Vincent Kompany has called on Manchester City’s fans to roar the team to victory against Real Madrid tonight.
The City captain believes supporters have a key role to play as the sides clash in the first leg of their eagerly-anticipated Champions League semi-final at the Etihad Stadium.
City fans have been slow to embrace Europe’s flagship club competition over the past five years but passions now seem to have been fired and this clash quickly sold out.
Asked at the pre-match press conference how big a factor the fans could be, Kompany said: “The biggest. We play against one of the greatest clubs of all time and our support will be able to make the difference.
“I have never seen a Man City team not turn up when the fans are up for it. They have to be as loud as they have ever been, otherwise what is the point of buying a ticket to come in? That is what we need from them.”
Kompany, now fit and set to start after a recent calf injury, also expects the occasion to inspire his team-mates.
The 30-year-old said: “When you get to the semi-final, there is nothing bad for you anymore, you just want to play. The whole team has been positive. It has even lifted us in the Premier League. It has given our season something so important to look forward to.
“For every single player in the team, if you are not hungry tomorrow, you will never be hungry in football.”
Kompany has had a stop-start season and only returned from his latest lay-off — a month-long absence with the 14th calf injury of his City career — in last week’s Premier League game at Newcastle. He then sat out Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of Stoke but is now confident of his fitness.
The Belgium defender said: “People talk about my injuries but I talk about my comebacks. That is what I have in my head.
“People mention 14 injuries to my calf and I mention 14 times I have come back and played football like I have never been away. I will keep focusing on the positive.”
Kompany has played through the whole of City’s Champions League journey since they first qualified in 2011.
They suffered disappointing group stage exits in their first two seasons and then twice found Barcelona too big an obstacle in the last 16.
Kompany said: “I have been through a very long process with this team. To play a semi-final is something really good but you want to go to the next stage. It is really good to measure yourself against a team like Real Madrid and see how far you have got after so many years.”
The tie brings City manager Manuel Pellegrini up against the club that sacked him in 2010 after one season in charge at the Bernabeu.
The Chilean, who is making way for Pep Guardiola at City in the summer, would not be drawn on whether he has scores to settle.
He said: “I don’t look back. I always prefer to think what is happening now. What happened in the past is the past.”
City’s hopes of success could be dependent on stopping three-time world player of the year and former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo. Pellegrini, however, was unwilling to speak much about his former player.
He said: “You are a little obsessed with Cristiano Ronaldo. He is a very good player but we need to be worried about Real Madrid.”
City’s hopes of progress in their last two campaigns were undermined by red cards in their ties against Barcelona.
Pellegrini said: “Emotionally it is very important to have a hot heart but a cold mind. I think that is the lesson we must learn.”
Ronaldo missed Real’s victory over Rayo Vallecano at the weekend with a thigh injury but is winning the battle to prove his fitness for the first leg of the last-four clash while fellow forward Karim Benzema also seems likely to overcome doubts over his condtition.
Coach Zinedine Zidane said at his pre-match press conference at the Etihad Stadium: “I think they will be fine. We will test everything. The idea is they will play. I think they will be 100%.”
The likely availability of the pair means Real would be able to field their formidable front trio of Ronaldo, Benzema and Gareth Bale, who have scored 72 goals between them in the league this season.
But Zidane is also wary of the attacking threat City possess, with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva at their disposal.
Real needed to recover from a 2-0 deficit after the first leg of their quarter-final tie against Wolfsburg and Zidane does not want to go through that again.
He said: “City are a great side. If you leave them space they can hurt you. The players get between the lines and cause problems. We need to try and stop that happening.
“Over in Wolfsburg we found it difficult. When they scored we suffered. We don’t want that to happen again.”
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