Outgoing Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini says there is no one left for his side to fear in the Champions League now that Barcelona have been eliminated.
City moved past Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals and have been drawn against Real Madrid in the last four of the competition, but Pellegrini said the trophy is there for the taking with Barcelona out of the picture courtesy of Atletico Madrid.
The Chilean admitted it will have been tough to face Barca, who eliminated City from the round of 16 in the last two editions of the tournament.
“I did not celebrate [when Barca were eliminated]. But if you ask me do I not prefer to play against them? I prefer not to play against them,” he said.
“When the same team beats you twice it can be a mental barrier.
“I was not happy [two years ago] because it was not the best Barcelona, but we were very unlucky with that penalty of [Martín] Demichelis we gave away in the first game [losing 2-1].
“It was a very close game, which decided qualifying that year.
“The second year we played a very strong Barcelona, better than our team with Neymar, Messi and Suarez in their best moments. That’s why they won the title.”
But with Barcelona now out of the way, Pellegrini said his side’s improvement in Europe this season – the first time the club have passed the round of 16 – means they are worthy of a spot in the final if they can find a way past Real Madrid in the semis.
“We improved a lot in Europe because you must remember that the season before [I came] this club was eliminated at the group stage,” he said.
“They didn’t win one game with a lot of the same players as who are playing now – Yaya [Toure], David [Silva], Kun [Agüero], Joe Hart, [Gael] Clichy, [Pablo] Zabaleta, [Aleksandar] Kolarov. They didn’t win a game.
“We’ve improved but if we want to go further we must try to improve our performance without mistakes.
“You need to play your best performances if you want to play at that stage of the Champions League. It’s so important to eliminate the good team, like PSG, and that gives you trust that you can play at a better level.”