Vincent Kompany has called on Manchester City’s fans to roar the team to victory against Real Madrid.
The City captain believes supporters have a key role to play as the sides clash in the first leg of their eagerly-anticipated Champions League semi-final at the Etihad Stadium tonight.
City fans have been slow to embrace Europe’s flagship club competition over the past five years but passions now seem to have been fired and this clash quickly sold out.
Asked how big a factor the fans could be, the defender said: “The biggest. We play against one of the greatest clubs of all time and our support will be able to make the difference.
“I have never seen a Manchester City team not turn up when the fans are up for it. It is actually an appeal to them that they have to be as loud as they have ever been, otherwise what is the point of buying a ticket to come in? That is what we need from them.”
Kompany, now fit and set to start after a recent calf injury, also expects the occasion to inspire his team-mates.
The 30-year-old said: “When you get to the semi-final, there is nothing bad for you anymore, you just want to play. The whole team has been positive. It has even lifted us in the Premier League. It has given our season something so important to look forward to.
“For every single player in the team, if you are not hungry tomorrow, you will never be hungry in football.”
Kompany has had a stop-start season and only returned from his latest lay-off – a month-long absence with the 14th calf injury of his City career – in last week’s Barclays Premier League game at Newcastle. He then sat out Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of Stoke but is now confident of his fitness.
The Belgium defender said: “People talk about my injuries but I talk about my comebacks. That is what I have in my head.“People mention 14 injuries to my calf and I mention 14 times I have come back and played football like I have never been away. It takes a lot of strength of character to do that every single time, and play at a level that for a lot of players is very rare to achieve. I will keep focusing on the positive.”
Kompany has played through the whole of City’s Champions League journey since they first qualified in 2011.
They suffered disappointing group stage exits in their first two seasons and then twice found Barcelona too big an obstacle in the last 16.
He said: “I have been through a very long process with this team. To play a semi-final is something really good but you want to go to the next stage. It is really good to measure yourself against a team like Real Madrid and see how far you have got after so many years.”
The tie pits City manager Manuel Pellegrini against the club which sacked him in 2010 after one season.The Chilean, who will make way for Pep Guardiola at City in the summer, would not be drawn on whether he has scores to settle.
He said: “I don’t look back. I always prefer to think what is happening now. What happened in the past is the past.”
City’s hopes of success could be dependent on stopping three-time world player of the year and former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese has won all five of his games against City, for United or Real, when he has scored.
Pellegrini, however, was unwilling to speak much about his former player.
He said: “You are a little obsessed with Cristiano Ronaldo. He is a very good player that makes a difference but we need to be worried about Real Madrid.”
City’s hopes of progress in their last two campaigns were undermined by red cards in their ties against Barcelona.
Pellegrini said: “Emotionally it is very important to have a hot heart but a cold mind. I think that is the lesson we must learn.”