Manchester City continue their path to what they hope will be a first Champions League triumph when they host Real Madrid tonight at the Etihad. It’s the first leg of the semi-final clash, with Pep Guardiola’s looking to take a lead into next week’s reverse fixture in Madrid.
City have already taken out one La Liga side, narrowly beating Atletico Madrid in the last round in what was a largely ill-tempered tie. Real meanwhile have experience of getting the better of an English team, having knocked out Chelsea in the quarter-finals.
It was not entirely convincing though from Carlo Ancelotti’s side – at one point they found themselves 3-0 at the Bernabeu and on the verge of crashing out. But Real, who have effectively wrapped up the league title this season, did just about enough to edge through into the last four.
It promises to be a thrilling tie, between the most successful team in the competition’s history and one that looks to have everything required to lift the trophy for the first time.
With kick-off at 8pm BST and James Robson at the Etihad providing expert analysis, follow all the action with Standard Sport’s LIVE blog below…
Guardiola biggest threat for City?
With respect to Real Madrid’s golden oldies, Pep Guardiola remains the greatest threat to Manchester City reaching back-to-back Champions League finals.
We are at that stage when the Catalan can over-think, at best, or go into complete meltdown, at worst. Either way, City’s failure to replicate their domestic dominance in Europe has generally been self-inflicted.
That they go into tonight’s semi-final first leg as overwhelming favourites underlines the quality of Guardiola’s squad, considering they face a team on the verge of winning the Spanish title and are playing at this stage of the competition for the 31st time.
Guardiola has, arguably, had the deepest pool of talent in Europe for the past five years, yet last season was his first final as City manager and defeat to Chelsea continued a pattern that has seen him lose to underdogs in each of his Champions League campaigns with the club.
No Walker as expected for Man City tonight, but they are boosted by Stones being fit enough to make his return. Looks like he’ll be starting at right-back.
De Bruyne will be looking to keep up his impressive recent form, while Jesus’ four goals and an assist against Watford earns him a place in the side. He starts up front alongside Foden and Mahrez.
Sterling, Gundogan and Grealish among those waiting in reserve.
Man City team
Starting XI: Ederson, Stones, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko, Rodri, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Mahrez, Jesus, Foden
Subs: Steffen, Carson, Ake, Sterling, Gundogan, Grealish, Fernandinho, Egan-Riley, Mbete, Palmer, McAtee, Lavia
Good memories for City…
These two sides last met in August 2020, in a delayed last-16 clash.
City got the better of Real that day, winning 2-1 to book their place in the quarter-finals. Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling were on target for the hosts, with Benzema’s goal not enough for Real.
Premier League sides lead the way…
Safe to say that the two English clubs are fancied to make it through to the final.
Here are the latest odds for this season’s Champions League winners – not a lot of love for Villarreal ahead of their tie with Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Man City 6/5
Real Madrid 6/1
Latest odds via Betfair.
Plenty of experience for the visitors…
So Real gone early with their team news.
Alaba wins his race to be fit and starts alongside Militao in the centre of defence. Casemiro only on the bench though, meaning Valverde comes in alongside Kroos and Modric.
Benzema has been in sensational form this season and already has 12 Champions League goals to his name – would not back against him adding to that tonight. Bale (remember him?) is among the substitutes for the visitors.
Real Madrid lineup
Starting XI: Courtois, Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy, Valverde, Kroos, Modric, Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius.
Subs: Lunin, Fuidias, Vallejo, Nacho, Asensio, Marcelo, Casemiro, Vazquez, Bale, Ceballos, Isco, Camavinga
Madrid certainly have quite the knack of pulling results out of the bag, even when hugely outplayed. We expect that trend to continue at the Etihad tonight.
City have fallen short in the latter stages of Europe in recent seasons, so this will be a real test against a side full of Champions League winners.
Man City 1-2 Real Madrid