"Maybe I can make up for the 2013 final and win this time," said İlkay Gündoğan as he aims for another decider with City.
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The UEFA Champions League quarter-finals will bring another reunion for Manchester City midfielder İlkay Gündoğan and the coach who steered him to the 2013 UEFA Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund, Jürgen Klopp. The 27-year-old talks text messages and tactics ahead of the Liverpool showdown.
When you last played at Anfield back in January, it was an incredible match for the neutral. How much are you looking forward to these two matches?
Gündoğan: These two games are going to be very exciting. [We are] two very good teams meeting in a very good competition. We all have a big opportunity to make it into the next round, to be among the best four teams in Europe. That would be a significant achievement. Of course, we're looking forward to it. We can't wait to play these games.
How much respect do City have for the Liverpool attack of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, and Roberto Firmino?
Gündoğan: A lot of respect, because all three have scored plenty of goals and set up many more. Liverpool are still the only team that have beaten us in the Premier League this season [4-3 at Anfield in January] but we know why that happened, although we performed pretty well that day. Obviously, going back to Anfield for the first-leg is a great motivation for us. We know what we're capable of. We want to prove that in both games. We'd like to get a great result in the first leg and then dominate in the second leg in front of our fans.
Does this Liverpool side remind you of the Borussia Dortmund team you played in under Jürgen Klopp?
Gündoğan: Of course. Jürgen Klopp is a terrific coach. He can motivate his team ahead of every game, whether it's a friendly against an amateur team or a Champions League final. He's a top guy who knows how to deal with his players, how to treat them and how to motivate them, and he's proving all that again with Liverpool.
Their attack is incredibly strong. They're comfortable playing good, attacking football, and they've also improved defensively in recent weeks and months. They aren't an easy team to beat, but that's what we have to do.
Did you send Klopp a text or anything when the draw was made?
Gündoğan: Yes. I only said 'see you soon' and sent him a little smiley emoji, to which he answered with a smiley as well. We were both happy with this match-up, although maybe we'd both have liked to face foreign opposition. That would have given us the chance of having two English teams in the semi-finals, but at least it's certain that we’ll have one English team in the semis. We'll do our best to be that team.
You have said that you spoke to Klopp before you decided to join Manchester City; why did you ultimately choose City over Liverpool?
Gündoğan: It was a good opportunity for me to work under a new coach, in this case Pep [Guardiola], who I respect a lot. And I'd always wanted to work with him. I'd played against [his Bayern side] and I wanted to know how it would feel to train and play under him. I'm very grateful to Jürgen because he was interested in me, but I knew from the very first moment that I wanted to try something new.
What does Guardiola do to bring the best out of his players?
Gündoğan: Pep has got a very clear way of playing, a very clear footballing philosophy, and he wants to introduce it at all costs. He sets his team up accordingly. It's a very dominant style of play, with highly technical football, and you need to pay full attention to the smallest details. He simplifies the game for my team-mates and for me, too. In that sense, I'd never had such an obsessed coach in my career, but positively obsessed, of course. So he's got everything a coach needs. And he also played at a high level and knows how players act and react. All this makes him one of the best coaches in the world or maybe the best coach in the world. That's why so many players want to work with him.
You were a losing 2013 UEFA Champions League finalist with Dortmund; do you remember much about that game?
Gündoğan: The Champions League final is the highest it gets when you're a football player. It was totally surprising that we made it to the final, but we enjoyed it immensely. In the end, we lost because of the goal in the last minute. [Dortmund] were a very young team, and we mustn't forget that. I am lucky to [now] be playing with a team that are good enough to make it into the Champions League final. We hope to and we'll try our hardest to make it there again this season, and maybe I can make up for the 2013 final and win this time. That would be the best feeling ever.
How do you assess City's Champions League campaign so far?
Gündoğan: So far, we can be happy about the results, but if we lose now they all won't matter much anymore really. That's why we really have to be up there for the big games, show what we can do and be successful in the end.