Leroy Sané is fit to start for Manchester City against Basel more than five weeks earlier than expected, with Pep Guardiola admitting surprise at the German’s recovery from ankle ligament damage.
City play Switzerland’s second-place side in the Champions League last-16 first leg at St Jakob-Park on Tuesday night. Sané is available after training with the squad on Monday for the first time since hurting his ankle against Cardiff City on 28 January. The prognosis then was that Sané could miss at least 11 matches, meaning the 22-year-old could not return until the end of March.
Asked if he was taken aback by the winger’s quick return, Guardiola said: “I’m surprised he is fit. He works a lot, he’s young but I couldn’t expect him to be so professional. He’s not in perfect condition but he won a lot of time [back], he wants to help us. He’s with us and that’s good news. The physios and himself have made a good job.”
The Catalan did not deny Sané could start. “He’s had one training session. He is young,” the manager said.
Last year City were knocked out at the same stage by Monaco on away goals, yet Vincent Kompany believes the team are ready to win the competition. The captain said: “Previously there’s been a lack of experience for sure. We’ve been caught out on occasions we shouldn’t have. But things have changed.
“If there is a year, a moment when the club is ready to feel at home, then it’s now. I’m not going to say it’s a matter of time. Some clubs never win it but, if every year we can go with this kind of confidence, then if not this year or next year, eventually we’ll get there. I’m sure of it.”
Kompany believes that until City are champions of Europe they cannot be considered a truly elite club. “Yes of course, it’s inevitable. It’s one thing for us to make that statement but for us to go out and do it – in previous years we’ve felt how difficult it is.
“We are trying to break into a well-established order – Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid – any team who has tried it has failed. First it’s Basel, then getting to the stage where we can measure ourselves against these teams and feel like we can beat them.”
Kompany led City’s two Premier League title-winning teams. He stated that this one is more focused than any City XI he has played for before with no talk of a historic quadruple among players. “No, not all,” he said.
“I can’t say if it will get us all the trophies but I can honestly say the key thing I’ve noticed is the ability to switch back on for every game – the motivation [needed], the respect for opponents – to make sure we are 100%. I’ve not experienced it in any team I’ve been in before. Quadruple talk – there’s been none – but winning the next game and the next one, always.
“We’ll have to compare at the end of the season – I’d like to believe we are going to win the Premier League and will be successful but my personal feeling is we are going to be motivated to win even more next year.
“That would make a big difference in how I judge it [comparisons with previous sides]. From game-to-game I’ve never experienced the focus and intensity and motivation throughout the team. But in terms of achievements, nothing yet.”
Guardiola warned of the threat Basel pose. “In the league they play with a back four, in the Champions League a back five. They have shown great performances in the group stage beating Man United and Benfica,” the 47-year-old said. “They are strong, well organised in counterattacks.
“I told my players they’ll have difficulties here but we are confident. We have the spirit and in general we are a good team.”