Leroy Sane believes Manchester City need to “improve a lot” to become Champions League contenders this season, but backed Pep Guardiola’s side to match the likes of holders Real Madrid.
City were knocked out of Europe’s top competition by Monaco in the round of 16 last season while Madrid – their opponents in Thursday’s International Champions Cup friendly – went on to lift their third Champions League title in four years.
Sane scored two goals in four European appearances during his first season as a City player and he has set his sights on reaching at least the semi-finals in the forthcoming campaign.
However, he readily admits that Madrid’s success in the competition has set a high benchmark.
“Real had a very good season last year,” Sane told ESPN FC. “They are the best team in Europe at the moment, so it will be difficult [to win the Champions League], but it is a new season.
“They are two-time Champions League winner, so I think it is going to be difficult, but we can do it if we improve a lot and work on our problems.
“I don’t think we are one of the favourites, but we can go through to the semi-finals. We have a team that can do it, experienced young players who play very well. If we work a lot and improve, we can do it.
“Pep [Guardiola] has won many trophies and he gives us a lot of belief. It is a big year. I want to win some trophies.”
City have spent heavily on defenders in the transfer market, with full-backs Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy all moving to the Etihad Stadium.
But Sane believes it is in attack where City remain strongest, highlighting the importance of Gabriel Jesus’ arrival from Brazilian club Palmeiras in January.
“We have great striker and midfielders, that’s true,” said Sane. “Of course, up front we want to have a good season again and hopefully we can score many goals.
“We are all young and when you are the same age together you have the same interests.
“Gabriel, of course, is a special player but he is also very young. When he came over from Brazil, he was exciting on the pitch and really pleased to play for Manchester City and everyone could see it. He is a very special player for us.”
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