By Andy Hampson, PA, Lisbon
Bernardo Silva believes Manchester City are playing at a “higher level” than last season as they look to go one better in the Champions League.
City fell just short of adding the European crown to their domestic champions tag in 2021 as they were beaten by rivals Chelsea in the final.
Yet again they are among the favourites as they seek the one major prize that still eludes them and they made a strong statement to the continent by thrashing Sporting Lisbon 5-0 in the Portuguese capital on Tuesday.
“It’s a competition we want to win,” said Silva, who scored twice in the emphatic first-leg victory in his home city that all but guaranteed the English side another quarter-final appearance.
“The group is in a very good moment, we are working really hard and we have shown we are at a higher level than even last season.
“We know it is a special competition, but it’s a very difficult competition. We will try like every season. Last season, we reached the final. Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but this season we will try again.
“We are aware we are facing very talented opponents, not only from England but also from the best countries in Europe. We will do our best to reach as far as possible in the competition.”
Unstoppable? Manchester City have scored five goals or more for the third time this season...
⏰⚽️1⃣7⃣ Bernardo Silva
⏰⚽️4⃣4⃣ Bernardo Silva
⏰⚽️5⃣8⃣ Sterling #UCL pic.twitter.com/1RU8uOULpz
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 15, 2022
Silva shone on his return to Lisbon. As a fan and former player of Sporting’s cross-town rivals Benfica, the 27-year-old was initially booed vociferously by the raucous home fans.
Yet he soon silenced them as he followed up Riyad Mahrez’s opener with a stunning half-volley to put rampant City into a 2-0 lead after just 17 minutes. Phil Foden added the third but Silva got back in on the act to claim his second before half-time.
He thought he had even grabbed a hat-trick when he headed home at the back post after the break but VAR intervened. It was left for Raheem Sterling to net the fifth with a spectacular long-range effort.
🗣️ Bernardo Silva: "I'm Portuguese, I'm from the other side of the city. My mum is Sporting, my dad is Benfica. It was special to score here in my hometown."#UCL pic.twitter.com/b7abbZgpzG
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 16, 2022
Silva said: “It was a special night for me, coming to play in my home city, the team winning 0-5, scoring two goals and having a good advantage ahead of the second leg. Of course it’s a special night.
“I played for 12 years at the Benfica academy. I’m a Benfica fan, so it’s always special to win here at the Jose Alvalade.
“We are very happy with this win and we want to face the second leg with the same attitude.”
City’s trip back from Lisbon was disrupted by Storm Dudley, with the plane transporting the team forced to land in Liverpool after being diverted from Manchester.