It’s safe to say Manchester City fans are pleased with the outcome of today’s Champions League Round of 16 draw, with the Blues set to face Bundesliga side Schalke 04 in the next stage.
Leroy Sané returns to Gelsenkirchen while Matija Nastasic will revisit the Etihad Stadium where he played in his younger years, with City away for the first leg on Wednesday 20 February, before hosting their German opponents on Tuesday 12 March.
Domenico Tedesco’s side are not having a good season domestically, stuck down in 13th place and just four points above the relegation zone. However, Europe is a different beast and the Germans qualified from Group D ahead of Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Moscow.
One man who isn’t underestimating Schalke – arguably the easiest of the four possible opponents on paper – is sporting director Txiki Begiristain, who noted that they will be well rested following Germany’s winter break.
“It’s always the same at this stage,” Txiki said in the aftermath of the draw. “Things get even harder from here. You can see from the draw there are a lot of big games coming. You can see Juventus vs. Atletico is going to be an unbelievable game.
“Teams that have been struggling in their leagues have still they’ve done very well in Champions League. Schalke will be difficult. After a winter break, German clubs are always very dangerous.
“It is always important to finish top of your group because you have the advantage to play the second leg at home. German clubs are always very strong. They are box-to-box and energetic.”
The Champions League is the elusive trophy for Manchester City in recent years, with every domestic trophy added to the collection from 2011 and onwards. So is this the year City finally lift Europe’s most prestigious trophy?
Txiki is taking it step by step and said: “First, we must beat Schalke and then in the next round, again, I hope. Our aim is to always try and win the Premier League – this is always very important, but it is a dream for a club like City to go through.
“We’ve been to the semi-finals once, so we have been close. We have been winning the Premier League, now we can try to win the Champions League.”