Man City into Champions League final, eyeing treble
Manchester City are three games away from making history. And after a stunning rout of Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals, Pep Guardiola's march toward a treble of trophies feels unstoppable.
"We are there. We can think about it, can visualise it," the City manager said after his team's 4-0 win at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.
Madrid's undisputed kings of Europe were humbled and, but for the efforts of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, the scoreline could have been so much worse for the 14-time champions.
City feel like an irresistible force as they closes in on the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup titles.
They were certainly too much for Madrid to handle as Bernardo Silva scored twice in the first half, defender Manuel Akanji scored after the break and substitute Julian Alvarez struck in time added on to seal a 5-1 aggregate win.
After overrunning the defending European champions, City will be favoured to do the same to Inter Milan in the final in Istanbul on June 10.
A win against Chelsea on Sunday would secure a third straight league title and Manchester United stands in their way in the FA Cup final.
United are the only English team to win the three main trophies in one season - doing so in 1999.
City have already overtaken their Manchester rival as the dominant force in English soccer and can now emulate their greatest achievement.
"We are close and of course we are going to try," Guardiola said.
City are going in search of their first Champions League title, while Guardiola is aiming to win it for a third time as a coach, having twice claimed it with Barcelona.
While City's quality has rarely been in question over Guardiola's seven years in charge, their temperament in the Champions League has been.
On too many occasions they have fallen short when the heat was on - losing to underdogs such as Monaco, Lyon and Tottenham.
They were in command for almost the entirety of the two-legged semi-final against Madrid last year, but still managed to lose after blowing a two-goal lead in the last few minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu.
That never looked likely on this occasion as City provided further evidence that they are ready to lift the one trophy that has eluded them.
"After 10 or 15 minutes I had the feeling that all the pain we had in one season, one year, what happened last season, was there today," Guardiola said.
"It was really tough to lose the way we lose and I think we had to swallow poison. Football always gives you another chance. When the draw was made with Madrid I said 'I want it'."
City took control from the start in front of their own fans.
Erling Haaland had two clear chances to score before Bernardo's opening goal - twice seeing headers saved by Courtois.
Courtois could not keep out Bernardo, who raced onto Kevin de Bruyne's pass before firing in at the near post in the 23rd minute.
Passive for the opening 30 minutes, Madrid sprung into life and Toni Kroos hit the bar from around 25 metres.
But moments later the home team was celebrating a second goal, with Bernardo the scorer again in the 37th.
Ilkay Gundogan burst into the box and when his shot was blocked, Bernardo was the quickest to react, heading in the goal.
Akanji scored from De Bruyne's free kick in the 76th minute and the crowd were given one more goal to cheer when Alvarez burst through and slid a shot past Courtois in stoppage time.