Manchester City will win the Champions League this year. All respect to Inter and you do have to give it because they made the final having started the group stage in a group with Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But Manchester City have just taken things to another level recently. Not only have they made the finals of both the Champions League and the F.A. Cup but they are on the verge of winning another league title where they will have overturned a gap to Arsenal that was at one stage as big as eight points. I’ve written previously about what Guardiola has done differently in terms of formation this year and how it is playing out on the field. It doesn’t seem to matter who they come up against, this method of playing is clearly working for them. Wednesday night saw them come up against a hugely experienced and talented Real Madrid, the current holders of this competition, who knocked City out at this exact stage last year. And they demolished them. Absolutely demolished them. This could not have been a clearer signal that Manchester City are possibly the dominant team in Europe right now.
This was a performance and a statement. If anyone doubted it still, Manchester City just proved beyond all doubt that they belong at this level. Yes, they got here through extreme amounts of spending and possibly quite a bit of rule breaking, but the football that they are playing belongs at this level. But to do it against Real Madrid, a team so uniquely entwined with this competition, was a real ‘here we are, this is us’ moment. Not winning the Champions League is a criticism often levelled at Guardiola when talking about his spells at Bayern Munich and Manchester City. The talk is that he tries to be too clever in the biggest games, and thus often overthinks his tactics. We didn’t see that last night. That was probably the strongest team Guardiola could have put out and they played in the style that we have all become accustomed to. And it has them through to their second Champions League final. Now, it is no done deal. Inter are very capable of causing an upset. Not only did they progress from that killer group but have comfortably seen off the three teams between them and the final in Istanbul. City got to this point before, only to let the trophy slip through their fingers. They cannot afford to do the same this time.
Watching the game between Sheffield Wednesday and Peterborough United was one of those moments that makes you sit back and marvel at what football can do. The Owls were completely buried after last week. There was seemingly no way that they could come back from that defeat at Peterborough. And there was seemingly no end the abuse that manager Darren Moore received in the wake of that defeat, so it was wonderful to see him be able to put more than a few idiots back in their boxes. It was being able to watch the crowd that really enthralled me though. As each goal went in, you could almost physically see the belief of the crowd and the Sheffield Wednesday players increase, that real sense of not only ‘we can do this’, but ‘we’re going to do this’. And watching the sheer joy and elation mixed with more than a little disbelief as the fourth and fifth Wednesday goals went in was one of those moments that remind you why you fell in love with a game that really doesn’t mean very much in the grand scheme of things; but can bring so much joy to your life.