The Champions League is a beautiful tournament – one Manchester City is proud to be part of. To be here, in the final, playing against an excellent opponent, is special for us.
As a player, my memories of matches in this tournament stand out. Testing yourself against the very best is what every top footballer wants, and the Champions League offers that. You play against sides built to win and have to play against so many different styles. You need to be almost perfect to lift the trophy.
Tonight, we face Chelsea, a side who are always competing for the big prizes. They have a top squad of players and a manager I respect a lot. Thomas is a superb coach. Everywhere he’s been he’s always done really well and his teams are always a joy to watch. Tactically, he always has ideas and I really enjoy watching the way he sets his teams up.
Always you must show your opponent respect, but what I want from my players is for them to demonstrate who they are. I want them to display their personality on the pitch. I want them to fight for their team-mates, of course, but I also want to see them play with freedom and enjoy the occasion as much as possible.
I have been delighted with our preparations for this game. The training sessions this week have been good, we have eaten well and tried to rest where possible. No one needs to tell my players how important this game is. They know it and I can sense a determination to win.
We’ve improved in this competition this season, and we now want to take one final step to try and finish it off in the perfect way. The togetherness of my players and staff is what has pleased me most. Everyone knows it has been a testing year – not just for us, but for people across the world. The global health pandemic has restricted the freedoms we are used to and impacted the football calendar, making everything harder than before.
I am so proud to manage these players. They deserve so much respect for their ability to adapt and their desire to be better every single day. That is the reason we are Premier League champions and League Cup winners.
The schedule has been relentless, but we have been so consistent in all competitions. That is down to the commitment, determination and professionalism of everyone connected to Manchester City Football Club. This is an organisation that has top people in every department and that is the reason I love working here.
Finally, I just want to say what a pleasure it will be to play in front of our supporters on such a special night. Their support this season has been incredible, and I can honestly say, without their love from afar we would not have been able to do what we have done. They drive us on, and we want to make them happy.
I promise them we will do our very best to bring the trophy back to Manchester.
Enjoy the game,
As Pep Guardiola aims to complete his trilogy, we take a look back at those two previous triumphs that have been written into legend
It’s probably fair to refer to the journey that Pep Guardiola took between his first two trophies in this glorious competition as being one that took him from miracle to paradise.
And that’s because, retrospectively, it all seems to fit. There’s a way to understand it. But when he took over at Barça at the start of the 2008/09 season, if you’d told him – or indeed anyone – how it would end, nobody would have taken you seriously. The baking heat of Rome. A pre-match dressing-room video based on the film Gladiator that left his players weeping (“in pieces”, according to Victor Valdés) as they ran out at the Stadio Olimpico. Key players, such as Éric Abidal and Dani Alves, missing. Andrés Iniesta and Thierry Henry barely fit.
And yet, they won. They beat Manchester United. And they completed that miraculous treble.
Two years later they returned to the summit at Wembley. It was a stadium already mythical to Guardiola and his beloved club, for it was where they had won their first European Cup 19 years previously. Perhaps they were favourites this time. Whatever, they produced one of the most sublime final performances in the history of the game to beat United. Again.
Miracle, paradise… how will this one be christened if Guardiola makes it a hat-trick of lifting that cup with the big ears?