Inter game the 'exam' Man City have to pass - Rodri

Published on: 04 June 2023

Manchester City are "ready" to pass their last "exam" in the Champions League final against Inter Milan, says midfielder Rodri.

Following Saturday's FA Cup final victory against rivals Manchester United, Pep Guardiola's Premier League champions are now just one win away from completing the Treble.

After weeks of evading questions about that possibility, insisting it was all about the next game, emulating the Red Devils in 1999 by becoming the second English side to win all three major trophies in a single season is all that is left.

Before the players' private celebration party and flight back to Manchester, where they were greeted on the tarmac by Elton John, they passed through the interview area at Wembley. Speaking to them, it was like a dam had burst.

"Pep said you will not be 'big, big' if you don't win in Europe," said Rodri. "It's the exam we have to pass again.

"It's another final and we are ready. I'm going to push the guys to be ourselves, be confident, try our best and fight for the final."

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Living up to their tag as heavy favourites by beating Inter in Istanbul would complete the European odyssey that has been the dream of the Abu Dhabi-based owners since they bought City in 2008.

Rodri says the game-by-game mentality is real - but, with just one match left of what promises to be an extraordinary campaign, the sole focus is Inter.

"We have not been focusing on it too much but of course it is there, something we dream about," he added. "Inter are a tough team, with five at the back.

"They are in the final too."

City, clearly, will respect their opponents. However, beyond the stereotypical Italian defensive solidity, the obvious threat posed by Romelu Lukaku if he is on form and the inconsistent scheming of Lautaro Martinez, it is hard to make a case for Inter claiming a fourth European title.

Too many of Guardiola's players are on form for anyone to truly believe they will fail.

Captain Ilkay Gundogan is in the form of his life, while Rodri has been so good Kalvin Phillips has hardly had a chance to impose himself at City even though the club spent £45m on the England man in the summer.

'We have tried to learn a lot from the past'

When asked whether he has ever played better, Spain international Rodri, 26, said: "In my opinion, no.

"I feel in the best moment - physically, mentally, the way I understand the game.

"I have tried to grow and learn. This is my fourth year and there have been lots of lessons. I feel more mature.

"But you have to win. It's not only about playing well, it is about being part of a winning team."

One of the lessons Guardiola will surely have learned is to not leave Rodri out of his staring line-up next weekend - as he did in 2021, when he inexplicably did not start him or Fernandinho in the final against Chelsea, when City were dominated by Thomas Tuchel's side.

Rodri feels the omens are good given the way City dominated Real Madrid in the second leg of this season's semi-final after failing against the same opposition at the same stage of last season's competition.

"We have tried to learn a lot from the past," he said. "We try to solve the situations, as we did with the way we played against Real Madrid.

"The conviction is there always. Now it's one game."

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