Matija Nastasic has started 24 games for Schalke this season - including five in the UEFA Champions League. - imago/RHR-Foto
Matija Nastasic has started 24 games for Schalke this season - including five in the UEFA Champions League. - imago/RHR-Foto
bundesliga

Matija Nastasic backs Schalke to play without fear against Manchester City

Matija Nastasic has said Schalke will not play with any fear when they take on his former side Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League Last 16 on Wednesday.

Serbian defender Nastasic played 51 times for the English Premier League champions between 2012 and January 2015, before linking up with the Royal Blues in Germany.

The 25-year-old has good memories of City, but is hoping to create some more happy ones with Schalke when they host the English league leaders in Gelsenkirchen in the first leg of their tie.

“We’re not afraid,” he told German sports magazine kicker. “These are the games that every footballer wants to play in. We can be happy to have this chance.”

Runners-up in the Bundesliga last season, Schalke have found it tough going in the league this term – with a 0-0 draw at home to Freiburg on Saturday leaving them 14th in the table.

Domenico Tedesco’s men have thrived on their return to the European stage, however, and they set up the knockout matches with City by finishing second in their Champions League group behind Porto.

Nastasic (l.) and Manchester City’s Leroy Sane (centre) were teammates at Schalke in 2015. - imago/nph

Schalke lost only one of their six games against the Portuguese champions, Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Moscow. Nastasic thinks they can once again put their domestic struggles behind them to trouble City, urging his team to enjoy the experience of hosting such an important game.

“We cannot think of the Bundesliga,” the ex-Fiorentina defender said.

“The Champions League is a different competition. We have to give our best and show character.”

Nastasic was only 19 when he signed for City, and he played in the 2013 FA Cup final before winning the Premier League in 2014. His former Schalke teammate Leroy Sane is now with the English club, who are managed by ex-Bayern Munich head coach Pep Guardiola.

“Leroy is a great player and person, and he is always welcome in Gelsenkirchen,” Nastasic told the Manchester City website this week. “And this time will be no different.”

“We all know how strong City are, so we have to be on our best if we want to do something.

“But at our stadium we have a great support every game, and that will be to our advantage.”