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Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan says it has been mentally tough to overcome a third major injury.
Gundogan, 26, told BBC Sport he “can see the finishing line” after tearing cruciate knee ligaments in December but will not rush his return to football.
The Germany international missed Euro 2016 with a dislocated knee cap and the 2014 World Cup following back surgery that kept him out for a year.
He said: “It is heavy mentally to accept that.”
Gundogan will not be fit for the start of the Premier League season at Brighton on 12 August but said his recovery time is now being measured in “weeks” rather than months.
He told BBC Sport: “It is really hard always to fall and fight your way back. You feel good and feel ready, then you get the next kick.
“The worst part is behind me now. I want to feel ready when I am fully back. I want to feel safe and confident. I don’t mind if it is two weeks or six.”
‘Optimism is huge’
Gundogan made 15 appearances and scored five goals in his debut season for City following his £20m move from Borussia Dortmund.
He is eager to get on the field again and was impressed at the club’s 4-1 win over Real Madrid in a pre-season game in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Manager Pep Guardiola has made five new signings already this summer and continues to have an interest in Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez and Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe.
Gundogan said: “Optimism for the season is big. It is huge, definitely.
“Honestly we felt that last year as well but it was a completely new experience for all of us. We know the Premier League a bit more now and can’t wait for the season to start.”
‘Tottenham are title contenders’
City complete their three-match tour of the United States against Tottenham in Nashville on Saturday.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said earlier this week he did not feel Tottenham were judged by the same standards as his own side, City and Manchester United.
Spurs have had the advantage in their recent meetings with City, winning three and drawing one of their last four Premier League games.
And Gundogan thinks they are a major threat.
He said: “Tottenham are a great team. They have the style of football. They have young English players. Our experience last season shows it is really tough to beat them.
“They are really uncomfortable to play against.
“I am pretty sure, even if they will not say it loud, the people who know the Premier League know Tottenham are definitely a competitor for the title.”
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