Manchester City’s quest to get their hands on a maiden Champions League crown face a stiff semi-final opposition in the mould of Real Madrid who are the most successful team in the competition’s history.
The La Liga champions-elect meet the Premier League holders in the last four of this season’s Champions League, and the Etihad Stadium plays host to the first leg of Manchester City and Real Madrid’s semi-final clash on Tuesday night.
Pep Guardiola’s men needed just the one goal to scrape past Atletico Madrid in the quarters, while Madrid ended Chelsea’s hopes of back-to-back European crowns in dramatic fashion.
In another subplot, Guardiola gets another crack at his old nemesis Madrid. The Spaniard has owned his old La Liga rivals throughout history, and coming into this semifinal meeting, Man City enters as the heavy favourites and Guardiola has an eye on the top prize.
Guardiola has faced Real Madrid three times in the Champions League with three different clubs, all coming in the knockout stage, and has emerged victorious in two of them, with losses in both legs in 2014 while in charge of Bayern the only real blemishes. Otherwise, Guardiola has beaten Madrid in four of the other six matches, with draws in the remaining two. He dumped Madrid out of the Champions League semifinals in 2011 with Barcelona en route to winning the title, and he eliminated Los Blancos in the 2020 Round of 16 with Man City as well.
In fact, those two losses with Bayern represent half of Guardiola’s defeats to Real Madrid ever across his 19 matches against the club, otherwise losing just a pair of La Liga games, each by a single goal margin.
If Man City harbor any hopes of their first-ever Champions League crown, Guardiola must channel his past success against the La Liga giants.
While Man City of course should be favorites against a Real Madrid side that needed a pair of miracle comebacks to even reach this stage, the odds are so heavily skewed in favor of the Premier League club that it’s hard not to look the other way.
Undefeated at the Etihad in the Champions League since a 2-1 loss to Lyon back in September 2018, Man City have already found the back of the net 13 times in their five home matches in the tournament this season and navigated both legs of their Atletico and Sporting Lisbon ties without conceding a single goal.
Defensive absentees will certainly put that record under threat against Real Madrid, but Guardiola could become the first manager to eliminate Real Madrid from the Champions League three times over the course of the next two weeks and is surely more desperate than ever to finally bring the European crown to the blue side of Manchester.
After being forced to overturn a 1-0 deficit to get the better of Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the tournament, the tables very nearly turned for Real Madrid during the visit of Chelsea, who were on the verge of completing a phenomenal comeback from a 3-1 first-leg loss at Stamford Bridge.
However, one of the passes of the season from Luka Modric allowed substitute Rodrygo to volley home and force extra time, where the head of Karim Benzema – who else – once again sunk the Blues to book Real Madrid’s spot in the last four of the competition.
Indeed, Los Blancos enter the first leg on a six-game winning streak away from home across all competitions – scoring three goals in each of their last three on rival turf – but no side has ever won away from home against two separate English teams during the knockout rounds of a single Champions League tournament.
Tuesday’s first leg will mark the seventh meeting between familiar foes Real and Man City in the Champions League, with the Citizens claiming a pair of 2-1 wins in the 2019-20 last 16, but Los Blancos had previously won 1-0 over two legs in the 2015-16 semi-finals before Guardiola touched down in Manchester. And the 13-time Europeans champions once again stand in the way of the Manchester City juggernaut who are desperate to win their first European crown in what has become some sort of a ‘Holy Grail’ to them, hence the hiring of Guardiola.
Real Madrid have a fairly impressive overall record against Manchester City and have won five out of eight matches played between the two teams, as opposed to Manchester City’s three victories.
Manchester City have a flawless recent record against Los Blancos and won both legs of their previous UEFA Champions League clash in 2020 by an aggregate 4-2 margin.
Real Madrid are winless in their last three matches against Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League and will need to be at their best in this fixture.
*Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has eliminated Real Madrid from the knock-out stages of the UEFA Champions League on two previous occasions and could become the first manager in the competition’s history to achieve the feat thrice.
*Real Madrid have a poor recent record against English teams in the UEFA Champions League and have won only one of their last six matches against Premier League sides.
*Pep Guardiola has an impressive head-to-head record against Carlo Ancelotti and has won four of the six games that have involved the two managers.
*Manchester City have kept a clean sheet in their last 4 Champions League matches.
Defensive uncertainties and absentees on both sides should have both revered managers feeling confident of gleaning a first-leg advantage at the Etihad, with Benzema and Vinicius capable of plucking goals out of nowhere for the visitors.
However, City will need no second invitation to break down a depleted Blancos backline in front of their own crowd, and we expect an end-to-end first leg with plenty of goalmouth action to end all square.
SCORES: Manchester City 2-2 Real Madrid