwards

Vincent Kompany has warned that Manchester City will not be considered a big club until they deliver European success, and challenged them to cope with the expectancy that follows them into the Champions League each year.

City have been superb in the Premier League this campaign and their captain believes that the same lingering anger and frustration from last season that has inspired them domestically will also fuel them in Europe.

Although Kompany reminded City's critics that the club were beaten in the round of 16 last season by a Barcelona side who went on to win the competition, the Belgian acknowledged that English football's richest club had not applied themselves properly in Europe.

There has been a naivety about their previous forays with Manuel Pellegrini, the manager, criticised for being too rigid in his desire to play two men up front against the best sides, but the players have also looked uncertain in the continental spotlight.

It is something Kompany knows must change if City are going to be perceived as anything more than wealthy upstarts.

"It is really important we make a statement in Europe," the captain said.

"Everything has been so bright so far. It is the same people have been saying for the last three or four years. As long as we don't perform in the Champions League as we have in the Premier League, there will always be something left behind. It is a really important game for us. We have been looking forward to it since the disappointing game in Barcelona.

"We have to be better. It cannot be what it was in the previous years. I think last year we did come up against a very strong Barcelona team. It is not an excuse. It is the truth. The group may be the hardest this year again, but we have to show we have learnt to cope with it. Nobody was satisfied with how we did in the Champions League last year.

"It is not just losing to Barcelona, we have not handled most of our games in the Champions League well. You can talk about balances, but I think about performances. Whatever happened last season needs to be a lesson. We have a good team and we need to believe in ourselves."

Although City have been given another tough group alongside - Juventus, Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach, they are playing last season's beaten finalists at a good time. Juventus have not won a game in Serie A yet and lost the spine of their team over the summer with Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carloz Tevez deptarting.

City will be without Sergio Aguero, who picked up a knee injury against Crystal Palace, while Samir Nasri and Fernandinho also did not train yesterday morning. But the Juventus match represents a chance for City to put down a marker in Europe; a chance to show they can beat some of the biggest names and, eventually, compete with the very best.

"For the last five years, since we have been in Champions League, it has been Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and that is it," Kompany said. "They have been the three strongest teams by miles and every other team is playing catch up. It's not just City trying.

"If I look at where we have come from, we are doing OK. Now it is all about the future. You look at the facilities and the work we are doing every year, it is where we can close the gap.

"We have to get into a position where we can beat them regularly, but it's not just about how much money you spend. It's about everything, how many good players you put in the first team from the Academy and so on."

There is plenty of pressure on Pellegrini to do well in Europe after failing to progress beyond the round of 16 in his two Champions League campaigns with City.

"It is important for this club to do well in Europe, but we don't think about how far we can go" he said. "It's very important because it's a barrier that we haven't been able to overcome for various reasons. We've been improving. Just four years ago, Manchester City had never played in the Champions League.

"In the last two seasons, we've made it into the last 16, but had the bad luck to draw Barcelona on both occasions. .

"We've won two of the last four league titles and finished second in the other two. There is pressure on us, media pressure, but the pressure we put on ourselves is all that matters because we want to improve in the Champions League. We want to show we are progressing."

Manchester City v Juventus, Live, BT Sport, 7.45

Buffon: Euro tie can kickstart our season

Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon believes tomorrow's clash with Manchester City provides the perfect opportunity for his side to kickstart their season.

Juve, Serie A winners for the past four years and last season's Champions League runners-up, have made a poor start to the new campaign after a summer of upheaval.

The Turin side have lost a number of players since the end of last term - including Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez - and brought in 10 new faces. Results have so far reflected the disruption with two defeats and a draw from their opening three games.

But veteran goalkeeper Buffon said:

"We can't be happy with what has happened so far but we can't feel sorry for ourselves, far from it.

"There is a huge amount of enthusiasm for this game. Manchester City are one of the potential winners of the competition, so it is a really good thing for us to start our Champions League games with such a tough test.

"We will set out to put in a good performance, to begin to give off the right signals to show we are a cohesive group, that we are a real team."

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