Chelsea

Chelsea beware: at 5.15pm on Saturday Pep Guardiola expects Manchester City to show precisely how little sorrow they feel for themselves after being dumped out of the Champions League by Real Madrid.

The FA Cup semi-final comes 72 hours after Wednesday’s penalty shootout heartbreak and, maybe, too soon for Mauricio Pochettino’s team as a smarting City aim to forget their lost double-treble and take another step in their bid to become the first English men’s club to claim a double-double.

Chelsea
Chelsea

As Guardiola said: “We don’t have another option and don’t want to feel sorry for ourselves. We performed at our best but were not able to win [against Madrid]. What next? We don’t have time to reflect. We reflect in the summertime. Football, you compete to win but most of the time you lose games.” Of City’s mood, he added: “Today we feel better than yesterday, and Saturday better than today.”

Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and Manuel Akanji all asked to be replaced against Real. Of their availability for Wembley, Guardiola said: “Kevin feels well. Erling we will see – it was a tough game, 120 minutes. A lot of action, high intensity from both sides. Erling felt something, a muscular issue and that’s why he said he could not continue – the doctor said it was a little bit of a niggle and we will see the evolution in the next hours. Kevin felt exhausted and after what happened with being injured for five months, that is normal.”

Guardiola is conscious Chelsea will not be pushovers despite their misfiring season. Sat in ninth, Pochettino’s temperamental band of players have only been beaten once in 12 games – that being February’s Carabao Cup final loss to Liverpool – and are coming off a 6-0 trouncing of Everton on Monday. Yet if City appeared battle-fatigued by the end of Wednesday’s epic tussle, Jack Grealish is clear Chelsea should abandon any thoughts of Guardiola’s side being deflated.

“I think a lot of it is in your mind. We’re fit players and there’s only a few players who played 120 minutes,” insisted the England international. “A lot of us came off and we still have quality players on the bench who didn’t even get a minute. It’s one good thing about our squad; there’s a lot of depth and we’ll need that going forward.”

The 28-year-old is sure there will be no hangover. “I’d say so. We’ve not been used to losing, especially in the last couple of years. We always knew it was going to be a tough game against one of the best teams in the world. It went down to penalties and it’s never nice to go out on penalties. Luckily enough for us we’ve got another game within three days where we can go and put it right.

“Sometimes it’s better when it’s like that,” added Grealish. “It’s better when you can put it right straight away rather than waiting and dwelling on it for a couple of weeks. It’s another massive game to try to put it right.”

The winger very much sees Saturday’s semi-final as a chance for City to reassert their ascendancy. “Ever since I’ve been here, for three years it’s been the same,” Grealish said. “We’ve always played the second Champions League quarter-final game and then we’re straight into the FA Cup. The first year it didn’t go well and we got beat in that game against Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final, but last year it was perfect. We went and won 3-0 at Wembley [against Sheffield United]. It’s the perfect game for us to put it right.

“Definitely there’s a lot still to play for. I had an unbelievable first season – I didn’t actually play that much but I loved it – one of my favourites that I’ve had to date and all we did was win the Premier League that year and it was in the last 10 minutes of the final game [against Aston Villa].

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“Last year, obviously, we won the treble, then the Super Cup, the Club World Cup. This year, if we win the Premier League and the FA Cup it would be a hugely successful season. Hopefully we can go on and do that and that’s our aim. People remember the good stuff. Unfortunately we got knocked out [of the Champions League] but if we can put on performances between now and the end of the season, we can end it successfully. A double [would be] perfect.”

Cole Palmer will line up against his former club at Wembley and having scored 25 goals in 43 appearances for Chelsea, including one in the 4-2 quarter-final victory over Leicester last month.

“I was one person who always raved about Cole,” said Grealish. “I always said how good he was. I could see it every day in training. I’m very happy for him because he’s a really good guy, a nice lad who I got on well with. I’m happy that he’s gone on and he’s playing well and playing regularly. I think that was the reason why he left here because he wanted to play. I’m happy for him, I just hope he doesn’t have the best game on Saturday.”



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