Outgoing Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is just 180 minutes from winning the Champions League having guided the club into unchartered waters.
The Chilean has been something of a divisive figure amongst City’s supporters, especially since it was announced that he will be replaced by Pep Guardiola at the end of the current campaign.
A disappointing showing in the Premier League, where qualification for next season’s Champions League is yet to be guaranteed, has been in start contrast to a strong showing in Europe’s premier club competition.
Their run to the semi-finals against Real Madrid has given the Citizens an opportunity to create history, and a chance for some of their players to join the ranks of the European Knights – an ultimate hall of fame graphic dedicated to Europe’s best ever player.
VISIT THE FULL WEBSITE HEREUnder Pellegrini’s predecessor Roberto Mancini, City were Champions League novices, and it showed as they exited the competition at the group stage in consecutive years.
They were particularly unlucky in the 2011/12 campaign when they amassed 10 points from a possible 18 but still finished third in the group behind Bayern Munich (13) and Napoli (11).
When they did reach the knockout stage, they twice fell at the hands of Barcelona and managed just two goals in the four games between the teams.
While it was by no means an embarrassment to lose out to one of the best club sides ever, expectations were understandably high for a club that has spent hundreds of millions in the last few years.
This time round, City could afford to lose twice to Juventus in Group D and still finish top by winning their other four games against Dynamo Kiev and Borussia Moenchengladbach.
In the last 16, City were given a favourable draw against Dynamo Kiev, and a fantastic 3-1 win away from home in the first leg set them on their way to a spot in the quarter finals.
Paris Saint Germain and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were never going to be easy to navigate but once again City did the business on their travels, netting two precious away goals in Paris in a 2-2 draw.
The return leg in Manchester yielded just one goal – Kevin De Bruyne’s excellent second half effort sealed City’s place in the final four for the first team.
Last week’s dour 0-0 draw at home to Real Madrid can be looked upon in two ways as City failed to make the most of the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo but also kept a clean sheet.
This Wednesday they will take to the field at the Santiago Bernabeu with their eyes firmly on the prize, and they don’t come much bigger than a spot in the Champions League Final.
Awaiting them in Milan later this month could be a certain Pep Guardiola, although his Bayern Munich side will need to overturn a first leg deficit against Atletico Madrid.
For Manuel Pellegrini, this may be his last real crack at Champions League glory and his priorities were clearly outlined on Sunday after when City fielded a very weakened team against Southampton in the Premier League.
It’s strange to think that a manager who delivered a league title in his first season, as well as the League Cup twice, hasn’t managed to win over the entire fan base, but there will be no more doubters if he leaves the club having claimed the biggest prize of all.