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.