Manchester City will lock horns with Real Madrid in the first leg of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League semi-finals at the Etihad Stadium this week.
As we enter the final phase of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League campaign, fans will be waiting with bated breath for the exciting semi-finals that kick off this midweek. First up, Premier League leaders Manchester City will lock horns with La Liga champions-elect Real Madrid in the first leg of their final-four encounter at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
Manchester City made it this far in the competition after topping a tricky Group A that included PSG, RB Leipzig and Club Brugge with four wins and two losses. Pep Guardiola’s side eased past Sporting CP in the Round of 16 before being pushed to the brink by Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals as they prevailed by a 1-0 aggregate scoreline.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, won Group D ahead of Inter Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk and Sheriff Tiraspol. Carlo Ancelotti’s men then made a stunning comeback to beat PSG in the Round of 16 before playing another thrilling tie with Chelsea in the quarter-finals, managing to eke into the final four with an aggregate win.
Both Manchester City and Real Madrid have won their last two games after losing their previous one. It will be an exciting encounter between two teams managed by two of the most successful managers in the game. And The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at how the Premier League and La Liga leaders will set up at the Etihad on Tuesday night.
Team News & Tactics
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 25, 2022
Manchester City have a few concerns heading into the game as defenders Kyle Walker (ankle) and John Stones (muscle) are doubts and will be assessed on the day of the contest. Joao Cancelo has been ruled out of the contest due to suspension. Kevin De Bruyne and Nathan Ake played through pain at the weekend against Watford and should be available on Tuesday.
With Cancelo ruled out, Walker could be rushed back into the lineup for the game, as the England international slots in at right-back while Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte occupy the centre-back positions. Ake could start at left-back ahead of Oleksandr Zinchenko to offer more solidity in defence. Ederson Moraes is the undisputed starter in goal.
Rodri is a certainty at the base of the three-man midfielder for Manchester City, where he will be tasked with curtailing the influence of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. Kevin De Bruyne will assume the creative mantle for the Premier League leaders. The third midfield slot will be a toss-up between Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva, with the latter likely to get the nod due to his industry and work rate.
Gabriel Jesus enjoyed a stunning game against Watford over the weekend as he scored four goals. Despite his exploits, the Brazilian could drop out of the starting XI, with Riyad Mahrez taking his place on the right flank. Raheem Sterling is likely to continue out on the left side, with Phil Foden expected to replace Jack Grealish as the ‘false-nine’.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Ake; Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling
Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Mariano Diaz have been ruled out of the contest due to injuries and have not travelled to Manchester. David Alaba, Casemiro and Ferland Mendy have made the trip to England but remain doubts for the game and will be assessed on the morning of the clash to determine their availability.
Reports in Spain have claimed that Mendy and Alaba could be available for selection, but Casemiro could end up missing out. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have had a longer break coming into Tuesday’s clash, with their previous league encounter being played last Wednesday. So, the Real Madrid players will be slightly fresher than their opponents.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) April 25, 2022
Thibaut Courtois is a guaranteed starter between the sticks for Real Madrid and will be in for a busy night at the Etihad. Eder Militao and Alaba, if fit, should pair up in central defence. If the Austrian is not ready, Nacho Fernandez should get the nod at the heart of the Merengues’ defence. Dani Carvajal and Mendy ought to line up as the full-backs.
With Casemiro’s involvement a doubt, Federico Valverde could get the nod at the base of the three-man midfield unit, where he would be tasked with marking Kevin De Bruyne. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos should take up the remaining two slots in the middle of the park and provide the forward thrust and creativity.
Rodrygo Goes has been in good form and should start on the right flank. Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior are guaranteed starters in the remaining two attacking slots.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Modric, Valverde, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius
- This will be the seventh meeting between Manchester City and Real Madrid in European competitions. Each of the previous six have come in the UEFA Champions League since 2012/13. Both teams have won two games each out of the six (D2), with the Cityzens triumphing in the latest two matches in 2019/20.
- Real Madrid have not won any of their previous three trips to face Manchester City in European competitions (D2 L1).
- Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has eliminated Real Madrid from the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League on two previous occasions – once in the 2010/11 semi-finals with Barcelona and again in the 2019/20 Round of 16 with Manchester City.
- Carlo Ancelotti has won 74% of his games in charge of Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League (26/35), the best win percentage for any manager with at least 20 games for a single club in the competition.
- Raheem Sterling has netted 24 goals for Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League. If he scores again, he would overtake Paul Scholes (24) and trail only Wayne Rooney (30) for the most goals scored by an English player for an English team in the history of the competition.
Player to Watch
— Madrid Zone (@theMadridZone) April 25, 2022
Karim Benzema has scored 12 goals in nine appearances for Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League this season, including a hat-trick in his previous trip to England versus Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The 34-year-old’s form has been one of the main reasons for Los Blancos progressing this far in the competition while also inching closer to winning the La Liga title.
Benzema’s performances have made him an early contender for the Ballon d’Or, as acknowledged by Manchester City star Ilkay Gundogan. The French international could further enhance his chances of willing the golden orb by helping Real Madrid get one over the Premier League champions and take a step towards the Champions League final.
Manchester City 2-2 Real Madrid
Manchester City are a hard team to beat, but Liverpool showed the way for Real Madrid earlier this month when they held Pep Guardiola’s side to a draw in the Premier League before defeating them in the FA Cup semi-finals. The Cityzens have recovered from the defeat, racking up big wins against Brighton and Watford.
However, Carlo Ancelotti’s side will look to follow the blueprint laid out by Liverpool and certainly have the tools to hit their hosts right where it hurts. They have overseen two huge challenges from PSG and Chelsea in Europe already and given their pedigree in the competition, Real Madrid should be able to come away with a positive result from the Etihad, even if it is not an outright victory.