The quarterfinals turned out to be a ceiling for Manchester City in the Champions League under the leadership of Pep Guardiola.
The team is back there again, for the fourth consecutive season, after beating Borussia Mönchengladbach in the last 16.
And this time things feel completely different.
The relentless nature of City’s 4-0 victory over Gladbach, sealed by another 2-0 victory over the German team in Tuesday’s rematch, hits a country that controls its fate.
The celebrations during the full-time playing were as much business as the performance. For City, he thought the race was really starting now.
“From the first day I arrived here, five years ago, they told me you had to win the Champions League,” Guardiola said. “So it’s always on our shoulders.”
Still, the expectations turned out to be too high for Guardiola and his team in successive exits from the quarterfinals, to Liverpool, Tottenham and then – so painfully – Lyon last season.
This seems to be City’s best chance to become European champions for the first time.
Thanks to the bubbles 12-minute attack from Kevin De Bruyne’s crossbar and Ilkay Gundogan’s goal six minutes later after a smooth move of the team, City won its 24th victory in its last 25 matches in all competitions and the seventh consecutive clean sheet in the Champions League. league.
The team is uninjured. Guardiola managed to rest and turn his players. City leads by 14 points in the Premier League, enters the English League Cup final and is already in the quarterfinals of both the FA Cup and the Champions League.
In an intense season, like no other because of the pandemic, City could not be in better shape. Not that Guardiola gets carried away.
“Everything,” he said, “can change right away in a day.”
Certainly Gladbach was unable to knock down City, the seventh straight defeat in all card races since De Bruyne encountered a short pass from Riyadh Mahrez with a left-footed shot from the edge of the flying area at the bottom of the crossbar.
It could be a bigger loss for Gladbach at the empty Pushkas Arena in Budapest, which again hosted the match, as travel restrictions from the coronavirus prevented the team from traveling to Manchester for the rematch.
After Gundogan escaped with a return pass from Phil Foden and slipped into the second, City chose their moments to kill Gladbach. Mahrez was twice denied by goalkeeper Ian Somer in the second half and also twisted wide when he was well placed, while reserve Rahim Sterling stumbled after being played by De Bruyne.
“We have to admit that the opponent was too strong for us tonight,” said Gladbach coach Marco Rose, whose team has lost every game since it was announced on February 15 that it would leave at the end of the season to join Borussia. Dortmund.
Gladbach said goodbye to the Champions League and the team is unlikely to return to the race for at least a year and a half after falling to 10th place in the Bundesliga on the back of its terrible recent run.
However, City marched and joined the last eight on Tuesday from Real Madrid, who beat Atalanta 3-1 to finish 4-1 overall.
Liverpool, Porto, Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain reached the quarter-finals last week.
No team will want to face City in the next stage, even with the team’s history to implode at this stage.
“I don’t think I’ll make it to the semi-finals,” Guardiola said. “I’m thinking of making a good first game and then the second game. That’s the only thing.
When you think about what you will gain, you forget what you have to do.