EXCLUSIVE: Manuel Pellegrini’s men are up against it in the last 16 as they seek to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Barcelona, while the striker reiterates that he is happy to stay
By Jasmin Ligata
Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko believes that the Premier League’s relentless toughness hinders its teams in the Champions League.
The reigning English title-holders were beaten 2-1 by Barcelona in the first leg of their last-16 tie, leaving their hopes slim of progression, while they are six points behind Chelsea on the home front despite having played a game more.
Dzeko feels that the Premier League’s wider distribution of quality makes it harder for the big hitters to rest players in the top flight, robbing them of freshness when it comes to the European stage.
“In all the other leagues, there is too big a gap between the top teams and the others – there are one, two, maybe three teams fighting for the title,” he observed to Goal. “In England there are six or seven teams that can become champions and, as well, teams from the bottom can beat the top teams.
“That is one of the reasons why English teams sometime fail in Europe. With the Premier League as the strongest league in the world, every match is hard. You cannot rest players, you always have to play full strength, while opponents in Europe can sometime rest some players in their domestic leagues.
“The first leg against Barcelona was very important,” the forward noted. “We tried not to lose at home but we were not good, especially in the first half. In the second half, we played better, scored, had a few chances to score more and who knows what would have happened if we didn’t receive the red card?
“Now we want to surprise Barcelona. It will be tight until the end; we want to play much better than in the first leg and we will see if it will be enough to progress.”
Dzeko, behind at least Sergio Aguero in the strikers’ pecking order at the Etihad Stadium and now facing competition from Wilfried Bony, has often been linked with an exit but the Bosnian is adamant that he is happy where he is, while vowing to keep pushing Chelsea in the title race.
“I’ve been at City for four years and all the time I listen rumours about my status, a transfer, a departure,” he continued, “but I am focused only on City. I enjoy being here. The manager and fans trust me. I would have scored more this season if it weren’t for injuries.
“We will pressure Chelsea until the end and hope we can catch them.”