The Champions League: the last frontier of Manchester City. After a series of national trophies during a breathtaking campaign in 2018-2019 and having won five of the last six competitions in England, only Europe must be conquered by Pep Guardiola and his team of giants.
The manager knows it. In a Barcelona led by Lionel Messi, Guardiola led his childhood club to European Cup victories in 2009 and 2011. The Catalan has been a seven-time winner of the continent’s blue riband tournament and failed to win: once with Barça, three with Bayern Munich and three with City.
The equation is simple for Guardiola to identify and weigh. After winning the last two League Cups and FA Cup this season with Watford’s 6-0 win on Saturday, next season will surely be the time to forget to pursue these lesser trophies and instead mobilize the extra physical and mental energy needed to win against a triumphant champion League campaign. Moreover, the football-crazy fans have bought their tickets for the Champions League final.
Watford’s victory was the number 61 match for City in a season that began in August. They fell only three times less than the maximum number of matches possible.
“I know we will be judged at the end of the Champions League win,” Guardiola said. “I know that if we do not do it that will not be enough. It comes with me [my profile], I know it. I’m coming to Barcelona, we’ve been lucky enough to win twice in four years and people expect me to know that something special means we have to win the Champions League and it’s still true.
“In this club, the record points [100 in 2017-18] and the national competitions are incredible, but we do not win in the Champions League because the teams are so good, the competition is so demanding, but we want to win.”
In three attempts under Guardiola, City failed twice in the quarterfinals and once in the last 16. Last month, Tottenham eliminated them after a lost goal after a late VAR decision at Etihad, which could have been a winning goal from Raheem Sterling. Guardiola often quotes “decisions by thumb” as the difference between the late rounds of the competition.