David De Gea says David Silva will be the target man in Manchester City's Champions League fight this season, with the Manchester United keeper admitting that his rivals are particularly tough to beat when the Spaniard is on the pitch.

City are facing a tough group as they look to overcome Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortumund in the group stages of the top-tier European competition, and after a disappointing bout last season, the side are hoping to show they can stand up to the top clubs in the continent.

And though De Gea is concentrating on his own form with United, he couldn't help but gush over the side's noisy neighbours, despite them going into the match up against Madrid without the favourites tag.

"City are a great team," he told Marca. "They are full of great players in all positions. The substitutes are also top-class.

"It will be really difficult for Real Madrid, both in the Bernabeu and in Manchester. You don't get anything for free in the Champions League.

"City has a similar style to Real. It is quick to get the ball forward and looks to directly attack.

David Silva
David Silva is a key man for City, according to Manchester United keeper David De Gea. Reuters

"The strike-force is deadly, as the club has an incredible group of strikers. But if you want to win the Champions League you've got to beat the best teams, and City are one of them."

Silva in particular, who had an injury spell last season but looks to be in top condition now, and could be the side's key man in taking them higher than United in both England and Europe.

De Gea said of the midfielder: "David is a vital player for them. City is a different team without him; it doesn't play the same way.

"But it's not just about Silva. Kun is always up for it and he'll be extra motivated against Real. He's a great player and scores a lot of goals. It's a joy to watch him play."

United themselves face an uphill battle to show their dominance in the Champions League, with the side attempting to recover from a shock group stage exit last campaign at the hands of Swiss outfit Basel.

And De Gea in particular will be hoping to work on his game, after being dropped for the match up with Southampton, after a glaring mistake against Fulham.

While United were hoping to receive a simpler group than the likes of City this season, the side will be trying desperately not to become complacent once more as they prepare for their first group stage match.