Did things just get better or worse for Manchester City?
Chelsea’s German front line finally clicked on Wednesday night to see off the ‘small’ threat of 13-time European champions Real Madrid to book their place in the Champions League final, thanks to the clinical Kai Havertz and (the fortunate at times) Timo Werner.
On paper, a neutral would fancy City — who have dispensed with Dortmund and Paris St-Germain to reach the final — to defeat either the Londoners or the Spanish giants in Istanbul, but I have a feeling the Blues — having seen off Real by virtue of a 4-1 aggregate win on a stormy night in London — and their wily manager Thomas Tuchel have something up their sleeve.
Sure, City have the strength in depth. They have the confidence. They have their eyes on a treble. They have their eyes on the biggest prize in club football.
It may sound strange, but surely City would rather be facing the might of Real than the Blues, who have one Champions League title to their name.
Simply put, City have had the measure of Real and their ilk across Europe for years. Just ask Juventus and, erm, Real. But their Achilles heel is when they face the familiar or the overly unfamiliar. Just ask Tottenham Hotspur (rivals up to four or fives times a season depending on how far Spurs get in the cup competitions) or Lyon (one major clash in recent times and one major blemish for City and Pep Guardiola). Both these sides were the underdogs in recent years as they met City. Both came away with the victory to send the Sky Blues home empty-handed once again.
So the (multi) million dollar question is: Can City see off their inner demons and get the trophy their owners covet the most?
If you were to matchup the two teams, City are miles ahead in quality and options. However, they have the most to lose now they are so close to the biggest piece of silverware they have never attained.
League titles are a regular occasion, the FA Cup a bonus, and the League Cup is more City’s than the other 71 competing for it in England. But when it comes to Europe, City have not been able to get across the line.
The manner in which City have kept their character, kept their cool, against Borussia Dortmund and Paris St-Germain, just when it looked like they would let it slip once again, speaks volumes about how far this team have come in five years with Guardiola. It looks like the old quirks and chokes are gone, replaced by cool heads and a team spirit that is second to none.
However... When you come up against Chelsea, that might all go out the window (as we saw earlier this season in the FA Cup). These guys play City all the time and will know exactly how to play them. And, to me, that is the biggest concern for Guardiola. Better the devil you know? Not always the case...