Jermaine Jenas exclusive: De Bruyne and Klopp could inspire Manchester City and Liverpool to European glory

Jermaine Jenas
Yahoo Sport UK
​History made? Manchester City's 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night gave them a 3-2 aggregate win over the Parisians and made them the tenth English team to reach the semi-finals of the European Cup. Kevin de Bruyne's fine second-half strike gave City a cushion to fall back on, safe in the knowledge that a PSG equaliser would still have seen them go through on away goals after scoring twice in Paris last week. Manuel Pellegrini admitted after the game that he has his eyes on the...
​History made? Manchester City's 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night gave them a 3-2 aggregate win over the Parisians and made them the tenth English team to reach the semi-finals of the European Cup. Kevin de Bruyne's fine second-half strike gave City a cushion to fall back on, safe in the knowledge that a PSG equaliser would still have seen them go through on away goals after scoring twice in Paris last week. Manuel Pellegrini admitted after the game that he has his eyes on the...

There was a lot of doom and gloom about English sides' European prospects this season, with concern that the Premier League could lose one of its four Champions League places after a period of decline. So it was nice to see two of our sides step up in massive games in the past week, as Manchester City beat Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League while Liverpool dramatically overcame Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League - tough ties that not many people gave them a chance of winning.

I believe that both sides now have a genuinely good chance of going all the way and winning a European trophy this season.

If I was a City player, the team I'd most want to play in the Champions League semi-finals - out of the three options remaining - would be Real Madrid. I think the game will be a shootout between two world-class attacks, because defensively they are both vulnerable.

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Obviously, a lot depends on how much City can withstand in Madrid. I can tell you from my own experience, playing at the Bernabeu in the 2011 quarter-finals with Tottenham, that facing 90,000 Real fans willing their team on is tough and you have stand strong. It was one of the hardest 90 minutes of my life having Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo running at me and Vedran Corluka down our right-hand side all night, us two looking at each other thinking, 'What the hell do we do here?'. We got battered 4-0.

But by this now this City team should be well-equipped to deal with that type of situation. And if they get to the final then anything can happen, as Chelsea proved against Bayern Munich a few years ago.

The reasons for City's poor season - and for their recent revival - are very simple. They've struggled because defensively they're not good enough, and then because they lost Kevin de Bruyne to injury. But the Belgian's recent return has revitalised them beyond belief. I'm astonished at how well he has hit the ground running given how long he has been out. The difference he makes to the City side is scary. They look far more dangerous when he's in the team, not just because of his quality, but also because he seems to bring everyone around him to life.

English sides can be too honest, and that has hindered us in the big European games in recent years.

With the riches Man City have got, you'd expect them to be getting to the latter stages of the Champions League most years, and they've had squads in the past that should be more than capable of being contenders.

But as a club they are still getting to grips with the size of the competition. European games at the Etihad are slightly weird because the fans don't seem to create the same buzz they do in the league, but the players will certainly need them against Real.

It's a nice boost to the English game's self-esteem when we tell ourselves that the Premier League is the best in the world, but we simply haven't competed in the business end of European competitions in recent years. The problem is we think our league a lot better than it is.

Playing in Europe can also be difficult, and also very frustrating, for English teams because I believe European football is more suited to the La Liga or Serie A style of play. It's a lot slower, more controlled and more tactical than the end-to-end, physical nature of our game. So it's the Premier League teams that have had to adapt.

The referees are so much stronger on the continent. At Tottenham in that European run, we had players like Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Wilson Palacios who loved to stick their foot in any time they could, but you can't away with that in Europe.

English teams might try to impose their own style, but it's difficult when the opposition are rolling all over the place, playing various tricks and mind games, trying to get players sent off, essentially doing anything they can to break the game up and stem that Premier League flow. Meanwhile English sides can be too honest, and that has hindered us in the big European games in recent years.

But one man who knows how to win a European tie is Jurgen Klopp. Like many foreign managers, he tends to put greater stock in European football than his British counterparts. As soon as he arrived at Anfield he was adamant that the Europa League was a viable way for the Reds to quality for the Champions League, and it was clear the competition meant a lot to him.

The fans and the atmosphere at Dortmund are a special part of that club, and I think the similarities with Liverpool are one of the things that influenced Klopp's decision to move to Anfield.

I don't think Klopp went to Merseyside because of the squad.

The Kop, and everything that goes with it, is something Klopp feels he can manipulate to his advantage and help him create something similar to what he had in Germany. I was pretty convinced that Dortmund would have too much for Liverpool, especially when they took the lead, but I've played at Anfield myself when the crowd are in full voice, and as an opposition player you can just feel like you're sinking. It's that loud, even when the side are losing.

It's that combination of the Klopp factor and the Kop factor that make Liverpool worthy favourites for the trophy. And while City's task looks more daunting, with De Bruyne in form they have every chance of springing a surprise and make it a European double.

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