Pep Guardiola says his legacy as Manchester City boss is already “exceptional” as the English champions aim to finally turn their domestic dominance into European glory.
City host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday with the tie delicately poised at 1-1.
Victory over the Spanish giants would put Guardiola’s men in prime position to become just the second side ever to win the treble of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup in the same season.
City need just one win from their final three Premier League games to guarantee a fifth title in six seasons under Guardiola but they have never been crowned European champions.
They may never have a better chance as the winners of their clash with Madrid will be strong favourites to beat either AC Milan or Inter Milan in next month’s final in Istanbul.
– Legacy –
“My legacy, our legacy is exceptional already,” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“We are not stupid (not) to know how important is tomorrow’s game. It’s one of the most important since we are together here.
“We cannot deny that, for the competition, for the rival, for many things. I said to the players ‘live it like a huge opportunity, enjoy the moment’.
“How fortunate we are. We are incredibly lucky to be here. It’s in our hands, it depends on us, we don’t have to do something exceptional, just be ourselves and win one game to reach a final.”
City’s dreams were shattered by a stunning late Madrid fightback when the sides met in last season’s semi-final.
But this time Guardiola’s men crucially have home advantage in the second leg and boast a formidable record at the Etihad.
City have not lost at home in the Champions League for five years and have won all 14 games on home soil in 2023.
“It’s a dream come true to be here,” added Guardiola, who twice won the competition as Barcelona coach.
“We arrive really good for the fact we are in the FA Cup final, one game away to win the Premier League and semi-final of the Champions League, but at the same time we have to play much better than the Madrid (away) game.”
City meet Manchester United — the only side to have completed the treble — in the FA Cup final at Wembley on June 3.
As influential as Guardiola has been during his seven years in charge, the transformation in City’s fortunes came long before the Catalan’s arrival, when the club was taken over by Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour in 2008.
Billions of pounds have been poured in on and off the pitch to make City the dominant force in English football.
Defender Kyle Walker said the players owe it to the club’s owners to deliver the Champions League title.
“The club is missing that one,” said the England international, whose head-to-head with Madrid star Vincius Junior will be one of the key tussles in the second leg.
“For the owners, the amount of money they’ve pumped into this club, we owe that to them. We owe it to ourselves as well.”