Preview: Everything you need to know, Predicted XI – Manchester City (1-1) Real Madrid
Whilst Manchester City might be on the brink of three Premier League titles in a row and may even be champions by their next domestic game on Sunday, there's no room for complacency as they take on Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final tie on Wednesday night.
With the game tied at 1-1, the Blues have to keep their heads in what looks set to be a tight clash if they want to reach their second-ever Champions League final and avoid a repeat of last year's heartbreak where they were knocked out in extra time after a feisty 180 minutes vs the same opponent. The game will be broadcast on BT Sport 1 in the UK, with kick-off at 8 pm (BST).
In his pre-match press conference, Pep Guardiola confirmed that everyone par Nathan Ake is fit and available for tomorrow night's seismic clash, with the Dutchman missing out due to what appears to be a recurrence of a hamstring injury from earlier in the season.
However, despite a 3-0 lead at Everton this past weekend, Guardiola left his substitutions till late, with goalscorers Ilkay Gundogan and Erling Haaland playing 78 minutes, with Rodri and Ruben Dias not seeing the bench until the final moments of the match.
This does bring worries of fatigue into the fold, despite being able to rest Jack Grealish, Kevin De Bruyne, John Stones and, for the most part, Bernardo Silva. However, no player will want to admit any feelings of fatigue ahead of this heart-racing clash, which was described by the manager as one of the biggest in City's history.
As for the lineup, with Ake's absence continuing and Kyle Walker fulfilling pre-match press duties, they look set to start at full-back. Guardiola spoke of wanting more fluidity in attack for this second leg but promised he wasn't overthinking it as is often the accusation. A chance for Phil Foden to make a consecutive start could come into play, with Bernardo or Gundogan being the question in midfield.
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Akanji; Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne; Bernardo, Haaland, Grealish
Real Madrid made eight changes for their 1-0 win over Getafe at the weekend, with only Thibaut Courtois, Federico Valverde, and Eduardo Camavinga retaining their starting places from last week's first leg.
With nothing but pride left to play for in La Liga, Real Madrid have been able to put their all focus into this tie and rest so many of their key personnel. However, despite an injury scare for Camavinga, who set up Madrid's goal in the first leg, he is expected to be available on Wednesday night.
Real Madrid's lineup for the second leg has been much debated in the news, with boss Carlo Ancelotti expecting to go with what looks like a 4-4-2 shape, with Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr up front. During the first leg, Vinicius seemed to play more centrally at times, as he and Rodrygo swapped wings.
Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Alaba; Valverde, Kroos, Modric, Camavinga; Vinicius Jr, Benzema
If this is the case, City will need to be at their most incisive to break through what is already a stubborn defence and could easily shift to a five-man backline, a challenge not dissimilar to the kinds of setup City are used to facing week in week out domestically, albeit of a much higher level. The second leg of this monumental tie looks to be one fought on stubbornness and who cracks first instead of the slightly more free-for-all that the Bernabeu game was.
Last week's 1-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu was enchanted by spectacular goals from Vinicius Jr in the first half before De Bruyne equalised midway through the second. A marked difference to last year's tie, where both teams favoured all-out attack in the first leg leaving a bewildered Etihad crowd with a 4-3 thriller, before Real Madrid's injury-time salvo and extra-time winner in their 3-1 victory at the Bernabeu a week later.
Referee: Szymon Marciniak
Assistants: Pawel Sokolnicki & Tomasz Listkiewicz
Fourth Official: Istvan Kovacs
VAR: Tomasz Kwiatkowski
Assistant VAR: Bartosz Frankowski
Marciniak has refereed Manchester City before, in their Champions League group stage visit to Feyenoord in 2017/18, where John Stones was the star on the night with a brace as well as former strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus grabbing one each in a 4-0 win.
Written by: @olimccoole
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