Sunday 20 January 2019

De Bruyne: City up for challenges

Kevin De Bruyne. Photo: AP
Kevin De Bruyne. Photo: AP

Kevin De Bruyne is ready for any challenge after helping Manchester City through to the last 16 of the Champions League.

The Belgium playmaker teed up David Silva's crucial equaliser as City booked their place in the knockout stages for a fourth successive year with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach.

City will have to make do with second place in Group C, as catching leaders Barcelona is now beyond them, but De Bruyne is unconcerned by the prospect of a tougher draw.

He said: "If you want to go to the end you need to try to beat them all. You will get a tough opponent anyway.

"If you are first or second it doesn't really matter as every group has two really good teams who are going to qualify.

"It is very good that we did it in five games, so we don't have to have more nerves for the last game.

"I think it is very good that we have a game where there is nothing at stake, so maybe we can change some people because there is obviously still a tough schedule to go."

City will wrap up their group game with a dead rubber against bottom side Celtic at the Etihad Stadium in a fortnight.

Yet while qualification is now secure, questions will be asked of City's durability after a patchy performance in Germany.

This was not the confident side that tore into Barcelona earlier in the month, with City looking particularly uneasy at the back after fielding a three-man defence in the first half.

Despite dominating possession, City made little headway and looked vulnerable to the counter-attack.

John Stones was at fault as Monchengladbach poured forward and opened the scoring with a fine strike from Raffael midway through the first half.

That prompted a change to a back four with Jesus Navas moving to right-back and an equaliser came on the stroke of half-time as Silva turned home De Bruyne's low ball.

But City were unable to show any fluency as the game meandered to a conclusion after both sides had a man sent off for second bookable offences early in the second half. Monchengladbach captain Lars Stindl and City midfielder Fernandinho were the men dismissed and after that both teams seemed content with a draw.

For the hosts the reward was a place in the Europa League.

De Bruyne feels it is unfair to read too much into City's performance and did not blame the choice of formation for their poor start.

He said: "The system was not really the problem. It was more the rhythm. The tempo was not really there."

City will now switch attention to tomorrow's Premier League trip to Burnley.

De Bruyne said: "It is tough to fly back and be prepared but mentally we have got to be prepared.

"There will be almost no training for the game on Saturday but we will try to be there and have a good performance."

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