We are nearing the business end of the most enthralling and competitive tournament of European football, the UEFA Champions League. Like all other years, it has lived up to its epithet of being the most entertaining competition in world football with its never-ending enticement as also some scintillating displays of football from the best teams in club football. This year we had it all in the UCL. From producing last-minute winners to acting as a giant killer for big teams, the UCL was all crazy throughout the knockout stages. As we enter into the penultimate match before the final, we have the two best sides from this year’s league facing each other to secure a spot in the finals. Reigning La Liga champions Real Madrid lock horns with potential PL champs Manchester City at the iconic Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow. The winners of this game will face Liverpool/Villareal in the finals.
Real Madrid has already sealed their 35th LaLiga title and will now fully focus on this knockout tie. They know its importance very well and will do everything possible in their capacity to reach the UCL final after 4yrs. The Los Blancos need to make a glaring comeback to overturn the 3-4 trail at the Bernabeu in order to enter the finals.
Manchester City, the reigning EPL champs, are currently leading the PL title race and are the frontrunners to win it. They will aim to be in the finals for the second consecutive time after getting defeated by Chelsea last year around. The Cityzens are already enjoying a 4-3 lead before going to Real Madrid’s castle for a final showdown.
OVERVIEW OF THE FIRST LEG
The footballing world witnessed one of the most exciting knockout games ever last Tuesday. The city was dominant right from the start and got an early lead as early as the 2nd minute. De Bruyne’s run into the box met Gabriel Jesus’ cross the box and he slotted home the opener easily. Minutes later, a horrendous mistake from Alaba resulted in an easy finish from Jesus from close range. It seemed City would humiliate the Madrid giants with a flurry of goals in the first half itself. Just when the away fans were pessimistic, Karim Benzema scored out of nowhere to inspire a comeback.
The first half ended well with City missing out on a couple of occasions. Right after the restart, Foden headed in City’s third goal much to the disarray of Ancelotti. Seconds later, Vinicius produced a moment of magic on the left wing and scored a sensational solo goal. Manchester City once again restored their two-goal lead through a Bernardo Silva stunner. Just when it seemed Madrid will go to Madrid empty-handed, Benzema again emerged from the penalty spot to be the savior.
All in all, it was City who mastered the proceedings and would start as favorites in the second leg. But Madrid, being a clutch team, knows how to bail out from these situations and will give a one last try. Let’s see who batters the other in this high-voltage contest tomorrow.
The Los Blancos are coming onto their most important game of the season against City tomorrow after demolishing Espanyol at home. They needed only a point to be crowned La Liga champs and the Madridistas did it in style. With a second-team, Rodrygo’s brace, Asensio’s solo goal, and Benzema’s cool finish gifted them a 4-0 win. Now is the time for them to go all out for the coveted UCL trophy. The Whites have experienced a topsy-turvy season blowing hot and cold at many times. As this is the most important phase of the season, Ancelotti would hope his men to come out with all guns blazing. Madrid has lost two-of their last five games in all competitions but are maintaining a five-match winning streak in LaLiga. To be able to beat City, they need their best performance of the season tomorrow to outgun the Manchester side.
FORM GUIDE – LWWLW (ALL COMPETITIONS); WWWWW (LA LIGA)
The Blues of Manchester will be traveling to Madrid after thrashing relegation-threatened Leeds United 4-0 in their own backyard. They maintained a one-point lead over their nearest title rivals Liverpool and are on course to become the league champions for the second straight time. Goals from Rodri, Ake, Jesus, and Fernandinho sealed the seal for the Manchester side. They just need to be consistent from now on to bag their 5th title in 6 years.
Manchester City has been decent for the larger parts of the season. And if they can remain well on track now there’s no stopping them from winning the major trophies. Pep Guardiola would do anything that it takes to be a UCL winner with City this time at least. In the last five games in all competitions, City has won all of those. In the PL, they have won 4 and drawn one. To win against Madrid at the Bernabeu, would require a unique team effort from them.
FORM GUIDE – WWWWW ( ALL COMPETITIONS) WDWWW (PL)
The Madrid giants have suffered a huge blow ahead of their clash with City at the Bernabeu. Their versatile defender and strongman David Alaba is practically ruled out due to an abductor injury. Eden Hazard hasn’t still recovered from his surgery yet and Gareth Bale is out due to a back spasm. Apart from this, there are no injuries in the squad.
The Cityzens will be coming to the Bernabeu with a light-head following the return of Joao Cancelo from suspension. The only doubt looms over whether Kyle Walker will be able to start or not. John Stones isn’t fully fit too and Ake picked up a knock in the weekend. Apart from these petty injuries, all other members are fit and fine
HEAD TO HEAD
When it comes to head-to-head rivalry, City has the slightest of advantages over Madrid with last week’s win. The city has now registered 3 wins over Madrid while the latter has two. Two games have ended in a stalemate. It remains to be seen whether Madrid can turn the tables to bag a historic win over the PL giants.
One of the most tactically well-set teams in Europe is Manchester City, managed by the master tactician Pep Guardiola. Pep goes with a traditional 4-3-3 attacking formation with a few puzzles hidden between it. Ederson plays the role of a sweeper-keeper delivering some dangerous long balls. Cancelo and Walker play the role of inverted fullbacks. Bernardo Silva builds up attacks from midfield and is good at tackling too. KDB takes the role of delivering defense splitting passes and creates decisive goalscoring chances. Foden, Mahrez, and Sterling play as wide wingers to cross more into the box. As Guardiola often employs a false nine or second striker in big matches, the CMs slide in between the leftover spaces of defenders. Rodri plays the role of a ball snatcher. While defending, City transforms into a 5-3-2 to thwart deadly attacks. This is how City’s game under Pep unfolds.
Carlo Ancelotti isn’t a man who is full of tactics, but he can implement the right tactic needed at that specific time to churn out matches. He starts with a traditional 4-3-3 attacking formation with Courtois at the back. His fullbacks, Carvajal and Mendy, act as inverted forwards most of the time and are engaged in buildup play on the wings. One of Militao or Alaba plays as a ball-carrying CB while the other stays back.
Kroos takes the role of Deep-Lying Playmaker who builds up play from the back. Casemiro slots in the gaps between opposition CBs and Modric/Valverde acts as the Box-to-Box attacking midfielder in an advanced position. Vinicius and Rodrygo fully focus on wing play and cuts inside to create goalscoring chances. Benzema isn’t a proper no.9 and drops very deep to create play as well as take chances in the box. In all, Carlo’s Madrid gives a very entertaining style of play.
In all respects, this match is going to be an enticing and bewitching one in all respects. The desperateness of both the teams to win this game spices up the clash even more. Real Madrid needs to pull one last comeback from their blood to win this tie whereas City just needs to stay calm and maintain the lead to knockout their arch-rivals. Let’s see if City gets into the final for the second consecutive time and have a shot at their first UCl trophy or will Madrid get the chance to add one to their rich cabinet of 13 trophies? Expect a fierce encounter to get underway on a magical night at the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow.
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