How Man City Got To The Champions League Final

In this post we look at how Man City got to the Champions League Final, their Champions League record under Guardiola, key players and tactics.

Man City came into the 22/23 season as Premier League Champions again. However, it is no secret that since the club was taken over in 2008 that the ultimate goal and barometer for success for the Abu Dhabi Group was Champions League success.

Man City’s Champions League Finishes Under Pep Guardiola

Until now that hasn’t quite worked out with Man City continually falling at almost the final hurdle each time their Champions League record since Guardiola has taken charge. Their record in the competition is as follows:

22/23: Finalists (Still in Progress)

21/22: Semi Final

20/21: Finalists

19/20: Quarter Final

18/19: Quarter Final

17/18: Quarter Final

16/17: Last 16

In fairness to Man City and Guardiola, they have been continually knocking at the door of Champions League success for roughly seven seasons now. While many would argue that they have had one of the best squads for each of those seasons, they still have to deliver and as the seasons have gone on they have become more and more consistent in the competition.

At the 21/22 edition of the event, Man City were drawn against Champions League specialists Real Madrid winning their First leg at home in a dramatic 4-3 victory at The Etihad Stadium. However, despite taking the lead in the 73rd minute of the second leg and looking destined for the final they would concede twice from Rodrygo in the 90 and 91st minutes to go to extra time. It was a Benzema penalty which would be enough to knock Man City out of the competition on a 6-5 aggregate score.

In that match, they had 56% of possession, but without a natural goal-scorer up-front Man City could often be accused of having plenty of bark but no bite especially since Aguero left in 2021.

I believe this season marked a turning point in the Man City and Guardiola strategy in the summer they would purchase the freak of nature Erling Haaland for a “reported” £51,200,000 which finally gave them that focal point in attack.


Man City Road To The Champions League Final

Group Stage

Man City made light work of their Champions League group with Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla and Copenhagen topping the group with four wins, two draws, fourteen scored and only two conceded.

Round of 16

In the Round of 16 against RP Leipzig they drew 1-1 in the first leg before demolishing them in the second leg 7-0.


The key game of their Champions League run for me was their home first-leg Quarter Final against Bayern Munich. Many expected this to be their biggest test of the competition yet, but their performance in the first leg proved they were serious Champions League contenders. For a side usually so dominant in possession they showed that they are more than a one-trick pony winning 3-0 with an uncharacteristic 44% of possession only.

Their ruthless clinical nature saw them score three goals from an XG of just 1.8, while their zero goals conceded and only an XG of 0.9, it showed that they could be defensively resolute in games in which they may not dominate possession in.


The semi-final saw Man City matched up against European giants Real Madrid. This was a rematch of last year’s semi-final and a chance for revenge for Man City.

City were minutes away from securing a Champions League Final spot in 2022 but a stunning Real Madrid comeback in the Bernabeu saw them concede three late goals to fall short in the Champions League again.

This year City were not to be denied. They came back from a one goal deficit in the first leg in Madrid thanks to a Kevin De Bruyne strike. At the Etihad they made light work of Real Madrid to book a Champions League Final spot in a 4-0 trashing which showed just how much better they are than the rest of the teams in Europe.

Key Players

Erling Haaland

The main focal point in attack and arguably the final piece in the jigsaw who has finally transformed this Man City side into what looks like a likely treble success.

The Norwegian has scored a staggering 12 goals and contributed 1 assist in this year’s competition which is good enough to competition top-scorer and it would take a foolish person not to think he won’t have a say in this final.

Rúben Dias

The Man City CB has to be the unsung hero of their Champions League campaign appearing in 11/12 of their games and 957/1080 of their minutes no other player has appeared for them more in the competition.

Dias ranks in the 98th percentile for Passes Completed and 82nd percentile for Touches in the Attacking Penalty area. However, he also is an extremely capable defender with good concentration rather using his anticipation and footballing IQ to stuff out danger rather than give up fouls.

Kevin De Bruyne

The magician that is Kevin De Bruyne is a crucial component of the Man City attack and the control he helps give them in the middle of the park.

De Bruyne is a constant threat with his through balls (likely to Haaland) which can be triggered in a flash along with his long shots providing a goal threat. He has 2 goals and 7 assists in the competition so far.

Guardiola Tactical Philosophy

Guardiola is commonly seen as a proponent of the tiki-taka style by football commentators but describes possession and quick passing of the ball as simply a means of overloading opponents and creating space for scoring opportunities and that is exactly what his Man City’s side encompasses.

Man City often use some variation of a 4-3-3 which they have utilised for 1601 minutes this season or a 3-2-4-1 which they have used 1115 minutes this season. They dominate the possession more often than not between 55-75% of the ball per match which you can expect again in this weekend’s Champions League Final.

What Guardiola’s sides were often criticised for were being possession heavy (often due to up to seven midfielders being played) but without a cutting edge and real clinical edge in front of goal. That has changed with the addition of Erling Haaland who has scored 52 goals and contributed 9 assists in just 52 matches this season. Haaland has turned Man City into not just treble contenders, but treble favourites.

In defence, they have conceded 5 goals across the competition, an average of 0.41 goals conceded per game despite having played the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. This is largely due to their dominance of possession but have shown with the likes of Dias and his footballing IQ against Bayern that they can be resolute out of possession also.

Kyle Walker’s recovery pace along with Stones and Rodri breaking up play in midfield is key to their defensive structure also along with being well-drilled for set-pieces.

For a full preview of Man City v Inter Milan check out our Champions League Final Prediction post where we look at the odds, matchups and form for both teams ahead of the world’s biggest club football game.

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