How Manchester City Can Win the Treble Without Relying on the Champions League

Man­ches­ter City are on the verge of win­ning their fifth Pre­mier League title in six years under Pep Guardi­o­la, who has already col­lect­ed nine major tro­phies with the club. But they are not sat­is­fied with just domes­tic dom­i­nance. They also want to con­quer Europe and lift the Cham­pi­ons League tro­phy for the first time in their history.

They have a gold­en oppor­tu­ni­ty to do so this Wednes­day, when they host Real Madrid in the sec­ond leg of the semi-final. The tie is even­ly bal­anced at 1–1, but City have the advan­tage of play­ing at home and scor­ing an away goal in the first leg.

How­ev­er, Guardi­o­la does not believe that win­ning the Cham­pi­ons League will define his lega­cy at City, because he thinks it is already excep­tion­al. He said:

My lega­cy is already excep­tion­al! (We have been) here many times already. We are not stu­pid, (we) know how impor­tant tomor­row is — maybe the most impor­tant since we’ve been here.

I say to the play­ers, live it, enjoy the moment and how for­tu­nate we are. It’s in our hands, it depends on us.

We don’t have to do any­thing excep­tion­al — be our­selves, give every­thing. I have an incred­i­ble feel­ing about the team. What­ev­er hap­pens, thank you for bring­ing us here again.

The lega­cy is that we’ve had one hell of a time and for many years they (the fans) will remem­ber a gen­er­a­tion of play­ers who for five or six years scored lots of goals and con­ced­ed very few, and that we won lots of things and won very well, and peo­ple should remem­ber that. It would be a good book.

Whether or not they will remem­ber us I don’t know, but we have had a good time.

Guardi­o­la is right to be proud of his achieve­ments at City, but he should not under­es­ti­mate the impor­tance of the Cham­pi­ons League for the club and its fans. City have been chas­ing this tro­phy for years, spend­ing bil­lions of pounds on play­ers and man­agers, but always falling short at the final hurdle.

They have nev­er reached the final of the com­pe­ti­tion, let alone won it. They have been knocked out by teams like Mona­co, Liv­er­pool, Tot­ten­ham and Lyon in recent sea­sons. They have also faced accu­sa­tions of finan­cial fair play breach­es and faced a pos­si­ble ban from UEFA.

Win­ning the Cham­pi­ons League would not only silence their crit­ics, but also cement their sta­tus as one of the best teams in Europe and in his­to­ry. It would also com­plete a his­toric tre­ble, as they are already in the FA Cup final and only need one more win to secure the Pre­mier League title.

But Guardi­o­la knows that win­ning the Cham­pi­ons League is not easy, espe­cial­ly against a team like Real Madrid, who have won it 13 times before. He said:

The emo­tion is there and will be high — (it) has to be high — but just this is not going to beat a team like Real Madrid.

We need a bit bet­ter game­plan, to adjust a lit­tle bit, cre­ate more chances for our strikers.

We play against Real Madrid in the semi-final of the Cham­pi­ons League, the tough­est oppo­nents. It’s a chal­lenge but we go for it.

We arrive real­ly good. We’re in the FA Cup final, one game from the Pre­mier League, but we have to play bet­ter than Madrid. We have to per­form well, not just have the desire.

City have shown that they can play bet­ter than Madrid in the first leg, where they dom­i­nat­ed pos­ses­sion and cre­at­ed more chances. They also have more depth and qual­i­ty in their squad than Madrid, who are miss­ing key play­ers like Ser­gio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Dani Car­va­jal due to injury.

City also have home advan­tage for the sec­ond leg, although they will miss their fans due to Covid-19 restric­tions. They will need to be focused and con­fi­dent, but not over­con­fi­dent or com­pla­cent. They will need to take their chances and avoid mis­takes at the back.

If they can do that, they can make his­to­ry and reach their first ever Cham­pi­ons League final. But even if they don’t, they can still win two oth­er tro­phies this sea­son and con­tin­ue their dom­i­nance in England.

That’s why Guardi­o­la is right to say that his lega­cy at City is already excep­tion­al, but he should also admit that win­ning the Cham­pi­ons League would make it even more so.

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