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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 4 March 2021

Ilkay Gundogan plays down plaudits despite goals rush as Manchester City prepare to take on Borussia Monchengladbach in Champions League

Ahead of last-16 first-leg against Bundesliga side, midfielder insists he has played just as well for City and former club Dortmund

Ilkay Gundogan has shrugged off the best goalscoring form of his career by insisting that he has played just as well for Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund before.

The German has emerged as a favourite to win the Footballer of the Year award after his sudden spurt of 11 goals in two months took City from sixth in the Premier League to runaway leaders.

But Gundogan believes it is a consequence of his more advanced role and felt his performances were on a similar level when Dortmund retained the Bundesliga in 2011-12 and when City won a domestic treble in 2018-19.

The midfielder said: “Just because I score more goals doesn’t mean I am playing better. It is nice to be recognised for the number of goals I have scored but it is not something I am looking at.

"It is always satisfying when you play well but in terms of form, I feel I am on the same level as I was in that season where we won the league one point ahead of Liverpool or even when we won the league in Germany. I don’t feel I am playing much better, I just play another role, a more offensive role, I get closer to the opponents’ box.”

Manager Pep Guardiola feels that individual recognition would please Gundogan, adding: “We’ll try to be close to fight for the titles and as much as we win, we can [help win] the individual prizes. Knowing him he would like it but he sleeps really well at night knowing he is doing things right.”

Gundogan said he not considered the prospect of becoming the first English club to do the quadruple but City resume their quest to win a maiden Champions League against Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday.

They have exited in the quarter-finals in each of the last three seasons with Guardiola adamant that they were unfortunate to go out in the last two as he defended their performances. This is City’s first European knockout game since a shock 3-1 defeat to Lyon in Portugal.

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But he said: “Against Tottenham and Lyon, we were better, in 180 minutes against Tottenham and 90 against Lyon, but we were out. We played better but we lost. We will try to play better and win. All the times when we went out, we were in a high level. It was so close.”

He nevertheless argued that those experiences may not help City, adding: “I’m not a big fan of saying that it’s helping you. Football shows you millions of experiences and a team winning the Champions League or World Cups with 29- or 30-year-olds can lose in 20 minutes what they won in 45.”

City head to Budapest after registering a record 18 consecutive wins, following a slower start to the season. Gundogan attributed a stunning turnaround to Guardiola.

“We knew we were not at our best and full credit to our manager, he adjusted the right things at the right time,” he said. “He saw something was wrong, something was missing and he adjusted in terms of how we defend and how we play with the ball. That is why he is the best manger in the world.”

Whereas City are in outstanding form, Monchengladbach have slipped to eighth in the Bundesliga after only taking one point from their last three games. But Guardiola is wary of a team who qualified for the knockout stages at the expense of Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk and who drew with Real Madrid and a manager, in Marco Rose, who will join Dortmund next season. “He is an exceptional manager,” he said. “In a tough group, they did incredibly well.”

Published: February 23, 2021 06:53 PM

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