Real Madrid will host Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday for the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. The first leg of the blockbuster semi-final between the European giants in Manchester last week ended in a seven-goal thriller as the Citizens outsmarted the visitors by a narrow 4-3 margin. Carlo Ancelotti’s men are still in the game, however, and sealing the La Liga title should boost their morale heading into the fixture.
Ahead of a fixture that promises to be a classic for the ages, here’s our preview of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg fixture between Manchester City and Real Madrid:
HOW THE FIRST LEG PANNED OUT
When Manchester City went 2-0 up in the first 11 minutes of the game last Wednesday, Carlo Ancelotti was showing signs of nervousness, with a 5-0 humiliation at the hands of the Citizens as Everton manager clearly at the back of his mind. Pep Guardiola’s aim ahead of the first leg was clear – to establish a clear aggregate lead at home both to face the second leg with comfort and to focus on the Premier League title race in the coming weeks.
Manchester City dominated proceedings at the Etihad throughout the night, but Real Madrid’s persistence paid off at the end of the game. Kevin de Bruyne opened the scoring for the hosts with a header from Riyad Mahrez’s cross within the first two minutes, before Gabriel Jesus quickly added a second from close range. Karim Benzema brought Real Madrid back into the game with a sweeping finish in the 33rd minute to make the score 2-1 by the halfway mark.
Phil Foden headed home Fernandinho’s cross after the half-time break, but City’s advantage was short-lived as Vinicius Jr. scored a superb goal just two minutes later. Bernardo Silva’s 73rd-minute strike into the corner of the net proved to be the decider of the game, as Karim Benzema chipped a penalty past Ederson to cap the game.
Pep Guardiola’s men will enter Wednesday’s fixture on the back of a 4-0 win against Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday. With Liverpool showing no signs of blinking, Manchester City have no choice but to win every game at their disposal, which means that players are going to be overworked. The scoreline at Elland Road hides the fact that for the majority of the game on Saturday, the Citizens looked uncomfortable and tired. Not until the second half did the Sky Blues show signs of the quality side they were during the night.
The Citizens rested Riyad Mahrez, Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva for the game against the Whites, and all three are expected to come back into the starting XI for the Champions League fixture. With both John Stones and Kyle Walker out with injuries, the Citizens face a defensive crisis ahead of the second leg. Fernandinho could see himself in the starting XI once again, especially after his stunning late goal against Leeds United.
With the team combination working out perfectly well in the first leg, Pep Guardiola is unlikely to make any major changes to his starting XI or his tactics for the trip to Bernabeu.
Real Madrid have lifted their 35th La Liga title after thrashing Espanyol 4-0 on Saturday at home. With that victory, Carlo Ancelotti has now become the first manager to capture all five of Europe’s major titles. This has been an extraordinary season for Real Madrid, who along with Barcelona suffered to adjust from the exits of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the past few seasons. An ageing squad also raised concerns at the start of the season, but the performances of Karim Benzema and Luka Modric show why experience is a key factor in winning titles.
Compared to the much closer Premier League title race, Real Madrid needed just one point from the game to seal the title and could afford to rotate many of their stars. Los Blancos rested several of their key players for the tie – with Dani Carvajal, Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao, Toni Kroos, David Alaba, Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema all finding themselves on the bench for the fixture. With the exception of David Alaba who is recovering from a hamstring injury, all the other players are expected to find their way back into the starting XI.
Similar to Manchester City, Real Madrid are not expected to make any major changes to their starting XI. But they would however need to adopt a much more aggressive approach at home to bridge the one-goal deficit.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Although the Citizens emerged victorious in the first leg, the one-goal difference effectively counts for nothing against a team of Real Madrid’s calibre. The Citizens had numerous opportunities last week to seal the semi-final in their favour, and those missed opportunities might haunt them on Wednesday. Real Madrid are now a team with only one goal to fight for, in contrast to three tournaments that Manchester City still have a stake in. Add the home advantage, and Real Madrid have all the chips in their favour.
Expect a tight contest that will end with either side coming out only by a narrow margin.
Manchester City Predicted XI (4-3-3): Ederson, Fernandinho, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, Oleksander Zinchenko, Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Kevin de Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden.
Real Madrid Predicted XI (4-3-3): Thibaut Courtois, Ferland Mendy, Casemiro, Eder Militao, Daniel Carvajal, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Federico Valverde, Vinicius Junior, Karim Benzema, Rodrygo.
When: Thursday, 5th May, 12:30 AM IST
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
Where to Watch: All semi-final fixtures of the UEFA Champions League will be broadcast on Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 2 and Sony Six HD and SD channels. All fixtures will also be streamed live on SonyLIV.
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