Real Madrid host Manchester City in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League Semi-final at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Los Blancos are in contention for making a record 14th European final appearance and a 11th Champions League trophy. They go up against the underdogs Manchester City, who have already made history by qualifying for the semi-finals for the very first time and will want to take one step further.
The first leg saw Real Madrid being held to a stalemate by the Citizens at the Etihad. It was a shocking result, one that Zidane wouldn’t want to see repeated. Madrid will look to make quick work of City and make up for last week’s draw. The result, however, is that City are in an advantageous position. All they need is a scoring draw to qualify for the finals.
Team News and Tactics
Ronaldo has been made available for the tie at the Bernabeu after being deemed fit by the medical staff. Zidane has said that his star man is fully fit and will be present for the match. Striker Karim Benzema is still a doubt after picking up a hamstring problem. Midfielder Casemiro picked up a knock in their league game against Real Sociedad and is not available either.
Real Madrid are expected to start with the 4-3-3 formation, one that has been used to great effect by Zinedine Zidane since he took over from Rafa Benitez. Madrid’s biggest advantage is the return of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese captain’s finishing was thoroughly missed in the first leg.
Los Blancos are expected to go all out in this tie, following last week’s surprise draw. Bale and Vazquez, who is likely to start in place of Benzema, will be expected to make life hard for City’s fullbacks while Ronaldo will keep Otamendi and a returning Vincent Kompany occupied.
The hardest battles are likely to be fought in the middle of the park, with Real Madrid’s Kovacic, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric going up against the Brazilian duo Fernando and Fernandinho. Kovacic will be expected to try and break up potentially threatening moves and start the transition from defence to attack. Modric will take up more of an attacking role and will look to drift into pockets of space behind the striker, looking to set up the likes of Ronaldo and Bale.
Pepe and Ramos will have their work cut out for them, facing an in-form Sergio Aguero and City’s rising star, Kelehi Iheanacho. The Madrid duo are all too familiar with Aguero from his days at rivals Atletico Madrid and will have to be on their toes the entire 90 minutes. Madrid’s fullbacks will come up against Jesus Navas and Kevin DeBruyne. Navas and Marcelo are familiar foes, having faced each other from Navas’ time at Sevilla. Carvajal will have the unfortunate task of keeping Kevin De Bruyne as quiet as possible the entire night. The Belgian has been in superb form this season, with his solitary goal at the Etihad against PSG in the last round proving enough to bring City to their first ever Champions League semi final.
Manuel Pellegrini will likely set his team up to exploit Madrid’s left flank, with the pace of Navas and Sagna. The duo will be given permission to bombard down the right wing and put as much pressure on Marcelo and Kroos as possible, putting them on the defensive and preventing the start of any attacks.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3) : Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Kovacic, Modric; Vazquez, Ronaldo, Bale
Yaya Toure has made a comeback to the City squad and will travel with the side to Madrid. Manuel Pellegrini was initially sweating over the fitness of the Ivorian, but the club has since confirmed that he is now fit and ready for action after training on Tuesday. Spanish play maker David Silva is yet to be deemed fit for the clash at the Bernabeu, after picking up an injury in the first leg draw.
Pellegrini is expected to stick to the 4-4-2 that has served him well in the Champions League this season. Toure’s return to the squad will be an added bonus for City going into this tie. The powerful midfielder’s strength, distribution and scoring ability would prove useful against Madrid’s defence. The Ivorian isn’t likely to star,t however, with the Brazilian duo of Fernando and Fernandinho -likely the preferred choice. Fernando will be taking up the defensive duties, and he will be charged with keeping Luka Modric in check. The Croatian international will be pulling the strings for the Spanish side and cannot be allowed any time or freedom on the ball. Fernandinho will be expected to play more of a box to box role, providing cover for the defence and Fernando, breaking up Madrid’s play and launch any attacks after that.
City’s defence has been rotated a lot over the course of the season, but the return of captain Vincent Kompany will be a huge boost to the Citizens as they will be up against the likes of Ronaldo, Bale and Modric. It is most likely that Kompany will take up the responsibility of keeping Cristiano Ronaldo quiet and the Belgian will have to be on his best to do so. Clichy and Sagna will have to deal with an in-form Gareth Bale and a young Lucas Vazquez on their respective flanks and the pace of City’s fullbacks should make it easier for them to deal with Madrid’s wingers.
DeBruyne and Navas will look to bombard down the flanks for the Citizens as they launch counter attacks. City’s wingers are pivotal to their hopes of getting on the score sheet, and with Sergio Aguero and Kelechi Ilheanacho pairing up together upfront, they will be expected to put in a lot of crosses. Apart from their attacking duties, they will be expected to defend as well, with Bale and Vazquez in good form..
Zinedine Zidane will be wary of City’s attacking threat and will set his team up to attack from the first second. The Frenchman will be aware of the way City took the game to PSG at the Parc de Prince and unsettled them after a a strong start. With City having the advantage of an away goal, nothing but a victory will do for Real Madrid if they wish to qualify.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-2) : Hart; Clichy, Kompany, Otemendi, Sagna; Navas, Fernando, Fernandinho, DeBruyne; Iheanacho, Aguero
Players To Watch
Real Madrid: Gareth Bale
The Welsh wizard has been in scintillating form this season, scoring 19 goals and registering 10 assists along the way. His Champions League form hasn’t been on par with his domestic performance. In the absence of Ronaldo, Bale has stepped up to the plate and scored the winner at Real Sociedad last week to keep their title hopes alive. Zidane will hope that the man he has shown so much faith in this season won’t disappoint.
Manchester City: Kevin De Bruyne
The Belgian joined in the summer from Wolfsburg for a huge fee, and most will agree that he’s lived up to the expectations. De Bruyne has been in superb form in this first season at Manchester and has been a shining light in City’s season, scoring 15 goals, getting 12 assists in 31 appearances this season. It was his winning goal at the Etihad against PSG that sent the Citizens into the semi-finals. Manchester City will look to the young Belgian tonight to continue his good form and help them create history.
- Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last nine games against English sides in the Champions League.
- Real Madrid have the record of most number of European Cup/Champions League final appearances, with 13.
- This is the first time that Manchester City have ever made it past the Last 16 of the Champions League.
- Manchester City have been defeated in 3 of their last 4 Champions League matches away in Spain.
- 8 Manchester City players have scored away from home this season (in the CL), which is a Champions League record.
- Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas has kept 10 clean sheets in 11 games in the Champions League.
- Sergio Aguero has not had a shot on target for 432 minutes in the Champions League.
- Sergio Aguero has not scored in his previous 4 Champions League appearances.
Real Madrid 2 – 1 Manchester City
Manchester City go into this tie as the underdogs who are on the cusp of making history. They are one victory away from the first ever Champions League final of the club’s history. In their way, stand Real Madrid, who will be equally motivated to go a reach a record breaking 14th European final and push for their second Champions League title in 3 years. City can be expected to put up a fight, but with the return of Cristiano Ronaldo and Los Blancos’ record at the Santiago Bernabeu, it seems unlikely that the inexperienced Citizens will be able to get past this highly motivated Madrid side.