Manchester City and Real Madrid shared two brilliant goals in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. They are now set to play the deciding second leg at the Etihad on Wednesday night.
The 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu first leg transpired after Real’s Vinicius Junior scored against the run of play. However, just as Madrid began to dominate the game, De Bruyne struck the equaliser for City.
A Lot at Stake
With the second leg a home game for City, Guardiola’s wards wanted to avoid losing at the Bernabeu. That target was duly achieved. Bookies have anointed City as favourites to beat Madrid and reach the final. However, before their date with destiny at the Etihad, City have won a potentially risky Premier League game against Everton. A win next weekend versus Chelsea will ensure that City retain the Premier League. However, the UCL semi-final is the obvious priority for a team waiting to become European champions for the first time.
Home Advantage for City
The Etihad has been a happy hunting ground for Guardiola’s wards. They have remained unbeaten in their last 22 games at the venue, with consecutive wins in their last 15 matches. In 14 of those matches, City have scored at least two goals. Furthermore, the home side last lost a Champions League game at the Etihad back in September 2018.
Real aiming for 15th UCL Trophy
These stats mean little to the Spanish giants who have won the Champions League on 14 occasions. Importantly, the defending champions have won the trophy six times in the last 10 years. Thus, City will have their task cut out.
Carlos Ancelotti’s men would be all the more determined to retain the UCL trophy after losing the La Liga trophy to Barca. With matches lost to Girona and Real Sociedad, Real have not had their best domestic season on the road. However, their home record has been better. Fans would remember their dominant wins in Champions League games against Liverpool and Chelsea.
De-facto Final before the Final
However, Man City would be hoping to repeat their 4-3 win versus Real at the Etihad last year. Real have failed to beat City in their previous four games at the Etihad. The winners of Wednesday’s clash will play either AC Milan or Inter Milan in the UCL final in Istanbul.
Key Battles in the Offing
Ahead of the second leg semi-final, we can look forward to some interesting contests within the main contest.
Luka Modric vs Kevin de Bruyne
At 37 years of age, Modric remains a key element in Ancelotti’s team. While Modric revels in a playmaker role for Real, he can double as a defensive midfielder. In De Bruyne, City have their own champion playmaker — arguably the world’s best. De Bruyne’s 16 assists across competition this season include five in the Champions League.
Vinicius Jr vs John Stones
Ancelotti has gone on record by calling Vinicius the most influential player in world football. The man on Real’s left-flank has been in superb form this season. Across all competitions, he has registered 22 goals and 21 assists in 50 matches. These include 5 assists and 6 goals in 10 UCL matches. Guardiola would look to John Stones to stop Vinicius. Stones usually controls play in the middle of the field. The Man City coach would expect him to fall back when City lose possession.
Erling Haaland vs Antonio Rudiger
With 51 goals in 46 matches across competitions, Haaland has enjoyed a record-breaking first season with City. Defenders in the Premier League have failed abjectly to contain Erling Haaland, City’s goal machine. Ancelotti would want Antonio Rudiger to combine with David Alaba, his partner in central midfield, to prevent the Norwegian from scoring.
Few Injury Worries for Either Side
Ahead of their semi-final, Real have a solitary injury woe: Eduardo Camavinga. Camavinga limped off the ground in Real’s match against Getafe on the weekend. However, Ancelotti expects the midfielder to be fit to play on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, City are giving medical attention to defender Nathan Ake who is nursing a hamstring strain sustained a few weeks ago. With the rest of the players fit to play, we can expect both sides to field full-strength elevens.
Manchester City: Ederson; Akanji, Dias, Walker, Rodri; Grealish De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva; Haaland
Real Madrid: Courtois; Alaba, Rudiger, Militao, Carvajal; Modric, Camavinga, Kroos; Vinicius Junior, Benzema, Valverde
We believe that Man City’s glorious opportunity is finally here. We expect City to enter their 2nd Champions League final by beating Real Madrid 3-1 (aggregate 4-2) on Wednesday. Are you looking to bet on this match? If yes, then check out our article on the best betting sites in India.