Kevin De Bruyne has admitted Manchester City will be branded effectively as failures if they fail to claim the Champions League for the first time by beating Chelsea on Saturday.
As Premier League champions City finished 19 points ahead of Thomas Tuchel’s team and so are favourites to win at Porto’s Estádio do Dragão. De Bruyne stated the stakes involved mean losing would be dismal.
“We as players understand the magnitude of the game,” he said. “If you win you’re a hero and if you lose you’re almost a failure even if you’re not a failure because getting to this stage is incredibly well done by the team and an individual. But if you don’t win it, yeah, it will be something you don’t really want to experience but it happens.
“It’s been one of the goals of the club and the players to be there in the [final] and to perform on the highest stage in the world is something of a privilege. I think everybody understands the pressure that it has but at least we [should] enjoy this game. We should take it with a smile and take it as something where you want to perform and show your best.”
City won the 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup but have never previously reached the final of the continent’s elite club competition. Pep Guardiola warned that his side will have to suffer if they want to create history.
“We’ll have to suffer to win,” he said. “It’d be nice if we didn’t have to but it’s not possible. Most times in finals you have to suffer, adjust to the game, and so we have to try to be ourselves and try to play a good game. Sometimes you have to play one way and have to adapt to circumstances.”
The manager accepts that the occasion will be handled differently by individuals. “Some players go out and feel more pressure and tension. Better players can still struggle but you have to handle it. The guys who suffer, will suffer.”
Fernandinho, Guardiola’s captain, urged his teammates to thrive on the tension. “Most of the world will be watching so we try to handle the pressure, relax, and try to do the same thing we’ve done all season,” the Brazilian said. “Don’t change, try to keep it simple: that’s the best way to prepare, to win the game. My message is keep going in the same way and try to relax as much as you can.”
After never progressing further than the quarter-finals before under Guardiola in four attempts, De Bruyne outlined why City were able to get this far.
“We made less mistakes,” he said. “The identity of the team is the same but I think in the difficult moments we didn’t make too many mistakes and in the other years especially in these types of games we made one mistake too many and these teams [opponents] reacted to it by scoring a goal or going ahead and we weren’t able to come back.
“This year every time we were in a bad moment, for instance against [Borussia] Mönchengladbach, [Borussia] Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, we didn’t concede the goals that maybe we would have done in previous years.”
Guardiola’s selection dilemmas include who to prefer at left-back, where João Cancelo played in the semi-final first leg at Paris Saint-Germain and Oleksandr Zinchenko in the return. The manager is not looking forward to informing players they will not start.
“It’s absolutely a disaster,” he said. “I don’t have any nice words to [offer] relief [to] the guys but my advice for them is to stay with the team as there are five or six subs and life gives you another chance. Work harder and maybe next time you’ll be there. I feel incredibly sorry for them but I have to be honest, make a selection to win the game.”