His words may not go down to well in the red half of Manchester, but David De Gea admits Manchester City have a great chance of winning the UEFA Champions League this season.
Like De Gea’s Manchester United, the Blues crashed out of the premier club competition in Europe at the first hurdle last season, but both are expected to make a much better fist of things this time round. The Reds have been drawn in Group H along with Braga, Cluj and Galatasaray, and whilst this may appear a relatively easy passage into the last 16, Sir Alex Ferguson will warn his players that the same thing was said last year.
City, like last year, have again been given a tough group. Last time round they faced Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal, and if anything, they have it even harder this time. As well as facing Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in Group D, Roberto Mancini’s side must also negotiate their way past Ajax and German champions Borussia Dortmund.
But it is the tie with the Spaniards which has caught the eye, though. The nine-time Champions of Europe are the favourites to win the tournament for the first time since 2002, and with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil and Iker Casillas amongst their number, it is easy to see why.
However, United goalkeeper De Gea believes Mourinho’s side could be in for a shock when they line up against City. The Spaniard knows all about the noisy neighbours from the Etihad Stadium, having been on the receiving end of a 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford last season which was the highlight of the Blues’ first league title win since 1968.
City will be expected to build on this success by making a splash in the Champions League this term, and De Gea believes there is no reason why they can’t go far this season. Indeed, on their day, the former Atletico Madrid shot-stopper claims Mancini’s side are capable of beating any team in Europe, including the best La Liga has to offer.
“City are a great team,” he told Marca. “They are full of great players in all positions. It will be really difficult for Real Madrid, both in the Bernabeu and in Manchester. The strike force is deadly, as the club has an incredible group of strikers. If you want to win the Champions League, you have to beat the best teams and City are one of them. They are capable of beating anyone, whether that’s Real Madrid or Barcelona.”
Mancini has spent around £50million on his squad this summer, with Javi Garcia, the Spanish midfielder, the most expensive recruit at £16million from Benfica. Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair add to the English contingency at the Etihad Stadium, whilst defender Matija Nastasic joins after an impressive season at Fiorentina. And Maicon, who played under Mancini at Inter and won the Champions League at the same team under Mourinho, arrives in one of the more intriguing transfers of the window.
But it is the re-emergence of one of City’s existing players which offers most hope this season. Carlos Tevez, who looked to have played his last game for the club following his infamous touchline bust-up with Mancini in Munich last season, is now well and truly back in the frame and looking as sharp as at any time since he arrived in England six years ago. The Argentine will likely link up with compatriot Sergio Aguero when the Blues travel to the Spanish capital in ten days’ time, and such a prospect would merely reinforce De Gea’s opinion that Mourinho and co will have to be at their best to top their group.