Pep Guardiola says revenge for last season’s semi-final heartache fuelled treble-chasing Manchester City as they sealed a place in the Champions League final in style against Real Madrid.
A June 10 clash with Inter Milan in Istanbul beckons after a spectacular display of skill, strength and nous at a rocking Etihad Stadium against the reigning champions on Wednesday.
City drew 1-1 with Champions League kings Madrid last week and ran out 4-0 victors as Bernardo Silva’s brace was complemented by an own goal from Eder Militao and substitute Julian Alvarez’s effort in a stunning last-four display.
“Listen, I had the feeling these last days that we had a mix of calm and tension to play this type of game,” Guardiola said of that heart-breaking late 6-5 aggregate extra-time loss last term.
“After 10 or 15 minutes, I had the feeling that all the pain that we had during one year from what happened last season was there today.
“It was so hard and tough last season when we played quite similar to today and I remember Toni Kroos gave an interview saying they could have lost 10-1 or 10-2 at the Etihad.
“In that moment, we had to swallow poison and football and sport always gives you another chance.
“When the draw was Madrid, I said ‘yeah I want it’. I wanted it because I think today everything was there – the energy we had from a year of being criticised as players for not having character when we lost because it was football.
“Today it was there and I’m pleased for the whole organisation – for the chairman, owner, staff and especially all the players because we accepted the defeat and today we were there.”
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City are overwhelming favourites with bookmakers to beat Inter, just as they are to lift the FA Cup against rivals Manchester United seven days before that date with destiny in Turkey.
Guardiola’s men are also odds-on to complete the treble, which they can kick off this weekend by wrapping up the Premier League title against Chelsea.
“We are one game away from winning the Premier League for three years in a row, and we have been in two Champions League finals and one semi-final,” he said.
“That is consistency. I always put the example of being Carabao Cup winners for four years in a row. That means the level of this team.
“There is one incredible detail in this team that I’m so proud of – they are so humble. It doesn’t matter the competition, they take every game seriously because they are so humble.
“I hate arrogance in sport, the moment that you believe you are something you are not. These guys have not done this for many years and today we got the reward they deserve.
“A final against an Italian team, people will say we are favourites and that is the worst that can happen but we have time to prepare and now we focus on Chelsea because we have to try to close the Premier League as soon as possible because we have to prepare for United and Inter Milan.”
“Last season was different. This season they deserve to reach the final and fight for the final. They were better than us as we were better than them last season.”