Champions League 1st semi-final tie: Can City take huge advantage against Real Madrid?
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 tonight.
Pep Guardiola’s men needed just the one goal to scrape past Atletico Madrid in the quarters, while Real ended Chelsea’s hopes of back-to-back European crowns in dramatic fashion.
Not for the first time in his distinguished and ever-controversial career, Diego Simeone lost his cool on the touchline as his Atletico side struggled to break down a steadfast City backline, with their defensive tactics in the first leg coming back to bite them hard.
A goalless draw in the Spanish capital was enough for Man City to progress to the semi-finals for the second season running, but the game was marred by unsavoury scenes at the end, with the La Liga champions not covering themselves in glory in the tunnel after the game.
Nevertheless, City got the job done on the pitch before their treble hopes were dashed by Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-finals, but their customary thumping of Watford – with Gabriel Jesus scoring four – keeps their dreams of a domestic and continental double very much alive.
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.
Also on the verge of wrestling their La Liga crown out of Atletico’s grasp, Carlo Ancelotti’s side enter the first leg having battled past Osasuna 3-1 on Wednesday night – in spite of two penalty misses for Benzema – and a 14th European crown is firmly in the sights of the away-day specialists.
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.
Today’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. – Sports Mole