Pep Guardiola insisted Friday his Manchester City side are primed to put their defeat in the 2021 Champions League final behind them for good as they seek to win the trophy when they take on Inter Milan in Istanbul on Saturday.
City were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea in Porto in the club’s only previous appearance to date in the final of Europe’s elite club competition.
Guardiola came in for criticism then for tinkering with what had been a winning team, as he surprisingly omitted captain Fernandinho and Rodrigo from the base of his midfield.
“I am pretty sure that two years ago what we planned, what we had in mind, was to have success against Chelsea. It didn’t work and that is why all the people said the decision was wrong,” Guardiola said on Friday just before his team trained on the pitch at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.
“Tomorrow will be the same, have a plan, have an idea and communicate to the players. We are ready.”
That match also ended bitterly for Kevin De Bruyne, as City’s Belgian playmaker came off in tears after being taken out in a collision with Chelsea defender Antonio Ruediger.
“We were not good enough on the day and you have to accept it,” De Bruyne said on Friday. “Luckily we have another chance, another opportunity to prove we can win this competition.”
City are looking to complete a remarkable treble by winning the Champions League for the first time in their history, after retaining the Premier League title and then beating Manchester United 2-1 in last weekend’s FA Cup final thanks to two Ilkay Gundogan goals.
– Close encounter? –
They are the overwhelming favourites to complete the job against Inter, having seen off RB Leipzig, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, all in comprehensive fashion, in this season’s knockout rounds.
The goals of Erling Haaland, who has scored 52 in all competitions since joining City from Borussia Dortmund, have helped elevate Guardiola’s side to new heights this season.
The Norwegian did not score in either leg of the semi-final against Madrid and has not found the net in his last four appearances, which constitutes a veritable goal drought for such a prolific player.
De Bruyne, who has enjoyed providing goals for Haaland this season, jokingly denied that it was a case of love at first sight between the two, as he expressed hope the striker will be back on form against Inter.
“I am happy with my wife,” he replied when asked about the chemistry between them.
“Sometimes you have a feeling with a player, you understand what he wants and he understands what I want or what I can do.
“It just clicked really well and he started scoring at an incredible rate. That helps and it settled him really easily in the team. Hopefully he can do what he needs to do tomorrow.”
De Bruyne is nevertheless aware that City may need to be patient against an obstinate Inter side who have exceeded all expectations in reaching a first Champions League final in 13 years.
“We understand what Inter is,” he said.
“They defend incredibly well. We don’t expect it to be an open game. That doesn’t happen a lot in a final anyway.”