Perhaps PSG was made for the moment it looked like Kylian Mbappe wasn’t going to be fit enough to play. Take the Flying French out of Mauricio Pochettino’s team and they just can’t play the same way.
Mbappe tops the PSG fee. He frightens defenders and opens up space for others in his wake.
We saw that in Paris last week when the French champions threatened to take the draw from Manchester City in the first half and the lack of that threat at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night was remarkable.
Riyad Mahrez (left) and Kevin De Bruyne (right) scored four goals in both legs
This is not the case for Pep Guardiola’s city. It’s not like that at all and that’s part of the beauty of them. Their completeness is part of what sets them apart. There are no weaknesses, no holes.
Take out one player – Raheem Sterling, for example – and put in another – Phil Foden – and the machine’s monotonous effectiveness will not be interrupted.
One defender can lose form – like Frenchman Aymeric Laporte last season – and another waits. Now check out the John Stones. A career that seemed slated for a fresh start in a different location has now evolved to a new level in the club that 12 months ago seemed too big for him.
This is what Guardiola has built in City, a team and squad that can be changed and manipulated to meet the demands of a long national and European season without anyone noticing.
They beat PSG well here, a class that is different from the still very dangerous French team.
You did it without a center forward. Guardiola pushes the great Sergio Aguero to the exit and has lost trust in Gabriel Jesus. But it doesn’t matter when you win.
Phil Foden was impressive again, he has become the player he hoped would
David Silva left the club last summer. Kevin De Bruyne wasn’t always at his best. It didn’t matter here either. Foden has become the player he hoped would. Riyad Mahrez has moved to another level, while Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan have regained importance after a while in the shadows.
All of this contributed to this achievement, this victory. PSG only worked in fits and starts this second leg and it was nowhere near enough against a City team that is in such rare form that it just rolled over them.
It’s the goals that you will remember. Three for Mahrez in the course of the tie. One for De Bruyne, who started to change things in favor of City in Paris.
There could have been more. One for Foden, for example. As he would have deserved on another Night of Excellence.
It was another tough evening for Neymar that was kept in check during both games
However, this was a two-game win based not only on the moments played and recreated in school playgrounds on Wednesday morning.
Competing against an opponent who had won in Barcelona and Munich to come here, Guardiola’s team may have been more disciplined and resilient than ever before.
This was a milestone achieved not by individual brilliance but by the committee.
City play a different style of football than their big modern rival Liverpool, but there was something about this win that was reminiscent of Jurgen Klopp’s team at its best.
It was a sense of a common purpose, an angry need, an ability to move to another level simply because you knew your teammates were doing it all around you.
Ruben Dias (left) and John Stones (right) have been excellent for City all season
Stones and left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko celebrated Neymar’s block at the start of the second half as if City had scored a goal. Stones’ central partner Ruben Dias wiped a ball in the face as if he were being plagued by a fly.
And the result was that it was too much for PSG, just as it was for Borussia Dortmund in the last round.
City experienced difficult moments in both relationships. They made their way to Borussia halfway through their quarter-final second leg. They were also on the rack for 20 terrible minutes in Paris.
But over time, City’s reserves of quality and reliability have managed to spare both of them.
This isn’t the most instinctive team Guardiola has ever led. There aren’t that many open mouthed moments these days.
De Bruyne impressed again – City was way too good for PSG and will start the final as favorites
That can change over time. This is a city team that is still under construction. But it’s hard to remember a version that was so effective and so ridiculously difficult to play.
PSG fell apart late in the game. Your discipline seemed like a weakness in the first game and it was here. Pochettino’s squad is a little deep too and needs a middle half and maybe a better goalkeeper.
City? They don’t make you weak. They can change, and players can fall in and out of favor. However, their great modern strength is their total predictability.
They were way too good for PSG and will start their first Champions League final as favorites.