Pep Guardiola described Manchester City’s triumph over Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League semi-final as one of the greatest achievements of his career.
“This is one of the highest [results of my career], considering the opponent, Real Madrid, in the semi-final of the Champions League. We had to perform well, and we did it, especially in the first half. It was really, really good,” the 52-year-old said after the match.
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Reflecting on their previous encounter with Real Madrid last season, which ended in defeat, he said: “I had a feeling these last days that we had a mix of calmness and tension to play these kinds of games. After 10 or 15 minutes, I had the feeling that all the pain of last season was there today. It was so hard and tough last season when we played quite similar to how we played today.
“We were there, and it was really tough to lose the way we lost; we had to swallow the poison. In football, in sport, there is always another chance, and when the draw was Madrid, I said, ‘Yes, I want it.’
“Today, everything was there. The energy we had last season after a year of the players being criticised for not having character. We lost because of football, but today we were there. I am so pleased for the whole organisation.
“We accepted defeat then, but one year later, we are in the final of the Champions League. Football and life always give opportunities. You cannot give up; you’ve just got to try again.
“We’re one game away from winning the Premier League for the third time in a row, and we’ve been in two finals and one semi-final of the Champions League in three years. That is consistency. The level of this team. That is one incredible detail I am so proud of. Every game, it doesn’t matter about the opponent or competition; they take [it] seriously because they are so humble.”
Looking ahead, the Man City manager acknowledged the upcoming challenges and emphasised the need to maintain focus: “These guys have done these types of things for many years, and today they got their reward. We have time to prepare for the final, but now we have to prepare for Chelsea because we have to close it [the Premier League] as soon as possible to prepare for United [in the FA Cup final] and Inter Milan.”
It was a night to forget for Carlo Ancelotti, who will end the season with just a Copa del Rey after being dumped out of the Champions League by City, and pipped to both La Liga and the Spanish Super Cup by rivals Barcelona.
“We have lost to a team with more quality and more intensity than us,” the Italian said after the loss at the Etihad.
“Last year we were superior, and this year they were superior. It’s a defeat that hurts a lot. They’ve been much better; there’s no other choice but to think about next season.”
Ancelotti was also adamant that he would be the one leading Real Madrid bench next season: “Next season, I will be here to fight to win another Champions League. No one doubts me. I think the president was very clear 15 days ago. What he tells me in private, I’m not going to say here.”
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