Thursday, September 28

Manchester City produced a stunning performance to demolish title holders Real Madrid by 4-0 and reach the Champions League final. Pep Guardiola’s team were dominant from start to finish, reducing the Spanish giants to a lower league side during a one-sided first half. Even Guardiola struggled to find fault in their performance, save for conceding possession cheaply on occasion. This was a defining night for a City side that has previously struggled in the Champions League. The victory over Real bodes well for City as they look to emulate Manchester United’s historic Treble-winning season of 1999 by winning the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League.

City played without any shred of doubt and with the conviction of a team on a march towards destiny. Guardiola said, “I had a feeling in these last days we had the right mix of calm and tension. You could smell the team was ready to perform at this level.” There was a brutal beauty about the manner in which Real were simply dismantled. Greats such as Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Karim Benzema were seemingly in a daze in the moments after City took a two-goal lead.

Real’s great reputation as escapologists in the Champions League was dented by City’s dominant performance. They did not even have the chance to do it here. Those first 45 minutes must be as good as anything seen in this Etihad Stadium. It passed by in a flash and in a frenzy of pace, pressing intensity, menace, and sheer quality that yielded two goals from Bernardo Silva and could have brought more, Real keeper Thibaut Courtois twice saving miraculously from Erling Haaland headers.

Erling Haaland's close attempt on goal before a miraculous Thibaut Courtois save during the champions league semi final match between Real Madrid and Manchester City
Erling Haaland’s close attempt on goal before a miraculous Thibaut Courtois save

City will be overwhelming favorites to beat Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul on 10 June, with their current form having brought a 23-match unbeaten run. They face United in the FA Cup final at Wembley a week earlier, and a fifth Premier League title in six years will be sealed with victory at home to Chelsea on Sunday. Indeed, it would now be more of a surprise if they failed to win the Treble than if they did.

This victory could be the defining moment for City, who have previously found various ways to exit the Champions League under Guardiola. The tournament is increasingly being regarded as the prism through which Guardiola’s time in charge will be viewed. It was why Guardiola was brought to City. He was the management end game after his allies Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, both formerly of Barcelona, preceded him at the club. It was almost as if they were getting the Etihad house ready for Guardiola to move in.

Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola gestures during the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, 2nd leg soccer match between Manchester City and Real Madrid

In effect, Guardiola and his players stand three matches from immortality, joining Manchester United as the only English clubs to achieve this particular Treble. This was a magical night of football at an overjoyed Etihad Stadium, and it is hard to see anyone stopping them. The Champions League has been the Holy Grail for Manchester City, the perceived affirmation of their status as a European football superpower deserving of a place at the highest table. It is why the final in Istanbul will mean so much to City and Guardiola – and all logic suggests they will never have a better chance to finally lift the great silver trophy given their current form.

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