Ilkay Gundogan has revealed he has found it mentally difficult to recover from a series of serious injuries as he fights to get fit for Manchester City.
Gundogan was only able to start nine Premier League matches in an injury-hit campaign last season as City went trophyless under new boss Pep Guardiola, the Germany international tearing cruciate knee ligaments in December.
The 26-year-old midfielder is closing in on a return to action, but previously missed both the 2014 World Cup - which Germany won - and Euro 2016 due to injury.
"It is heavy mentally to accept that," Gundogan told BBC Sport regarding being forced out of two successive major tournaments.
"It is really hard always to fall and fight your way back. You feel good and feel ready, then you get the next kick.
"The worst part is behind me now. I want to feel ready when I am fully back. I want to feel safe and confident. I don't mind if it is two weeks or six."
Filming day for @Mancity & @etihadairways in LA Having fun with @sterling7 in a classy hop-on hop-off bus! #SightSeeingInclusive pic.twitter.com/R941Dji5kz — Ilkay Gündogan (@IlkayGuendogan) July 27, 2017
City are favourites for the Premier League title after spending heavily in the transfer window on players including Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker, Ederson and Benjamin Mendy, and Gundogan is full of confidence for 2017-18, although he expects last season's second-placed team Tottenham to be in the mix.
"Optimism for the season is big," Gundogan said. "It is huge, definitely.
"We felt that last year as well but it was a completely new experience for all of us. We know the Premier League a bit more now and can't wait for the season to start.
"Tottenham are a great team. They have the style of football. They have young English players. Our experience last season shows it is really tough to beat them. They are really uncomfortable to play against.
"I am pretty sure, even if they will not say it loud, the people who know the Premier League know Tottenham are definitely a competitor for the title."