Celina excited by City reunion

15th March 2019
First team

You can only imagine that the scenes were roughly similar in a number of Swansea supporting households on a Monday night just a few weeks ago.

There was that initial buzz of optimism as the FA Cup quarter-final draw commenced with the Swans being first out of the hat and being handed a home draw. Part one of the deal had been negotiated, a home draw is what everyone wants.

But the second part of the puzzle did not quite fall into place as planned, and there would have doubtless been a few groans when Manchester City came out of the hat as the opponents for Graham Potter's side. The Swans will have to beat the best side in the land to get to Wembley.

Yet at least one man with Swansea allegiances would have been smiling; for Bersant Celina this is a reunion he probably did not expect to arrive so soon after swapping the Etihad Stadium for the Liberty last summer.

The Kosovo international had previously spoken of his desire to face Pep Guardiola's Premier League champions, and his wish has been granted.

After all, the 22-year-old spent six years in total on the books with the Citizens, making the move from Norway at the age of 15 and having to adjust to life on his own for the first time.

It was not always an easy experience, but it is one that clearly left a mark. The chance to work alongside players of the calibre of David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling was a priceless opportunity he relished.

Indeed, Celina managed to provide an assist for Aguero during one of his first-team outings for City, a moment he looks back on with some pride even though he wishes there had been more opportunity to link up with the Argentina striker.

But it was Spanish playmaker Silva who made a particular impression on Celina.

“I was amazed by David Silva. Obviously, he is a quality player and I got to see that every day," he says.

“In training, I never lost whenever I was on his side, he was that good. I just loved the way he played, it was very special playing with him.

"I greatly admire him and it will be a special moment for me to face my former club and I’m looking forward to catching up with my former team-mates.

“All the players were really good to me during my time there. They took me under their wing and gave me good advice that serves me well to this day.

“It will be a very interesting game but, like any other, I’ll go out there and do my best.”

In addition to the high calibre of players at City, Celina also worked under Manuel Pellegrini - who gave him his first-team chance - and a certain Pep Guardiola.

The Catalan's possession philosophy has come to define an entire era of football, and he has racked up a remarkable 25 major trophies across spells with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and the Citizens.

“He’s a very good coach and it was a really good opportunity for me to be able to work with him. He has the ability to always improve players and a team," added Celia.

“Everything you learned under him was a bonus. I took something from every training session he took.”

Few will be giving Celina and his team-mates much hope of booking their place at Wembley, and the Swans are as long as 18-1 with some bookmakers in what is a two-horse race.

In that respect the pressure is very much off the hosts, and they only have to look at Wigan's sensational upset against the Citizens last term to know that on any given day an upset can happen.

The champions' midweek destruction of Schalke in the Champions League may have provided some apprehension among supporters ahead of this game.

But Celina feels Potter's players have to go out with the mindset that they want to enjoy the experience and show what they are capable of.

“When I joined the Swans, I saw the FA Cup as a good opportunity to make a positive impact because you always have the chance of playing against a top team," he said.

“It’s been a great run for us so far and this is a great opportunity for everyone.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure on us to win the game. The boys just want to go out and test themselves against the best players in the world.”