Real Madrid will host Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final on the 5th of May. The first leg between the two sides was one of the most entertaining and extraordinary Champions League knockout matches of recent memory. In an astonishing battle of guts and glory, Pep Guardiola’s men out on top 4-3. If the second leg is anything like its predecessor, we are in for a ride.
When it comes to Real Madrid this season, the name of Karim Benzema inevitably comes up in any discussion and for good measure. He has been the man for all occasions, for the newly crowned La Liga champions and has been absolutely phenomenal in the knockout rounds of Europe’s premier competition. Manchester City may have won the first leg at the Etihad Stadium, but it was Benzema’s cool, calm, equal parts brash and cheeky Panenka penalty that secured all the headlines.
The French talisman’s brace on either side of a Vinicius Junior goal has kept Real Madrid alive in a tie, which they honestly should have lost in the first half itself. Real Madrid’s backline of Eder Militao and David Alaba wasn’t exactly insured against Pep Guardiola’s startling forwards who breached the defence almost at will.
Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden all got on the scoresheet for Manchester City and it could have been even worse with Riyad Mahrez coming close on several occasions. However, Los Blancos’ fortitude and determination is truly unmatched and instead of throwing in the towel after being on the end of a dominant display from Manchester City, they clawed their way back into the tie through goals from Benzema and Vinicius.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men quickly dusted off the disappointment of a demoralizing defensive display and put four goals past Espanyol without reply this weekend. This helped them to confirm their status as La Liga champions in front of their own fans at the Santiago Bernabeu. Morale will certainly be high in the camp following their league victory and making their way to the final of the Champions League at the expense of Manchester City will be another reminder of the Spanish giant’s long-standing European dominance.
Real Madrid are no strangers to making dramatic comebacks in the Champions League either. They overturned a two-goal deficit against Paris Saint Germain in the last half hour of the tie to dump them out of the round of 16 stages thanks to Karim Benzema’s mesmerising hattrick. Los Blancos were also trailing against Chelsea in the second leg of the quarterfinal before finding the resolve and securing yet another victory in extra time. All those comebacks have been made possible at the Santiago Bernabeu, which has been a happy hunting ground for Real Madrid this season, except the odd battering that they received at the hands of Barcelona.
With that being said, Real Madrid have never made it to the final of the Champions League after losing the first leg of a semi-final tie. Therefore, they will be up against history in the pursuit of a record-breaking 14th European crown.
It has been less than a month since another English giant Chelsea came up short against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. The newly crowned La Liga champions have also found the back of the net on home soil in every Champions League encounter since December 2018. That streak is unlikely to come to an end even against the most formidable and secure City defence.
Although they did not get as much credit for it as they should have, Manchester City outplayed, outthought, outfought and even saw off Real Madrid’s periods of resurgences in the middle to secure an important victory at the Etihad Stadium. Although there is the suggestion that City should have been taking a bigger lead to protect at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, there is no reason why Pep Guardiola’s men cannot overcome their opponents as the tie continues to remain alive. Despite all of the recent successes in England and the revolution that they have brought, Manchester City continue to fight for their maiden Champions League crown.
They made it to the final of Europe’s premier competition for the first time last season. However, Kai Havertz’s goal decided the contest in favour of Chelsea as Pep Guardiola becomes more and more desperate for continental success.
While Real Madrid were able to secure the La Liga title with a victory over Espanyol this weekend, Manchester City continue to be in the fight to defend their Premier League crown. Their one-point advantage over Liverpool has remained intact for weeks and the fight is expected to go right down to the wire. City also posted a massive 4-0 win over Leeds United last weekend.
Recent history might be in favour of Manchester City as they prepare to make the trip to the Spanish capital. Premier League leaders have only been locked out in one of the last 10 Champions League knockout ties after winning the first leg. Manchester City have also won all of their last 4 matches across all competitions. They’ve been extremely prolific during this period and have found the back of the net a remarkable 16 times. They’ve also conceded just one goal in their last nine matches across all competitions, but it might not matter a lot given the form that Karim Benzema has been in.
City’s first-leg victory against Real Madrid was also their third win in a row against the Spanish giants. Only Ajax and Bayern Munich, with four successive victories against the 13-time European champions, have a better record. Therefore, history will be up for grabs in what promises to be an eventful second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.
RMA vs MCI, UEFA Champions League 2021/22
Date: 5th May, 2022
Time: 12:30 AM IST
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
Real Madrid UEFA Champions League form:
Real Madrid form (all competitions):
Manchester City UEFA Champions League form:
Manchester City form (all competitions):
Real Madrid wins: 3
Manchester City wins: 2
RMA vs MCI TEAM NEWS:
Real Madrid Team News: The league leaders will continue to miss the services of Eden Hazard. Hazard’s blockbuster move from Chelsea to Real Madrid hasn’t worked out at all and he has spent most of his career with Real Madrid on the sidelines. Luka Jovic, Gareth Bale and Mariano Diaz are expected to miss out once again while midfielder Dani Ceballos has recovered from illness and came off the bench to feature against Manchester City in the previous game.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti gambled when he played David Alaba in the first leg following his recent injury concerns. It did not pay off and he was subsequently, taken off at half-time at the Etihad Stadium. He was also an absentee in Madrid’s title party over Espanyol this weekend.
Both Nacho and Eder Militao will be returning for this fixture after missing the La Liga clash due to domestic suspensions. Veterans Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Casemiro make as assured a midfield three as it gets and there’s no doubt that they will start here.
The likes of Karim Benzema, Vinicius, Toni Kroos and Ferland Mendy were all rested this weekend, keeping in mind this particular encounter. Rodrygo’s recent scoring successes should also do enough to warrant him a place in the starting XI.
Manchester City Team News: Pep Guardiola will be overjoyed to welcome back Joao Cancelo into the squad after he missed the first leg due to suspension. With that being said, City have a new headache in the fullback department with the Spanish coach admitting that Kyle Walker could be out for the remainder of the season following an ankle injury.
Nathan Ake also suffered a minor knock in the victory over Leeds and therefore his fitness will be assessed alongside that of John Stones. Therefore, it could prove to be another occasion of brainstorming for Guardiola to find the right equation in the Manchester City rear guard to keep Real Madrid’s prolific frontline at bay. Oleksandr Zinchenko might end up starting on the left flank after doing the same in the first leg.
Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez were also rested this weekend against Leeds United and will return back to the starting XI directly. Gabriel Jesus is expected to lead the frontline and capitalize on his hot scoring streak.
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius Jr
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko; Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Jesus, Foden
While Manchester City do have a first leg advantage going into this tie, they are not renowned preachers of the sitting back and defending brand of football. Guardiola side have the tendency to believe that the best form of defence is to attack. They were impressive in the first leg at the Etihad Stadium and if they manage the same and add a bit of clinical nature to their build-up, Manchester City will be the favourites to win this clash.
However, Real Madrid will also be backing themselves, especially given how that they have succeeded against formidable opponents and overcome difficult situations in the Champions League at the Santiago Bernabeu. Carlo Ancelotti’s biggest concern will be that venturing ahead in search of goals might leave them more exposed at the back and they need to strike a perfect balance for this heated contest.