When Ruben Dias walked into the dressing room in the Parc des Princes following Manchester City’s turnaround win, he didn’t expect to see the reaction from his teammates he saw.
City had been poor in the first half of the first leg of the Champions League semi-final, falling behind to an avoidable Marquinhos header from a corner, but turned things around to win 2-1 thanks to a Kevin De Bruyne cross that went all the way in, before Riyad Mahrez’s well hit free-kick through the wall.
There was a hint of fortune about the win, but City had been better in the second half and made their own luck. Even though there was still half of the tie to play, Dias admits he was expecting a joyous dressing room at full time, but says what he saw instead made him believe this side was ready to reach the final.
Asked to identify the most important moment of the run to the final, Dias said the second leg over PSG was key, but the belief to win that game began right after the first leg ended.
He said: “I will choose the semi-final with PSG, here at home. Where the whistle blew at the end, because you knew that you were only one step away from reaching the final goal.
“We were playing against one of the toughest opponents in the world: special players, a special team. And to be able to beat them, it says a lot about us and, at the same time, it says we’re ready to take on the final.
“I could choose many moments, but, recently, one of the moments that made me click was when we were 1-0 down, at half-time in Paris, and second half we turned it around and we won 2-1. And then, we went into the dressing room and you saw everybody happy, but you didn’t see anybody [who was] too happy, you know?
“You saw everybody focused and [aware] that there is another game to play and I think, on that day, we won the second leg, because everyone knew what was coming, knew against whom we were playing and how good they are, and how easily they could turn it around if we weren’t ready.
“And I think that moment, when we all [went into] the dressing room and you saw everyone happy, but focused on what’s coming, I think that was the key moment to reaching the final.”
As for the atmosphere in camp in the build-up to the final, Dias says City are in top shape and are desperate to put on a good performance on the biggest stage.
“I think we couldn’t be more fresh,” he said.
“Obviously, we’re all very happy for what’s happened [this season] but we all know how special the Champions League is. We’re fresh because we want it so much.
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“I think it’s just the importance of the competition. Almost everybody has dreamed of winning the Champions League. I think it’s the biggest competition. Obviously, you have World Cups, you have European Championships, but the Champions League, with your club, it’s always, always, very special. And I think that just says it all.
“It’s our first final. So, I think that’s how important it is for us. I would put myself along with the club, because it’s also my first final. It will probably have the same meaning. Obviously, to have the opportunity to finish the season with the Champions League – and the season will not be over because, after, there will be the Euros– but to finish the club season with the Champions League, it’s obviously a dream for everybody.
“And we fought a lot to be here and we’re always thinking [about] the same thing: ‘We want to win it.’ So, now there’s one game left and we will do everything we can.”