Guardiola lost the Champions League when he thought about Newcastle inside the Bernabéu – 06/05/2022

Manchester City qualified for the 2020/21 Champions League final by beating PSG 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium. He had won the semifinal leg by the same score, in Paris.

Gabriel Jesus sealed the classification in the 32nd minute of the second half. By necessity, Pep Guardiola had only exchanged Zinchenko for the Brazilian striker, in the 19th minute of the second half. In the first match against the French, also only one substitution in 90 minutes: João Cancelo for Zinchenko.

The sacrifice of the team that played for the Champions was compensated in the Premier League. After all, the advantage of the blue team from Manchester over rival United was ten points and the title would be mathematically confirmed in the 36th round.

To the point that City, in the previous round, just the weekend after qualifying for the European final, climbed reserves and was defeated 2-1 by Chelsea, who would be the executioner in the decision held at Estádio do Dragão.

The scenario in 2021/22 was just the opposite. The decision for the spot in the final was away from home, at the Santiago Bernabéu against Real Madrid. Also to manage a goal advantage. And, mainly, the dispute in the running points is now fierce, with only one point ahead of Liverpool.

Same scenario as the 2018/19 season. City finished champions, with 98 points, one more than Liverpool in an epic dispute. Except that Guardiola’s team had been eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Champions League by Tottenham and was able to dedicate itself to the final stretch of the English championship, while the Reds shared their attention with the continental tournament they would conquer by beating Spurs themselves.

Now it was mandatory to share attentions. And when Mahrez opened the scoring in Madrid with the powerful kick that beat Courtois, in the 28th minute of the second half, the world thought the semi-final was over. Including Pep Guardiola.

That’s why he exchanged Gabriel Jesus for Grealish and Mahrez for Fernandinho. He had already made two substitutions: Zinchenko for the exhausted Walker, who the coach kept on the field as long as possible, and Gundogan for the also worn out Kevin De Bruyne. Both performed seconds before the citizens’ goal.

Many exchanges thinking on both fronts, unlike the previous season. After all, on Sunday, for the 36th round of the Premier League, the team has another “final” at home against the tough Newcastle of Bruno Guimaraes, and Liverpool can stumble on Saturday, at Anfield, against Tottenham that seeks a place in the Champions.

But against Real Madrid who looked dead against PSG and Chelsea in the previous stages and even more so at the Bernabéu, either you don’t give the slightest chance making an unreachable advantage, or you leave your best and the last drop of sweat and concentration until final.

The exchanges after the goal scored even made some sense, to strengthen the midfield and gain speed in offensive transitions. So much so that Grealish missed two great chances to make it 2-0. The game was controlled and the merengue team looked tired and disorganized.

But it was Real Madrid at the Bernabéu. Rodrygo’s goal at 90 awoke the dying giant and the explosion of faith in the stadium left the opponent, who still wins “shell” in the main club competition on the planet, astonished. Security, until a certain relaxation, turned to panic with Rodrygo’s second goal and the Bernabéu in ecstasy.

The extra time was just the natural consequence of a more than predictable script: two disfigured teams, but Real still had the stars Vinicius Júnior and Benzema, who suffered and converted the penalty that guaranteed the spot, reaching the 15th goal in this edition, the tenth in the playoffs.

Fernandinho would still miss an incredible goal in the final play of the first half of extra time. Would Mahrez, Jesus or De Bruyne, who left during the 90 minutes, waste? Or would there have been extra time if Guardiola had kept the starters, as he did last season?

We will never know. The fact is that Real Madrid is in the decision and will take the talent of its stars, the mystique and the weight of its shirt and, above all, the exclusive dedication until the 28th, at the Stade de France. After all, the Spanish title was mathematically guaranteed last weekend.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are chasing City in the league and still have an FA Cup final against Chelsea, exactly two weeks before the continental decision. It could weigh on Jürgen Klopp and his men.

Pep Guardiola will watch another Champions League final on TV or on mobile via streaming. Because he committed the mortal sin of thinking about Newcastle inside the Bernabéu before the final whistle. It paid dearly, very dearly. Even more than the 100 million euros spent by reserve Jack Grealish.

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