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22 May 2024

I had feeling Man City were ready to deliver, says Guardiola

Published
By Reuters

Manchester City were perfectly prepared with the right mix of calmness and tension for their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, manager Pep Guardiola said on Wednesday.

The English champions dismantled the holders 4-0 with a ruthless display to secure a 5-1 aggregate win and reach the final against Inter Milan when they will bid to win European club soccer's most prestigious trophy for the first time.

It was sweet revenge for a painful semi-final loss to Real 12 months ago.

"I had the feeling these last days that we had a mix of calm and tension to play these type of games," Guardiola told reporters.

"And after 10 or 15 minutes, I had the feeling that all the pain that we had, what happened last season . . . it was really tough, losing the way we lost and I think in the moment we had to swallow poison."

Real knocked City out 12 months ago 6-5 on aggregate after an extraordinary late comeback.

"In sport, obviously you have another chance and when the draw was Madrid, I said, 'Yeah, I want it'," Guardiola said.

Bernardo Silva netted a first-half double to put City in control and, after Erling Haaland failed to convert two gilt-edged chances, Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez completed the rout.

Real Madrid arrived with history on their side as title-holders and record 14-times European champions.

But City, buoyed by an unbeaten 23-game run in all competitions, had not lost in 26 Champions League matches at the Etihad Stadium, which was a writhing sea of sky blue for the visit of the Spanish giants.

City had played the 2021 semi-final against Paris St Germain in Manchester with no fans in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this time the players stayed on the pitch long after the final whistle to celebrate, with Haaland wearing a Norwegian flag draped around his shoulders.

"(Tonight was) much, much better," Guardiola said. "I felt, I don't know why, you smelled that the team was ready to compete at the level that they competed today."

City are three wins away from a treble as they play Manchester United in the FA Cup final on June 3 and could win the Premier League as early as Saturday.

"We're closer," Guardiola said. "This season is really really good, what we've really done already. The pleasure, the joy, how much we have fun this season again and again. We make happy our fans, all around the world watching us, they see a good team playing. This is the biggest compliment."

Guardiola said the players, staff and families would gather for a team breakfast before enjoying a day off on Thursday ahead of their preparations for their final push to clinch the Premier League title.

Victory over Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul on June 10 would secure the one trophy Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour has craved since buying City in 2008, having lost to Chelsea two years ago in their only previous appearance in the final.