Pep Guardiola said his Manchester City players can “visualise” the treble after thrashing Real Madrid to reach the Champions League final.
City won 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium to win the tie 5-1 on aggregate and are now just three wins away from winning the Premier League title, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season.
Guardiola has repeatedly distanced himself from talk of a treble — achieved only once before in English football by Manchester United in 1999 — but after crushing Madrid, the City boss admitted his squad have started to think about the prospect of writing themselves into the history books.
“Let me win the first two,” said Guardiola when asked about City’s chance of winning the treble. “In the Premier League we are close. We know we need one more game and I would say we play against our neighbours [Manchester United] and against an Italian team [Internazionale] in the finals. The season is really, really good, now we have to lift it. We are close and of course we are going to try.
“We are there, we can think about it, we can visualise it. We are three games away. One each of the competitions, we can do it.”
City’s thrilling victory over Madrid came after their dramatic exit at the hands of the Spanish giants at the same stage of last year’s Champions League. Madrid scored twice in stoppage time in the second leg last May to book a place in the final at City’s expense, and Guardiola admitted the pain of that night in the Bernabeu 12 months ago had played a part in the performance.
“I had the feeling these last days that we had a mix of calm and tension to play this type of game,” Guardiola said. “After 10 or 15 minutes, I had the feeling that all the pain that we had during one year from what happened last season was there today.
“It was so hard and tough last season. In that moment, we had to swallow poison, and football and sport always gives you another chance. When the draw was Madrid, I said ‘Yeah I want it.’ I wanted it because I think today everything was there.”
Manchester City’s Jack Grealish, who tormented Madrid from the wing at the Etihad Stadium, said he always dreamed of playing in the Champions League.
“It’s unbelievable. I don’t think a lot of teams would do that to Real Madrid,” Grealish said. “I don’t know what it is, but it feels unstoppable.”
Defender Kyle Walker, who matched Real’s speedy forward Vinicius Junior for pace and kept him quiet all evening, said it had been a tough game.
“I thought the lads dug in well, they controlled the ball really well, especially in the first half,” Walker said. “We got over the line and that’s the main thing.
“You’ve got to have a little bit of arrogance, like the attackers do. I always say go toe-to-toe with them, I use my pace.”