London (AFP) – Joao Cancelo believes Manchester City deserve to win the Champions League, saying the team are “embracing” the pressure of trying to go one step further than last season, when they lost to Chelsea in the final.
The Premier League leaders have dominated English football under Pep Guardiola, winning three league titles in four years, but success in Europe has proved elusive.
Portugal defender Cancelo, speaking ahead of the first leg of City’s last-16 tie away to Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday, said the club, who lost 1-0 to Chelsea in the 2021 Champions League final, had the quality to lift the trophy.
“We are a very strong team,” he said. “The players know how to deal with the pressure of getting to the final but we are going up against the best teams in Europe.
“It is very difficult but we embrace this pressure. This club deserves to win the Champions League. That is what we play for and that is what we are trying to do this season.”
Cancelo, 27, has been outstanding for City this season, operating on either the right or left of defence, and recently signed a new contract keeping him at the club until 2027.
He admitted it took him some time to adapt to Guardiola’s demands after he joined the club in 2019.
“I came from Juventus who had another way of playing, another big club,” Cancelo said. “I wanted to show my quality.
“It was more my fault, not the coach. I had to adapt to the team’s style of play. With my desire to win, I am happy that I managed to become the player I am today.”
Cancelo’s recent fine performances have come despite a distressing experience off the field in December when he was attacked during a burglary at his house.
“That’s life, it happens in life,” he said. “It was horrific, it terrorised my family. My family didn’t deserve to go through that. I had to continue.
“I have had a lot of obstacles in my life but I’ve become a stronger player mentally. That’s how I want to keep going.”
City manager Guardiola has confirmed Jack Grealish will not be fit enough to travel to Portugal, with Gabriel Jesus also unavailable for the opening encounter against Sporting.
The Spaniard, who won the Champions League twice while managing Barcelona, said it did not bother him that he was continually asked about how important it was to win the Champions League with City.
“Ask whatever you want, as many times as you want,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me, it means we are here in the Champions League.
“It’s an honour to travel to Portugal to try and win the game.”
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