Manchester City vs Real Madrid Preview

After displaying moments of sheer brilliance at the Santiago Bernabeu, Manchester City, and Real Madrid are preparing to face off once again at the Etihad Stadium for the highly anticipated second leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday night.

Following a 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital, both teams are well aware that only one of them can potentially emerge as the champions of Europe and the league at the end of the 2022-23 season.

Vinicius Junior set an impressive standard in the previous match, but Kevin De Bruyne took it to another level during the clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last Tuesday. In a quintessential Champions League display, Los Blancos, under the guidance of Carlo Ancelotti, managed to undo the earlier hard work of the Citizens through a magnificent strike from Vinicius.

While Manchester City seemed to be the more likely team to make the net ripple, Real Madrid drew first blood. However, just as Ancelotti’s men appeared destined to extend their lead, De Bruyne unleashed a sizzling strike, displaying outrageous technique as he expertly found the bottom corner of the net. This ensured that Pep Guardiola’s side would return to their headquarters with a draw, avoiding a defeat at the Bernabeu.

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Now, as treble chasers, Manchester City enters the second leg as clear favorites, having navigated a potential stumbling block in the form of Everton in the Premier League with ease over the weekend. With two goals and an assist from the in-form Ilkay Gundogan, Manchester City finds themselves on the brink of securing the Premier League title. If they can overcome a lackluster Chelsea side in their next match, the title will be theirs. However, Guardiola’s men cannot afford to be preoccupied with thoughts of domestic glory as they aim to upset the established order in Europe.

Heading into the second leg with an impressive 22-game unbeaten run to protect, Manchester City has managed an incredible 15-match winning streak at the Etihad Stadium across all competitions. Moreover, they have scored at least twice in 14 of those contests. It has been since September 2018 that they last tasted defeat in a Champions League match on their home turf.

Nevertheless, Real Madrid, with their illustrious history of 14 top-tier European titles, pays little heed to streaks and statistics. They are motivated to put another blemish on Manchester City’s continental record, especially after losing out on the La Liga title to Barcelona. Although Real Madrid has already secured the Copa del Rey, the retention of their European honor remains at the forefront of their manager’s priorities as they face a relatively inconsequential few weeks domestically.

Real Madrid managed to halt their five-game streak without a clean sheet by keeping Getafe at bay. Despite losing their last two away fixtures in La Liga against Girona and Real Sociedad, they have already demonstrated their mettle by defeating Liverpool and Chelsea on their opponents’ home grounds in the 2022-23 Champions League campaign.

Manchester City must be cautious not to repeat last season’s 4-3 Etihad spectacle, lest they find themselves in an unfavorable position alongside their Big Six rivals. Furthermore, Real Madrid has never emerged victorious at the Etihad Stadium in their previous four attempts. The victors of this tantalizing clash of the titans will earn a coveted spot in the final in Istanbul, where they will face either Inter Milan or AC Milan.

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In terms of team news, Manchester City’s medical team is currently solely focused on Nathan Ake, who has missed their last two matches due to a hamstring injury sustained against Leeds United earlier this month. Although Ake is reported to be feeling “much better,” he has not been included in the squad for the second leg. With no other fitness concerns, the hosts are expected to field a familiar lineup after making several changes for their previous match against Everton.

The well-rested De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva, and John Stones are all ready to be recalled to the starting lineup. Grealish, in particular, will be eager to resume his competitive battle with Real right-back Dani Carvajal, which saw some heated exchanges in the first leg.

Similarly, Real Madrid has only one injury concern to consider for the second leg, which is also on the left side of their defensive line. Eduardo Camavinga suffered a minor injury and was substituted in the closing stages of their victory over Getafe. However, Ancelotti quickly reassured that it is not a serious injury, and Camavinga should be fit to play at the Etihad. Additionally, David Alaba, Karim Benzema, and Rodrygo, who were absent from their recent league encounter, are also expected to be available.

Real Madrid has received a triple defensive boost, with Eder Militao and Carvajal returning from Champions League and La Liga suspensions, respectively. Furthermore, Ferland Mendy, who has been dealing with a calf issue, played 45 minutes in their previous game.

Reports from the Spanish media suggest that with Militao’s return, Ancelotti may opt for a tactical shake-up, potentially sacrificing Rodrygo and deploying Camavinga in a more familiar midfield role.

Based on the current situation, the possible starting lineups for the two teams are as follows:

Manchester City

Ederson; Walker, Dias, Akanji; Stones, Rodri; Silva, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Grealish; Haaland

Real Madrid

Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Alaba; Kroos, Camavinga, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr