On Wednesday night, the second leg of Manchester City and Real Madrid’s Champions League semifinal, which saw two individual flashes of brilliance at the Santiago Bernabeu, will be played at the Etihad Stadium.
After a 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital, the teams meet again at the Etihad, but only one of them may conclude the 2022/23 campaign as the league champion and king of Europe.
Manchester City and Real Madrid compete for a spot in the UEFA Champions League (UCL) final following last week’s 1-1 draw at the Bernabéu, with the hosts one win away from winning the Premier League following Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Everton. Pep Guardiola has advised his team to “relax and just do what you have done for the last four or five years” as they have gone unbeaten since early February (W18, D4).
They have won their previous 14 games here, and their UCL unbeaten streak at the Etihad Stadium dates back to September 2018 (W22, D2). They may also keep doing what they’ve been doing since February because all four of those draws were away from home and they’ve won their past 14 games here. Four of those victories came against Spanish teams, the most recent being the nail biting 4-3 H2H victory in the first leg of the semifinal last season.
Vincius Jnior’s miraculous goal allowed Madrid to survive much of Man City’s last-week assault and stay in the match before a much rotated team defeated Getafe 1-0 on Saturday to reclaim second place in La Liga. Manager Carlo Ancelotti believed he would “have the entire squad available” after Ferland Mendy made a comeback and that he already knew the starting lineup for his record setting 191st UCL game.
He’s trying for five straight UCL victories over British opponents abroad with all available resources, but that streak only began after they lost 4-3 here last year. Los Blancos are seeking their first ever home win (D2, L2), but any victory would do for the 14 time UCL winners, who would appreciate another thrilling match.
Kevin De Bruyne of Man City has scored in three of the last five head to head encounters, including the opening goal at this venue last season, but Karim Benzema of Real Madrid can top that with goals in three of the last four meetings, including two in the memorable game at this location last season.
Nathan Ake, who has missed Man City’s previous two games due to a hamstring injury sustained against Leeds United earlier this month, is the only player the team’s medical staff is now attending to.
Guardiola said Ake was feeling “much better” last week, but the Dutchman did not make the team for the return game. After an anticipated flurry of changes at Goodison Park, the hosts should return to a recognizable XI if they have no major fitness issues.
De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva, and John Stones are all primed and prepared to be summoned back into the starting lineup after a well deserved rest, and Grealish is getting ready to reprise his fiery one on one duel with Real right back Dani Carvajal after their first leg fight.
The one injury issue for Real Madrid for the return leg is also on the left side of the defense; Eduardo Camavinga hobbled out in the last moments of their victory over Getafe at the weekend.
A significant injury to Camavinga, who should be fine at the Etihad, or to David Alaba, Karim Benzema, or Rodrygo all of whom were absent from their most recent league match was instantly downplayed by Ancelotti.
Eder Militao and Raul Carvajal have returned from their respective Champions League and La Liga suspensions, and Ferland Mendy played 45 minutes of Saturday’s game after a protracted calf injury, giving the visitors a triple defensive boost ahead of the second leg.
As a result of Militao’s return, rumours in the Spanish media have suggested that Ancelotti may change his technique and replace Rodrygo with Camavinga in a more traditional midfield position.
Possible starting lineup for Manchester City
Ederson, Walker, Dias, Akanji, Stones, Rodri, Silva, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Grealish and Haaland.
Possible starting lineup for Real Madrid
Courtois, Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Alaba, Kroos, Camavinga, Modric, Valverde, Benzema and Vinicius Jr.
We predict: Manchester City 3-2 Real Madrid (4-3 overall)
Such strategies initially worked off for European specialists Real Madrid in front of their own fans last week, and dismissing Ancelotti’s champions in Europe is frequently an act of pure foolishness. Such strategies appear to be preparing to assault Man City on the counter once more.
The goals should flow in Wednesday’s winner takes all affair after a cagey first leg, but Guardiola’s team should complete their revenge mission from 2022, punch their ticket to the final, and inch ever closer to that previously elusive European crown with the free scoring Man City juggernaut slaying every foe that steps before them at the Etihad.