- Adwitya Jha
Everything you need to know, Predicted XI – Real Madrid vs Manchester City Preview
Manchester City will face Real Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. City will carry with them a slender, one-goal advantage over Madrid as they look to make the final of the competition for the second season in a row.
City will have to get past the 13-time European champions if they are to have a chance of winning their maiden Champions League this season. The match will kick off at 20:00 BST, broadcast live on BT Sport.
Nathan Ake limped off in the victory against Leeds, but as confirmed by Pep Guardiola after the game, he is not expected to be out for the Madrid game. Indeed, Ake was spotted in the open training session earlier today and has been included in the travelling squad.
The biggest positive for City is that Kyle Walker has been pictured in full training for the first time since his injury against Atletico Madrid. In his press conference, Guardiola confirmed that Walker is fit and will travel to Madrid – but a final decision on whether he will start will be taken tomorrow. Walker's return is a massive positive for the Blues as they walk into the crucial final run-in for the season.
John Stones was not pictured in training today and Guardiola confirmed that he remains the only player not available for the Madrid game. Stones will travel with the squad to boost the morale of the team, as Jesus did in the previous round against Atletico Madrid.
Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko; Bernardo, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Jesus, Foden
League position: 1st
Top scorer: Mahrez (23)
Previous result: W 0-4 vs Leeds (A)
City looked imperious against Leeds as they brushed past a team fighting to stay in the league for next season. Guardiola's side were clinical in front of goal, as they put four past Illan Meslier to make the aggregate scoreline 11-0 in City's favour against Leeds this season. The win not only kept City above Liverpool in the standings but also cut down Liverpool's goal-difference advantage to just one.
Getting over a potentially tricky opposition was a win enough for Pep and his side, but getting the opportunity to rest De Bruyne for the entire game and Bernardo only coming on for the final ten minutes of the game made it quite significant. Both players have been linchpins in the midfield this season, and Pep will have them both fresh for the mega clash in Madrid. Gabriel Jesus also scored his sixth goal in three games. The Blues will hope that the Brazilian can maintain his deadly streak in front of goal against Madrid as well.
The first leg game was a Champions League classic, with both heavyweights landing significant blows on their opponent – but City will think that they lost the opportunity to knock their opponent out before the second leg. City had the Spanish champions on the ropes for most of the game but kept giving them a way back in, with some poor defending. City had enough chances to score even more goals, but could not take their chances and thus, the game ended 4-3. However, Pep and his side will take immense confidence into their game in Madrid, as they know they were comfortably the better team in the first leg.
City will be thankful that the away goals rule is no longer relevant – otherwise, the three away goals conceded could have been a problem. As it stands, the Blues will have a slim advantage going into the second leg. City have won their last three games against Madrid, and if they can keep this unbeaten streak going for another game, they will be in the finals. A draw works in City's favour, with Madrid having to win by a clear two-goal margin if they want to eliminate the current Premier League champions in regulation time.
Another big boost for City will be Joao Cancelo's return after a one-match suspension. With Walker injured and Cancelo suspended, Stones had to start the first leg at right-back – but even he had to hobble off mid-way through the first half and was subsequently replaced by Fernandinho. The skipper gave his all, but a midfielder shoehorned into a somewhat alien position cost City in the game. The return of Cancelo will give the side a huge boost, as he will not only bring better defensive stability but also add his invaluable creativity to the attack.
League position: Champions
Top scorer: Benzema (42)
Previous result: W 4-0 vs Espanyol (H)
Real Madrid clinched another La Liga title this weekend with a comfortable 4-0 win against Espanyol at home. The title win sparked wild celebrations from the Madrid squad, with an open bus top parade for the league win. But Madrid will have to regain their concentration as they have their toughest challenge coming up. Madrid trail narrowly, but will be confident to turn it around with the support of a hostile Bernabeu crowd. City, on the other hand, will hope their rivals carry their title celebration hangover into the game.
Madrid have romped to the title this season, essentially without any challenges. City, on the other hand, are locked in a bitter battle with Liverpool for the Premier League title. Madrid and City have faced off once before in the semi-finals of this competition six years back, where one Fernando own goal was enough for Zinedine Zidane's side to progress to the finals. But the City team now is a different animal compared to that team, and with the best manager around at the helm, the Blues will fancy their chances against the European royalty.
Madrid will be hoping their talismanic striker, Karim Benzema can help guide them through into the finals. Benzema is having the best season of his career with a striking stat of 42 goals in 42 games this campaign. With him scoring two goals in the first leg, he could turn out to be the point of difference in this tie. Madrid looked down and out on various occasions in both their ties against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, but somehow managed to claw their way back and see off their opponents. The Madrid crowd will hope that lightning strikes three times and that the side are able to overturn the first-leg deficit.
David Alaba was taken off injured in the first leg and is a doubt for the second leg. Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference that he is not ready, but Madrid have included him in the squad for the game. Casemiro, who did not feature in the first leg, is fit, and according to the Spanish media, will come straight back into the starting XI.
Head to Head
This will be City's 8th meeting against the Madrid giants, and they have a positive record against them, with all their three wins coming in the last three meetings. City will want to keep this undefeated streak going, which should land them their second ever Champions League final.
Coincidentally, Ancelotti and Guardiola have also faced off against each other seven times, with the Catalan having the upper hand with five wins. City beat Ancelotti's Everton in the last league game of last season, before celebrating their third league title under Guardiola.
The last time City faced off against Madrid in a Champions League tie was two years back in the round of 16 – where City won 2-1 both home and away to comfortably get into the quarter-finals.
Real Madrid have never come back from a first-leg loss in the semi-finals of the Champions League to advance to the finals. Their record is 0-8 when they have lost the first leg of the semis. Guardiola will be hoping to compound their misery and make it 0-9 as he continues on the pursuit of his third Champions League trophy and City's first-ever victory in this competition.
After the heartbreaking loss in the final last year, Guardiola and his team will be even more determined to right that wrong and finally give the club its first taste of Champions League glory.
Referee: Daniele Orsato
Assistants: Ciro Carbone & Alessandro Giallatini
Fourth Official: Davide Massa
VAR: Massimiliano Irrati
Assistant VAR: Paolo Valeri
Written by: @adwitya16
Follow our Twitter account for reliable, live updates on all the latest news and everything Manchester City in real time.