Tonight marks the culmination of 15 years of anticipation—a moment that has been eagerly anticipated ever since the Abu Dhabi takeover of Manchester City.
For Pep Guardiola, this night holds a special significance, as it harks back to 2011 when his Barcelona team delivered an unforgettable performance against Manchester United at Wembley, etching their names in football history. Since then, Guardiola has longed for a chance like tonight.
Erling Haaland himself openly acknowledges that he was acquired by the desert sheikhs last summer with this precise occasion in mind—a night that has been meticulously prepared for.
With the exception of a monumental upset akin to James ‘Buster’ Douglas defeating Mike Tyson, tonight is the night when Manchester City will finally ascend to the throne as champions of Europe.
City enters this final as overwhelming favorites to achieve the Treble—a feat deemed more likely than any other side in the past two decades, and quite possibly, even longer.
It has been 12 years since Guardiola last tasted Champions League glory, and he is well aware of the familiar narratives that arise on such occasions.
One popular notion revolves around Guardiola supposedly overanalyzing his team selections in this competition, while another centers on his inability to win the European Cup without Lionel Messi by his side.
When asked about the secrets behind his success on the eve of this final in Istanbul, Guardiola cleverly played along with the latter jab.
He responded, “Have good players. Have Messi, have Haaland—this is the key to my success. I’m not joking.”
“Let them think alone they cannot do it, (only) together with a strong team.”
“Every successful manager benefits from strong institutions and exceptional players—I, on the other hand, have never scored a goal as a manager,” he remarked, with a hint of irony in his voice.
Guardiola’s humility may not be as genuine as it seems.
Guardiola understands that complacency poses the greatest threat to his team’s success tonight at the Ataturk Stadium, located on the fringes of this vast city that spans two continents.
Reaching the final while being considered outside of the top twelve teams in Europe is a rare feat for any club.
However, this assessment holds true for Inter, whose path to Istanbul—via Porto, Benfica, and local rivals AC Milan—can be considered remarkably “easy.”
City, on the other hand, has maintained an impressive unbeaten run for the past four months and boasts a cohesive squad.
Guardiola has effectively curbed his tendency to overthink, resulting in victories over powerhouses like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
Their resounding 4-0 triumph over Carlo Ancelotti’s reigning European champions was particularly significant.
In the past, City had developed a reputation for faltering and losing crucial matches in the latter stages of this competition.
Conversely, Real had often found a way to emerge victorious, even in situations where they seemed destined to fail.
However, City shattered those perceptions with a resounding victory over the 14-time champions in the semi-final clash at the Etihad Stadium last month.
The convincing 5-1 aggregate success has diminished the significance of their previous Champions League setbacks.
Nevertheless, Guardiola’s key message to his team emphasized the importance of maintaining composure, especially if the match remains goalless for an extended period.
He emphasized the need for stability, strong defensive play, and patience, stating, “We have to be stable, defend well, and be patient.”
“The most crucial thing is not to consider ourselves losing at 0-0. Italian teams may think they are winning at 0-0, but that’s not the case.”
Regarding Haaland’s goal-scoring abilities, Guardiola expressed unwavering confidence, saying, “If you have doubts about Haaland scoring goals, you’ll be alone in that.”
“I have no doubts. He will be ready to contribute to our victory in the Champions League.”
A triumph for City tonight would mark a significant turning point.
Neither they nor their fellow oil-rich, state-owned club Paris Saint-Germain have claimed this prestigious trophy thus far.
Moreover, next year, Newcastle, under Saudi ownership, will also enter the elite circle.
The established footballing order is finally being disrupted.
Despite facing 115 Premier League charges of financial misconduct, City has recently dispelled any doubts surrounding their footballing capabilities.
Tonight represents the culmination of Guardiola’s ambitions since his arrival in Manchester in 2016 and fulfills the long-standing desire of City’s owners since 2008.
Guardiola openly embraced the notion that winning this competition is not just a mere aspiration but a consuming obsession.
The prospect of attaining immortality looms large for his team, with the exception of an extraordinary upset that would go down as one of the greatest shocks in footballing history. – 20newshub.
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