By Sacha Pisani
Manchester City star Raheem Sterling is confident of Champions League success, insisting “the only thing that can stop us are ourselves”.
Premier League champions City and rivals Chelsea will meet in an all-English final in Porto, Portugal on Saturday.
City will contest their first Champions League final, while it is 51 years since the club’s last major European decider, having won the 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup – breaking the record for the longest gap between finals for a team, eclipsing Sporting CP’s 41-year drought.
Pep Guardiola’s City have won 11 Champions League matches this season and victory over Chelsea would see them equal the all-time record of 12 by Real Madrid in 2001-02, although the Spanish giants played 17 matches that campaign, compared to City’s 13 this season.
“It is now about focusing on winning that trophy,” Sterling said. “The only thing that can stop us are ourselves, if I am honest.
“We have played them [Chelsea] twice [under head coach Thomas Tuchel] and lost twice, but this is a Champions League final.
“On the day, things are a lot different. You go into it with a clean mindset. Those games that happened against them in recent times go out the window.
“It is a game where I expect a difficult test, but at the same time I expect us to pull through.
“I expect a physically demanding game. Chelsea is a strong a team who have a lot of physically strong players.”
City are the ninth different English team to reach a European Cup/Champions League final, at least three more than any other nation (Germany and Italy, six).
However, only one of the last 10 teams competing in their maiden final have won, with Borussia Dortmund 3-1 victors against Juventus in 1997. The last English outfit to win their first final was Aston Villa in 1982 against Bayern Munich.
Since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan’s takeover in 2008, City have claimed five Premier League titles, including three of the past four in England.
However, City’s hierarchy have long craved European glory.
“It is a club that, since I have come here, the way they want us to go is to win the Premier League and Champions League,” England international Sterling said.
“It is a massive achievement to get there, but I know that the club won’t just be happy to get there. Hopefully we can do it, we can win at the weekend and make history at this club.
“I think the camp is pretty relaxed. Being in finals before with this football club, that only gives you that experience of going into a final.
“Of course, it is the Champions League final, but at the same time we are footballers and we have to not let the occasion get to us and play our football.”