City midfielder İlkay Gündoğan is heading to his native Gelsenkirchen to take on Schalke; "I still have my best friends there," he tells UEFA.com.
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On growing up in Gelsenkirchen ...
I grew up in Gelsenkirchen-Hessler, where we lived in a flat on the ground floor. We had two doors and behind the back door was the backyard, where there were around 20 or 25 garages. My brother and other friends used these garage doors as goals and played football there, until it got so intense that garage doors got broken. My father then had to replace the garage doors. He was mad at us and screamed at us out the window, but we didn't really listen to him and kept playing. We had a lot of fun, come rain or shine. We don't have many other things except football in the Ruhr area and football is part of our lives.
On Schalke ...
The first two games I saw were FC Schalke 04 games. My past is more centred around Borussia Dortmund, because I played for the club for five years, but of course I also look at the Bundesliga league table and I follow the Schalke results because my team-mate Leroy [Sané] used to play for them. The derby matches between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 are very special. I was lucky that I had many successful derby matches with Dortmund. Those duels are always very close and the players play hard.
On going home with City ...
The last time I was in Gelsenkirchen was certainly a good few months ago. I still have all sorts of family there, I still have my best friends there and I still love going there. I lived there until I was 18, so my connection to the city is obviously extremely strong. I now have the opportunity to fly to Gelsenkirchen with Man. City and play football. Who would have thought that? You move out of the Ruhr region, into the big wide world of football, to England and the Premier League, and then come back home in the Champions League to play football.
We are clear favourites in this tie and rightly so. However, every team in the last 16 has earned the right to be there. Because of that, we'll respect our opponents and prepare for it as if it's a final because it's the knockout phase and every mistake can be severely punished.
On City's UEFA Champions League ambitions ...
We've experienced a lot in the Champions League in recent years – not all of it positive, of course. We should've won it at least once.
Every club, every team, every single player would like to lift this trophy some time. The competition to win it is so big year in, year out, so your chances are not that good, but there's a team that wins it every year. If you want to be in the international elite, as a club and as a player, you need to clinch this trophy. If we were to win it someday, the club would enter a new era – the same level as Real [Madrid], Barça, Bayern or Juventus. Our job is to try to give it our all to make that a reality.