Can Pep get the better of Carlo? – 5 talking points ahead of City’s semi-final
Manchester City and Real Madrid meet again on Wednesday in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some talking points ahead of the decisive encounter at the Etihad Stadium.
The tie is evenly poised after last week’s 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu. City proved they can dominate in terms of possession but Real were sharp on the counter. Home advantage favours City but Real’s pedigree and history, with 14 European titles to their name, often comes to the fore. These aspects could cancel each other out, leaving neither side with a distinct edge over the other. The outcome is in the balance and could go either way.
Potent attacking forces
Both sides will need to be wary of each other’s attacking weapons. For City the partnership between the prolific Erling Haaland and the irrepressible Kevin De Bruyne is key. When the pair are in tune – and they often are – few can handle them. With the likes of Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva adding to the supply lines, there is little opportunity to switch off when playing them. Yet Real boast a fearsome front line themselves in Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema and the exciting young Brazilian talents of Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior.
For the start of the game at least, City would appear to have little reason to deviate from the approach which served them well last week. They played patiently and the chances eventually came. With the talent they have on the field, they should be confident enough to take their opportunities. Yet there were options on the bench last week which could make a difference if Real continue to frustrate. Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez have all shone at different times this season and could give the hosts extra thrust. Real may also stick to the same tactic of soaking up pressure and looking to counter quickly. They even have Eder Militao back from suspension to bolster the rearguard.
City have played down the revenge aspect of the encounter, but last year’s loss to Real at the same stage did hurt, and they would undoubtedly love to get them back. However, this time the second leg is at home, where they have already proved they can overcome the Spanish giants. They beat them 4-3 in the semi-final first leg last year and 2-1 in the 2020 quarter-finals.
The game will be settled on the pitch but there is no doubting that the managers are big factors in the occasion. Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti are two of the most experienced and successful in the game. Guardiola won the Champions League twice with Barcelona but has continually fallen short with City – the 2021 final being the closest he has come – with suggestions he has often ‘overthought’ things tactically after surprise losses to the likes of Monaco, Tottenham and Lyon. Ancelotti has won the competition four times, twice each with AC Milan and Real Madrid.