Pep Guardiola primes Leroy Sane for return against Basel

Leroy Sane could make a dramatic return to action when Manchester City resume their Champions League campaign in Basel tonight.

The runaway Premier League leaders will go into the first leg of the last-16 tie in Switzerland full of confidence, with captain Vincent Kompany believing the club are now ready to win the competition.

Winger Sane was initially ruled out for up to seven weeks when he suffered ankle ligament damage in quadruple-chasing City’s FA Cup victory at Cardiff on January 28.

The German has made a rapid recovery and proved his fitness to travel with the squad yesterday morning.

Manager Pep Guardiola said: “I’m surprised. He has worked a lot, but I didn’t expect with a young guy how professional he was.

“He is not in perfect condition but he is with us. He wants to help us. That is good news. He and the physios did a good job.”

Guardiola, who was speaking at his pre-match press conference at St Jakob-Park, was asked how many training sessions Sane had participated in.

When he replied “one”, there was a nice moment as Kompany, sitting next to him, joked: “It’s a bit longer than I usually take!”

Kompany, however, spoke with great authority when asked about City’s growing maturity as a team.

The Belgian, despite his numerous injury setbacks, has been at the heart of City’s development over the past decade and feels they are now at home in the Champions League after many past frustrations.

The 31-year-old defender said: “We’ve been caught out on occasions when we shouldn’t have but I think things have changed now.

“If there is a year, a time, a moment when the club is ready to feel at home in the competition, then it’s now.

“I’m not going to say it’s a matter of time because some clubs never win it, but, if every year we can go in with this kind of confidence, then if not this year, or next year, eventually we’ll get there. I’m sure of it.”

City’s confidence is well-founded given their outstanding form on the domestic front. They are 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League, playing in the Carabao Cup final later this month, and still involved in the FA Cup.

Despite that, Kompany claims nobody in the dressing room is talking about a potential clean sweep of trophies.

He said: “The key thing I’ve noticed in this team — but I can’t say if it is going to give us all the trophies, or how far this will get us — is the ability to switch back on for every single game.

“The motivation, respect for opponents, preparing correctly to make sure we are 100%, is one thing I’ve not experienced in any team I’ve been in before.

“Talk of quadruple — none, but winning next game, next game, next game, and that belief — always.”

Basel coach Raphael Wicky is confident his side can spring a surprise.

Wicky accepts Basel are likely to see much less of the ball than City, but he is not fazed by the challenge.

The former Switzerland international, whose side beat Manchester United during the group stage, said: “If we are to fight in such competitions we need a perfect game, a perfect day, and to show a lot of courage. We need the spectators to help us too.

“So we need a perfect night to stage a surprise but we have the belief we can do it.

“We have to be realistic. We won’t have 50%-60% ball possession. That’s clear, no team has that against them.

“We need to be compact and be careful but there will be moments when we have the ball. We have to show courage and try to be active.”

Wicky concedes he has “no real tactical strategy” to combat a City side that have shown few flaws this season, losing only twice in all competitions.

Wicky said of City: “I think the team has, basically, no weaknesses. They show that every three days in all the competitions they participate in.

“We don’t need to talk about the quality of the players or the coach — you can see his way of football, his philosophy. We saw it at Barcelona and Bayern and we see it now at City.”

Basel are hopeful defender Eder Balanta and midfielder Luca Zuffi will overcome injuries to feature.



Breaking Stories

Manchester City 'cannot buy class', says Mourinho

Halep battles past Tsurenko to set up Sabalenka semi

Roy Hodgson keen not to overhype Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Usain Bolt vows to show the world what he is made of at Central Coast Mariners

More From The Irish Examiner