Pep Guardiola was particularly pleased with the win at Leeds due to the imminent presence of the most successful side in European Cup history.
The pre-match insistence was that the most important game was next, but afterwards there was an acceptance that it was impossible to keep all minds focused solely on Elland Road. Had Amazon’s cameras filmed the away dressing room on Saturday while at Goodison in 2018 ahead of City’s Champions League quarter-final with Liverpool, they might well have captured talk of Real Madrid as the conversations and thoughts inevitably moved forward. to Wednesday’s showdown at the Bernabeu.
No wonder – even though everyone is salivating over Real’s game – the manager is looking forward to the Blues landscape after Wednesday. With the Champions League semi-final decided, one way or another, City still have four league matches to go, back to back, where they know exactly what they need to do. do to lift the Premier League title.
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Football at the highest level is easier when you don’t have to focus on multiple competitions – especially the sharpest part of them. It’s no coincidence that City’s best run of the season came after securing Champions League Round of 16 qualification and not having to think about Europe for more than three months .
However, this City side are not making it easy in their quest for the biggest trophies, and the impact of Real Madrid’s next game was present in the line-up selected at Elland Road. Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva were both left on the bench for the first time since day one of the season along with top scorer Riyad Mahrez as others had the chance to show how they could make a winning contribution .
This level of competition can only exist when there are still big prizes to play for; last season, when City had already won the title, Guardiola’s strategy of choosing his best XI for the Champions League could not inspire the players who were not there at their best, even if they have tried in matches that ultimately had nothing to do. on them.
Should City lose their draw in Madrid, the danger for the team is that the need to keep everyone on edge will diminish. With just two weeks left in the season, Guardiola could choose what he thought was his best XI in the remaining league fixtures and those who weren’t picked would have to live with it.
A Champions League final date, however, extending their campaign for another week, would also force Guardiola to consider this for all his squad selections until the end of the season. Likewise, every player will fight every minute to show they were worth starting in Paris at the end of the month.
It would give the manager more thought and be another potential distraction for the team, but the reward offered is worth it.
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