It’s the UEFA Champions League semi-finals time. We got 3 heavyweights and one underdog with a master tactician leading them at this year’s Champions League semifinalist. Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Villareal under Unai Emery have made it to this stage.
For the semifinals, 2 Clubs from England will go against 2 clubs from Spain. Will Spanish supremacy take over or will the English resurgence in recent years, only time will tell?
Now coming to the first clash of 2 semifinals we have 13-time winners Real Madrid up against the Manchester Blues looking for their 1st ever UCL title. Real Madrid has a rich history of winning matches and will count on that experience to help them out in this mega clash.
Manchester City is coming into this clash with thumping victories over Watford and Brighton in their last few fixtures in the premier league. Meanwhile, Real Madrid is coming back from hard-fought victories against 2nd placed Sevilla and 9th placed Osasuna.
Talking about this competition in particular both teams coming off tough against Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. Los Blancos are coming back from a surprise defeat to Tuchel Chelsea in the 2nd leg of the Quarterfinals where Karim Benzema’s 2nd goal in extra time helped to secure a spot in this match. While Manchester City endured 180 minutes of Simeone’s masterclass in their quarter-finals clash.
Pep Guardiola has some worries as according to the latest news Manchester City has woes in their defensive department. Both Man City full-backs are probably out of this clash as Walker is out injured and hasn’t trained for a few days while Joao Cancelo is suspended for this clash. So, whom would he deploy at Full back positions? At left-back it can be a straight swap and Zinchenko would slot in. But with Walker in doubt, this game would come
in that Right back spot. Pep might tinker with his tactics and play 3 at the back and resulting in Zinchenko and either Bernardo Silva or Gabriel Jesus will have to play as Right Wing Back. Another concern for Manchester City is their Center-back John Stones too is in doubt with a knock for this game.
1) Predicted Lineup
Ederson, Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake, Aymeric Laporte, Zinchenko, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez
2) Predicted Lineup
Ederson, Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake, Aymeric Laporte, Zinchenko, Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden
Ancelotti too has a fit squad apart from Jovic and Marino Diaz who anyways are out of favor and haven’t featured a lot in this season throughout all competitions. One Major concern for Los Blancos is Nacho Fernandes is out with a knock and is highly unlikely to take part in this game. Another major call for the Madrid boss will be who would occupy that Right Wing Position, especially keeping the fact in mind that Cancelo is suspended so Man City is forced to play their 2nd choice LB. Ancelotti has favored Fede Valverde in that spot in the recent few games but might choose Brazilian Rodrygo for this fixture to exploit that weakness of Man City’s defense in absence of Cancelo on their left side.
Predicted Madrid Lineup
Courtois, Ferland Mendy, David Alaba, Eder Militao, Dani Carvajal, Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Modric, Rodrygo, Vinicius Junior, Karim Benzema
Manchester City Fullbacks / Wingbacks vs Madrid Wingers
With both Manchester City 1st choice fullbacks in doubt for this game, Manchester City has some problems in their defense. Whoever fills in for them be it Zinchenko and Ake as fullbacks or Zinchenko and either Mahrez or Bernardo Silva as Wingbacks will be up against 2 young and pacey wingers from Los Blancos in form of Vinicius Junior and either Fede Valverde or Rodrygo. Both Man City wingbacks/ Full backs will have to be on their toes throughout the match as both Madrid wingers are capable enough to catch them on the counter with their pace and exploit those empty spaces left behind by whose wingbacks/ fullbacks.
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 CB 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 goal-scoring 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.
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 goal-scoring 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 left-over 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.
Player to Watch out for
Kevin De Bruyne
The Belgian midfielder is one of the driving forces behind the triumphant run of City under Pep over the years. He is a top-notch guy who has the ability to make the best out of himself in big games. His contributions in the match in both aspects became too vital for his team. The creativity of De Bruyne isn’t unknown to the world with his pinpoint passing serving as an icing on the cake. Kevin already has bagged 12 goals and 3 assists to his name this season. If Manchester City leaves a mark in 1st leg itself KDB will have to bring out his best game against an experienced Madrid side.
The Frenchman is in swashbuckling form for the European giants this season and is enduring the form of his life. Among Europe’s top goal scorers, he has the best G+A. He has been the fulcrum of the Real Madrid lineup helping the team in every possible way. With already over 40 G+A assists to his name, Benzema is proving to be decisive again and again for Madrid. If Madrid is to win against Manchester City Benzema has to be at his level best.
In all respects, this match is going to be an enticing and enthralling one. Both the teams will be heavily desperate for a win in the first leg. Madrid will look to win this tie and advance to their first final in five years while the citizen’s Will be aiming for a second consecutive UCL final. Expect a fierce encounter to unfold on a magical night at the Etihad today.
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Ashutosh Welankar Law graduate by degree. Football lover and blogger by passion.