Heineken UCL Special: Real Madrid Vs Manchester City: Haaland Was Signed For Nights Like This

Heineken UCL Special: Real Madrid Vs Manchester City: Haaland Was Signed For Nights Like This

They say that if at first you don’t succeed, then you keep trying again and again. That was the sentiment expressed by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola as they travel to Spain to face Real Madrid in a mouth-watering Champions League semi-final clash at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

The Champions League trophy has been some sort of a Holy Grail for City as it is the only trophy that has eluded them since they hit the jackpot after being taken over by their Qatari owners despite their best efforts.

City have not won a major UEFA trophy since the 1970 European Cup Winners’ Cup, though they reached the Champions League final in 2021, losing 1-0 to Chelsea in Porto. They have won four Premier League titles under Guardiola, but the biggest prize of all still eludes them. But the Spaniard believes this year might prove to be the lucky charm.

He said: “Three years in a row, [we’re] in the semi-finals of the Champions League… It is not about winning, just trying. If you try it many times, maybe you win one in the end.”

Guardiola’s side remain on course for a treble but face their biggest test to that idea possible as they head to the European champions. Madrid, of course, beat City at this stage last year on their way to a 14th European crown in the most dramatic of fashions.

Carlo Ancelotti’s team are the acid test in Europe. Something about this competition brings out the best in them, even if LaLiga form has slightly dipped of late.

The reigning champions put four unanswered goals past Chelsea over the two legs of their quarter-final to reach the last four, while Guardiola’s perennial hopefuls ran out 4-1 aggregate winners over Bayern Munich.

However, in Erling Haaland City may have a weapon even Real Madrid cannot resist. In the Norwegian’s only previous meetings with Spanish clubs, he scored twice in each of his three meetings with Sevilla – two with Dortmund, one with City on Matchday 1 this season. Enjoying a remarkable debut campaign in England, the Norway forward was signed for nights like this.

For all City’s attacking prowess, they have often come up short defensively in the Champions League’s latter stages. The manner of their quarter-final triumph over 2020 winners Bayern, however, suggests they have learned from past mistakes. Pep Guardiola’s side should not have lost last season’s semi-final to Real – they carved out enough chances to win both legs of the tie quite comfortably – but what better opportunity to make amends?

Related: Heineken UCL Special: Napoli Vs Milan: Perfect Time For Osimhen To Underscore His Pedigree


Having played their first competitive game in September 2012, Real Madrid and Man City are now very familiar with one another. While they have identical records in their eight past encounters (W3 D2 L3), 14-time European champions Madrid have tended to win at this stage of the competition. They eliminated Manuel Pellegrini’s City in the semi-finals in 2015/16 (agg: 1-0), then beat Pep Guardiola’s side at the same stage last season (agg: 6-5) after extra time in a remarkable second leg at the Santiago Bernabéu.


26 Apr 2022 – Man City 4-3 Real Madrid

07 Aug 2020 – Man City 2-1 Real Madrid

26 Feb 2020 – Real Madrid 1-2 Man City

04 May 2016 – Real Madrid 1-0 Man City

26 Apr 2016 – Man City 0-0 Real Madrid


*Karim Benzema has scored nine Champions League goals in the knockout stages this season, with only Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016/17 (10) scoring more in a single season. The Frenchman could become the fourth player to score in both legs of the quarter-final and semi-final in a season, after Fernando Morientes (2003/04 with Monaco), Neymar (2014/15 with Barcelona) and Edin Dzeko (2017/18 with Roma).

*Kevin De Bruyne has 18 Champions League assists for Manchester City, the most of any player and behind only Neymar (25) and Kylian Mbappe (20) in the competition since his debut for the club in September 2015. The Belgian scored and assisted in the first leg, one of only two occasions he’s done so in the Champions League – the other was at the Bernabeu vs Real Madrid in February 2020.

*Man City have won their last three Champions League games against Real Madrid; only two sides have ever won four in a row against them in any European competition, with Ajax doing so between 1973 and 1995 and Bayern Munich between 2000 and 2002.

With the top-flight title almost a formality, Real Madrid will unequivocally prioritise a 15th top-level European crown in what remains of a tumultuous season, and they have only failed to reach the final in one of the previous five seasons where they have progressed to the semis – going down to eventual winners Chelsea in 2020-21.

It would be foolish to write Madrid off in this competition but this feels like a different City. So strong, so structured and so dangerous, they should have enough.


Man City, and Haaland especially, will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing a Militao-less Real Madrid backline, especially given Los Blancos’ recent failures at keeping the back door shut domestically.

However, if there is one thing to know about Real Madrid, it is that they are never to be written off in Europe. A first leg that could easily swing either way should no doubt live up the billing, and we expect the two behemoths to play out an entertaining stalemate, undeniably a better result for Guardiola’s men before the return leg at the Etihad on May 17.

Real Madrid 2-2 Manchester City

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