Dubai: Annual League Cup triumph — done. Run away with another Premier League title — sorted. Wait for the noisy neighbours to ruin a title party by breaking the law — check. See off Paris St-Germain at the Etihad to book a first ever place in the Uefa Champions League final ... not quite yet.
Manchester City have had quite an eventful week or so after they got back down to the business of what they do best following the European Super League shambles.
They outclassed Tottenham to pick up their fourth League Cup trophy on the trot at Wembley last weekend, came back to humble PSG on their own turf on Wednesday, dismissed Crystal Palace to all but seal the EPL title on Saturday — and then sat back and marvelled as their once great neighbours Manchester United embarrassed themselves even further and descended to a new low amid a heist on their home game against Liverpool and ongoing protests against their owners — the Glazers.
- Steven Gerrard and Rangers stamp authority all over Celtic in Scotland
- Inter Milan win first league Serie A title in 11 years, ending Juventus’ nine-year reign
- English Premier League: Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang happy to score again after malaria recovery
- La Liga: Lionel Messi strikes twice in second half against Valencia to keep Barcelona near top
While the headlines were claimed by the thugs on Sunday at Old Trafford, City have quietly gone about their professional business as they prepare for the biggest game in their continental history. Pep Guardiola’s men go into their Champions League second leg against PSG holding a vital 2-1 lead from their efforts in the French capital last week and now look like a shoo-in to reach their first ever final of the pinnacle of club football in Istanbul later this month (Chelsea or Real Madrid await, but that is another issue).
In recent times, many would question City’s bottle to get the job done, given they have choked in the Champions League on several occasions. But this five-years-in-the-making animal that Guardiola has bred in Manchester is a different beast. They were rocked on their heels in Paris last week as PSG took the game to them and did not permit them to have their usual passing, flowing movement. But rather than crumble, they found another way. The strength and depth on the City bench is second to none and the introduction of an unsung hero — Oleksandr Zinchenko — proved to be the masterstroke as PSG were left chasing shadows in one of the finest 45 minutes ever produced by an English team in Europe.
However, the job is not done yet and any early slips will be punished by a French side that can call upon Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel Di Maria to do the business.
Yet ... this City team seems to be a class above its counterparts from years gone by — including the record-breaking treble winners, highest EPL points winners and goal machines of the past. There is a cool, calculated mentality to go with the silkiness. A clinical ruthlessness alongside some world-class football.
With two of the trophies accounted for, now it is time for Guardiola’s boy to become men and step up and take pride of place as kings of Europe among a group they once just envied as they looked on from below. There may not be the glamour on Tuesday evening, but there will certainly be the grit and determination that was lacking once before.