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Written By Onyeka Daniel

At the Santiago Bernabeu today in Spain, Real Madrid will welcome familiar foe, Manchester City to their stadium for the first leg semi-final of the UEFA Champions League game with Portuguese referee, A. Soares Dias in charge of proceedings.

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The Los Blancos will be hoping to defend their title in Istanbul, Turkey next month, but first, they will have to navigate past City as this game pose the biggest threat yet to their status as champions.

After conceding defeat in the LaLiga title race following their defeat against Real Sociedad, the Los Blancos made up for it by winning the Copa Del Rey at the weekend when they defeated Osasuna to win their third trophy won this season after the European Super Cup and Club World Cup earlier in the season.

Adding a 15th UCL looks to be the objective for Carlo Ancelotti and his boys, but first, it’s imperative that they devise a means to defeat a City side that seems to have no weakness so far.


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But then, it was almost the same script from their last meeting, Pep Guardiola’s side were cruising through when they faced Madrid at this stage last season before they conceded two late goals on route to a 3-1 defeat at the Bernabeu after extra time spelt elimination.

But unlike last season, City now have Erling Haaland who has been scoring goals for fun across all competition and as Ancelotti pointed out, Haaland and Karim Benzema would definitely have an impact on the game for both sides.

Having been dumped out of the UCL by Real Madrid in two of their last three semi-final appearances, it’s looking a bit like a revenge mission, but Guardiola was quick to point out that he’s not out for revenge in this game. He made this known during the pre-match conference ahead of this game;

“We are not here for revenge”, as per quotes from BBC Sport. “That would be a mistake. We played exceptionally well last year in Manchester and we were very good here, but it wasn’t enough. What happened in the past is in the past.”

He also insisted that the gap between the two sides was not significant in 2022, and it is not now, with minor details in the game the difference between reaching the final, and bowing out. “We came here better mentally last year, after winning the first leg, and look what happened,” as per reports from the Manchester Evening News.

“Mendy took a ball off the line, Courtois made a huge save, and what happened happened. Those details lead you to a final or not.” He further added. For Guardiola and City, this season could be their best chance of winning the elusive UCL trophy but against a perennial winners of the competition, it doesn’t get tougher than this.

Style Of Play

Real Madrid will want to be their usual self, especially against top opponents, try to stay compact and not allow space with their 4-3-3 formation that tend to change and shift depending on the players that take to the field.

A passive press that starts from midfield would be the most likely route for Ancelotti even if he has been known to adopt the active press when necessary. For City, Guardiola has been able to learn one valuable lesson this season, which is to play defensive and try to soak the pressure while waiting for the perfect opportunity to launch a quick counter, a tactics that helped them knocked out Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals.

The 4-3-3 formation is also a favorite of the former Barcelona coach, but he’s also known to try and tweak his formations every now and then, especially in big and decisive games in a bid to confuse his opponents, but it usually have negative effect as we saw in the UCL final game against Chelsea in 2012.

Recent Form

In their last 20 games played across all competitions, Real Madrid have 13 wins, 2 draws and 5 losses. For City, in their last 20 games, they have 17 wins and 3 draws. The last time they actually lost a game was back in February and they’re currently on a 5 game winning streak.

Head To Head

Both teams have faced each other 10 times, with 8 of those in the UCL. Real Madrid have won 4 and Manchester City also have 4 wins while two has ended in a stalemate. Real Madrid will be to have the same impact as they did in this same fixture from last season as they won 3-1 to book their place in the final and go on to win the trophy while City will be out for revenge.

Read Also: It’s Now Or Never For Pep Guardiola And Manchester City In The UEFA Champions League

Players To Watch

While it’s easy to point out the presence of Vinicuis Junior and Karim Benzema for the Los Blancos, the return of Luka Modric could be the game changer in the midfield while also keeping an eye out for Rodrygo Goes. For the Cityzens, they will be banking on Haaland to help convert their chances unlike Gabriel Jesus did last season but they will also need De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden to produce those chances.

Injuries And Suspensions

Ferland Mendy and Eder Militao will be missing for Madrid through injury and suspension while Manchester City will be without Benjamin Mendy and Nathan Ake through suspension and injury too.

Verdict

Will be a tough game between these two teams as they’re no stranger to each other having met at this stage last season, but like Ancelotti pointed out, a lot has changed and that could be the decider factor. Should probably end in a draw (1-1).

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