Gundogan glad to leave Christmas holidays behind
Ilkay Gundogan swapped sun and sand in December and January for the cut and thrust of the Premier League when he joined Manchester City – and the Germany international could not be happier.
Former Borussia Dortmund midfielder Gundogan was Pep Guardiola's first signing at Manchester City in 2016 but had his campaign curtailed by a cruciate knee ligament injury.
A cast of walking wounded at the Etihad Stadium, including Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho, means he is likely to be a key figure as the fixtures pile up this time around.
City face the next step of their Premier League title defence at Everton this weekend, while a Christmas and new year period Gundogan used to watch from afar is one he now anticipates with relish.
"I remember the times where I was playing in the Bundesliga and was in Dubai on holiday, watching the Premier League," he said.
"Now I'm part of this competition. Obviously it's great because of such a big history and such a big tradition over here to play during that tough period.
"There are a lot of games coming but also, on the other side, a lot of points to gain. That's our target and we'll try to do our best."
Following Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League win over Hoffenheim, Pep Guardiola joked his team would undertake their recovery "in the fridge" ahead of a 12:30 GMT showdown against Everton on Saturday.
— Ilkay Gündogan (@IlkayGuendogan) December 12, 2018
Gundogan, 28, concedes the quick turnaround does present a challenge for a side aiming to bounce back from a defeat at Chelsea that saw Liverpool edge ahead at the top of the table.
"The season is so long, so it is quite normal that you get injuries. You have to deal with them. We showed we are able to do so [against Hoffenheim]," he said.
"Obviously, we don't have much time – the game is Saturday at 12:30 already. Not much time to recover, so we have to try and do our best in terms of recovery."
Fernandinho, Silva and De Bruyne made up City's first-choice midfield three as they romped to glory last season. If they miss out once more at the weekend it could mean another chance for Phil Foden, after the 18-year-old impressed over 90 minutes versus Hoffenheim.
"Phil was great. It's always special, I guess, for an 18-year-old to get the chance to start in a Champions League match," Gundogan added.
"The more the game was going on, the more he felt comfortable and he had an impact on our game.
"He could have scored, he could have assisted, which is obviously always important for players playing in that position.
"He's a big talent. He shows that in training and the more game time he gets the more confidence he will get as well."