LONDON – Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte says his side are “ready to fight” against Real Madrid on Friday to continue their mission for the club’s first Champions League title.
The six-time English champions lead 2-1 from the first leg of their last 16 tie after a late Kevin de Bruyne penalty secured a close cut victory at the Bernabeu.
That triumph was back in February before coronavirus halted football.
Laporte, who limped off with a hamstring injury in the first tie, hopes the five-month break will not play a big factor in deciding who goes through to Lisbon for the quarter-finals, where the restarted mini-tournament will take place.
“I don’t know how it [gap between fixtures] will affect the game,” he said.
“But we are ready to play against them and we will be prepared to fight until the end.
“Hopefully we can win and progress to the next phase.”
City have reached the quarter-finals in the last two seasons but were handed exits by fellow English clubs Tottenham Hotspur last year and Liverpool the season before.
Visitors Madrid are in good form ahead of their trip to City’s Etihad Stadium carrying an unbeaten run of 10 games while City have lost two of their last 10 including an FA Cup semi-final to Arsenal.
“Real Madrid have a lot of top players and the second leg is going to be so difficult for both teams,” said City striker Gabriel Jesus.
“Anything can happen. At home we can control he game, but we have to know they can beat us.”
Jesus scored the equalizer at the Bernabeu in the 78th minute of the first leg after Isco’s opener on the hour.
The Brazilian forward says they will be looking for guidance from the match winner de Bruyne again in the return fixture.
Belgium’s de Bruyne equalled a record of 20 assists in the Premier League this season, an asset that Jesus believes is crucial to the team’s success.
“I think every game he can make three or four assists for us,” he said.
“This season we missed a lot of goals, Kevin should have 30 assists.
“He has so much quality and he always looks to the strikers. It is so good playing with him.”
Whatever the result on Friday, City can take comfort in knowing they will return to the Champions League next season.
The club has had to fight off a two-year ban from UEFA competitions over breaking Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, which was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in July.
“As a club, as an organization, the people cannot understand how difficult a time it was for all the club, being under suspicion for something we have not done,” said City manager Pep Guardiola.
There were questions over Guardiola’s commitment to the club with his contract running out next summer, but the Spaniard insisted he will stay.
“Now is not the time [to talk about contracts],” Guardiola stressed. “I have one more year, for a manager it is a long, long time.”