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Schalke 04’s Bentaleb predicts tough Champions League clash with Manchester City

15:23 GMT+3 20/02/2019
Bentaleb - Schalke 04
The Algeria international is optimistic of a positive result for his side against Pep Guardiola’s men despite City's rating

Schalke 04 midfielder Nabil Bentaleb has predicted a tough game with Manchester City when they meet in Wednesday’s Champions League game at Veltins Arena.

The Royal Blues qualified to the round of 16 of the competition after finishing second in Group D with 11 points.

Pep Guardiola’s men only lost once in the group stage, winning four and drawing one to finish as Group F leaders.

Although aware of the impressive form of the Premier League side in the tournament, the former Tottenham Hotspur man is hopeful they can upset their illustrious opponents.

“It will be an unbelievable game for us to play,” Bentaleb told The Independent.

“I am not living in a dream world, I know it is going to be very tough, We know that they are much better than us on paper. But we are there to perform and at the end of the day, in football anything can happen.”

Bentaleb who spent three years with Tottenham departed to Schalke in 2016 initially on loan before the deal was made permanent a year later.

He was a regular fixture for Spurs during Mauricio Pochettino’s first season at the club. However, the midfielder sustained an ankle injury which sidelined him for three months and on return from the setback he found it difficult to break into the first team and his attitude did not help.

Reflecting on his stay with the Lilywhites and his relationship with the Spurs boss he said: “Pochettino was one of the first ones who always believed in me.

“There were some players the club bought but he put me, a 19-year-old boy, in to play every game. He put a lot of trust in me.

“I was young and when I came back from injuries, I wanted to play. I was so hungry to play straight away, and so frustrated when I didn’t play. I know that the coach was just doing this to protect me.

“I got injured and when I came back, I wanted to play so bad that I had some arguments [with Pochettino]. I was a little bit frustrated, and I was learning basically. Being on the bench is a learning curve.

“We spoke to each other for a bit, it was really nice. I knew he wanted the best for me. I respect him for sure, I have no problem with him.

“My desire to play was too much, and after that I was swerving away. Now, a couple of years later, I know why. I have a bit more maturity, I understand now. I understand what was best for me. And it was good for me, when I look back at it.”

Despite leaving Tottenham prematurely, the Lille-born midfielder is grateful to the club for the chance he was given to showcase his talent.

England gave me the chance. Where I am from, in France, no-one gave that to me. So I am forever grateful to Tottenham, the whole club, the administration,” he added.

“They gave me an opportunity to make my dream, to realise my dream. I grew up from 16 in England, and I left at 20. I spent a lot of time there, made lots of friends. I love that country, I love the football over there.”

Bentaleb has scored six goals for Schalke this season in 28 appearances across all competitions.