Livescore Thursday, April 25

WEMBLEY STADIUM, LONDON — Pep Guardiola did not ban the t-word when a clean sweep started to come into view for Manchester City a couple of months ago. His players had other things to focus on in any case.

Now, after a hard-fought 2-1 win over rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final, treble fever is set to sweep first Manchester and then Istanbul this week. City are five days away from potential sporting immortality.

“There was belief anyway but there was no point talking about it before,” said Kevin De Bruyne in his typically matter-of-fact style.

“We know now. I want to win the Champions League and I want to win the treble but we were getting ready to win [the FA Cup final]. We deserved to win. I am very happy and very proud. 

“We should enjoy next week and hopefully we can perform the best we can.”

MORE: Man City vs Man United FA Cup final score, result as Ilkay Gundogan keeps Pep Guardiola’s treble dream alive

For City and De Bruyne in particular, their previous venture into a Champions League final was a painful experience.

Guardiola’s selection gamble to start against Chelsea without a recognised holding midfielder backfired as his side turned in a disjointed performance in Porto and Kai Havertz scored the only goal.

De Bruyne was taken out of the game by a brutal clash with Antonio Rudiger during the second half and he knows there are no guarantees against Internazionale at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.

“That’s football,” he recalled. “I’d never broken anything in my life and I come out of the Champions League final with a broken nose, a broken eye socket and concussion. It happens. There’s nothing more I can do. I wished it was better but it wasn’t.

“Inter are a very good team. Finals are 50-50. We were favourites [against United]. It is always difficult. You have to manage these moments. There will be moments when it is tough but in the big moments we try to do our job. 

“Inter have great players and we have respect for them. They haven’t got to the final by beating easy teams.”

MORE: Kevin De Bruyne calls on Man City’s Ilkay Gundogan to sign new contract after “incredible” FA Cup final goals

Rodri was one of the victims of Guardiola’s surprise reshuffle at Estadio do Dragao. The idea that the Spain international might also miss out two years on is simply not worthy of any consideration at all.

No one has played more than his 4,375 minutes in all competitions for City in 2022/23 and the 26-year-old has been an imperious presence at the base of the midfield.

“In my opinion no,” Rodri replied when asked if he had ever played better. “I feel in the best moment — physically, mentally, the way I understand the game. 

“I try to help my teammates but I try to grow and learn. I feel so good but you have to win to feel the same. It’s not only [about] playing good, [you have to] be part of a winning team.”

For all his talk about processes and principles, this idea of winning being more important than anything is something Guardiola has planted with his side as they approach a defining few days.

“I think Pep said that you will not be ‘big, big’ if you don’t win in Europe. It’s the exam we have to pass again,” Rodri said.

“I think to win you have to have lost before and to have a winning mentality in the Champions League you have to be there in the semifinals, touch the finals. That’s the good point of this team. The last six or seven years has been touching the semifinals and finals. It is the only way to achieve and to win.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, De Bruyne takes a contrary point of view on whether the Inter match will decide how history judges this collection of players.

“It depends who you ask,” he said. “Most of the guys have been incredible anyway. 

“Will it help? Yes. But one 90 minutes doesn’t define a career. I am on around 700 games. One 90 minutes out of 700 doesn’t define my career. But, obviously, it helps.”

Talk about recognition, credit and other similarly nebulous concepts float around this City team because of what lurks in the background off the field — those 115 Premier League charges and the accompanying discourse that will not go away anytime soon.

“I think people know how hard we work,” said defender Nathan Ake. “Every day the manager demands you’re the best version of yourself.  Training and games keep coming every three days. You have to be there mentally and physically, it’s a very long season.

“It’s showing now, the togetherness we have as a group. Everyone is good with each other, works for each other, pushes each other when needed.

“It’s something that isn’t done usually. We know we can do something remarkable. It’s only been done… twice before? Three times? If you’re so close you’re going to do everything to do it.”

Read the full article here

Leave A Reply