PSG were beaten finalists last season and still have the team and the players to perform a turnaround from the 2-1 first-leg deficit; Manchester City have never been here and so a historic night beckons for both teams and especially the city manager, Pep Guardiola, who has not made a UCL final since 2011.
After 10 years of torture, questions, and derision, Guardiola again stands at the cusp of another Champions League final. After leading Barcelona with Lionel Messi to two UCL triumphs in 2009 and 2011; little did he know it would take another 10 years before he will have another chance at the biggest club title in the world.
In his press conference on Monday, Guardiola spoke about the pressure of a semi-final second leg. “From my experience, the [second leg of the] semis are always difficult. You play with the result of the first leg, you forget what you have to do which is to win the game. It has always been like this. The final is completely different.”
The first leg was composed of two different halves. Mauricio Pochettino wants his team to play as they did in the first 45 minutes in which they denied Guardiola’s side space and time to play out from the back and harassed their midfield players into playing long balls. The only negative was their inability to score more than one goal. In the second half, City adjusted their position by 10 yards and got back the possession they needed to create danger and score two goals.
Those are the references both Guardiola and Pochettino will put before the players before they march into the Etihad pitch.
“(Paris) are an extraordinary team, everybody knows it. They can create something nobody expects to win. Of course, I look at their qualities, but it’s fresh what they leave on the pitch. At the same time, we know how good we can be. Tomorrow, we have to be there and do it again. It’s not complicated.”
With doubts over Kylian Mbappe’s fitness; Neymar has said he is ready to die on the pitch to get PSG to another final. “Every Parisian has to believe in us. I’m in the frontline and I’ll be the first warrior fighting for the team,” he told PSG’s official website.
“I’ll give the best of myself and I’ll do everything to get us this qualification, whatever happens, even if I have to die on the pitch.”
Who will blink first and who will laugh last? This tie is so delicately poised and both teams have the capacity to produce the extraordinary. Will Guardiola celebrate another UCL final after his last in 2011?
Follow live updates from Premium Times.