Ilkay Gundogan has warned Bristol City that Manchester City are in no mood to ease up in the Carabao Cup.
The Germany midfielder wants the runaway Premier League leaders to put one foot firmly in next month’s final by taking a clear advantage in tonight’s semi-final first leg at the Etihad Stadium.
With City needing to juggle the demands of four competitions, squad rotation could be in manager Pep Guardiola’s thoughts but Gundogan insists there will be no loss of intensity.
The 27-year-old said: “They have beaten (Manchester) United, so of course it will be a tough challenge but we know we are the the favourites.
“We play the first leg here at home, so, of course, we want to win that game. We want to win both games.
“It is up to us. We are strong enough to beat them. It is a semi-final. The good thing is that we have two legs, so even if we don’t show our best performance in the first leg, there is a second opportunity.
“It is a challenge. We don’t want to wait for the second leg. We want to try to have the perfect result in the first one. Hopefully we will reach that.”
Bristol City, who are fourth in the Sky Bet Championship, have beaten four top-flight sides en route to the last four, including last month’s stunning victory over United at Ashton Gate.
Gundogan expects they might adopt a cautious approach in their first meeting - the return clash in Bristol is on January 23 - but knows Guardiola will be thorough and prepare for all eventualities.
He said: “The manager and his staff always know what they need to show us or not. Of course we need to know their idea of playing football and how their style is.
“Although when they come here to our stadium, we can be quite sure they are going to play very defensively, especially in the first leg. That is what we all expect at the moment.
“But they can also surprise us on Tuesday evening. We need to be ready for every single case.”
Gundogan is still easing back into action after a nine-month lay-off following knee surgery in December 2016.
He has started 11 games this season and is happy to be part of such an exhilarating side.
The former Borussia Dortmund player said: “For me, the most special thing is that I am healthy and fit and every game helps me to get into my old form.
“I am enjoying being on the field at training and also on the pitch in games. We all do our bit to continue with all these successful things we have done in the last months. We want to continue and then we will see at the end of the season.”
Bristol City have beaten four Premier League sides to reach the semi-final of a major cup competition for the first time since the 1988-89 season.
Watford, Stoke and Crystal Palace were all eliminated before the Robins beat Manchester United 2-1 in the quarter-final and Korey Smith claimed folk hero status, scoring a 90th-minute winner.
Smith, who spent the 2013-14 season at nearby Oldham as captain under current Bristol City manager Lee Johnson, hopes familiarity breeds success.
“I lived around the corner from there and used to drive past the (Etihad) stadium a lot,” Smith said “I went to watch a Champions League game against Bayern Munich once, but I’ve never actually played there.
“We’re under no illusions about the tie as they are probably one of the best clubs in Europe, if not the world at the moment. They are playing unbelievably well and they’ve got great players, but we know in football that anything’s possible.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for them - they have an amazing team with an amazing manager - but it’s a massive opportunity to make a special moment again.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved