Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Toni Kroos
Heading into the second-leg of their quarter-final tie against Chelsea with a 3-1 lead, Real Madrid were overwhelming favorites to progress. But the Blues came to the Santiago Bernabeu and took the game to Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
They put three in the back of Real Madrid’s net to earn a 4-3 lead on aggregate with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
However, Real Madrid managed to claw their way back into the game thanks to a Rodrygo Goes strike at the end of a magical Luka Modric ball. Karim Benzema then scored the winner for Real Madrid in extra-time to help his side progress to the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Manchester City saw off a tricky and resolute Atletico Madrid side in the quarter-finals. A Kevin De Bruyne strike in the first leg proved to be the difference between the two sides. But they’ll be up for an even bigger test against Atletico Madrid’s cross-city rivals.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at five reasons why Manchester City will win against Real Madrid tonight.
#5 Real Madrid’s injury problems
RCD Espanyol v Real Madrid CF – La Liga Santander
No team would want to go into the semi-finals of the Champions League without their first-choice centre-back and first-choice defensive midfielder. In his pre-match press conference, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti admitted (via Goal) that both David Alaba and Casemiro are doubts for this one.
“From what we saw yesterday in training, we have some doubts about Alaba and some more doubts about Casemiro.”
If that’s the case, then Eder Militao will be partnered with Nacho at the back while Federico Valverde will start alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in midfield. Without a midfield destroyer like Casemiro, Manchester City are going to be really hard to contain.
Ancelotti knows that this is possibly the worst situation to not have as experienced a player as David Alaba patrolling the defensive third. If neither Alaba nor Casemiro are available, Real Madrid will find it hard to cope against Manchester City’s talented midfield and frontline.
#4 Manchester City’s depth in midfield and attack
Manchester City v Club Brugge KV: Group A – UEFA Champions League
Real Madrid are the better-rested of the two teams. They played their last game on Wednesday against Osasuna, which they won 3-1. Meanwhile, Manchester City were in action against Watford as recently as Saturday. Pep Guardiola’s side dismantled Watford, beating them 5-1.
Gabriel Jesus scored four goals and provided an assist as City ran riot at the Etihad against the Hornets. However, it is quite possible that Jesus will give way to Riyad Mahrez when Real Madrid come visiting tonight. Manchester City have enviable depth in midfield and in attack.
Rodri will start at the base of midfield. Guardiola has a selection of world-class talent to choose from to put ahead of the Spaniard. Kevin De Bruyne is most likely to start while Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan will battle for a third starting berth in midfield.
Manchester City also have the likes of Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus to pick three attackers from. All five of these players can win matches single-handedly.
As such, it doesn’t really matter if Real Madrid are better rested since City can switch things up quite effectively.
#3 Real Madrid’s poor record at the Etihad
Manchester City v Real Madrid – UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Real Madrid and Manchester City have met six times in the past. Both teams have won two games each while two have ended in a draw. Real Madrid have been to the Etihad thrice but have lost two and have managed to draw one.
The last time Real Madrid took a trip to the Etihad was in the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie in the 2019-20 season. Manchester City won the game 2-1 and the tie 4-2 on aggregate to knock Real Madrid out of the competition.
Real Madrid don’t have happy memories associated with the Etihad and it is likely to stay that way after tonight.
#2 Pep Guardiola has knocked Real Madrid out twice in the Champions League
Peterborough United v Manchester City: The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round
Pep Guardiola has showcased his tactical nous in Europe’s elite competition multiple times in the recent past. He took his side to the finals last season and could very well repeat the feat this season as well.
Guardiola has knocked Real Madrid out of the Champions League twice before. His Manchester City side won both legs as they beat Real Madrid in the Round of 16 in the 2019-20 season.
Guardiola’s Barcelona beat Real Madrid 3-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals of the 2010-11 Champions League as well. The Spanish coach has proven that he knows how to set up his teams for crunch encounters like this one and Tuesday will be another opportunity for him to prove himself.
#1 Real Madrid are over-reliant on Karim Benzema
Real Madrid v Chelsea FC Quarter Final Leg Two – UEFA Champions League
Real Madrid needed a stunning 17-minute hat-trick from Karim Benzema to get past Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16. The Frenchman, who is in the form of his life, scored yet another hat-trick in the first leg of their quarter-final tie against Chelsea.
If that wasn’t enough, he also scored the winning goal for Real Madrid in the second leg against the Blues. Benzema followed that up by scoring a stoppage-time winner as Real Madrid beat Sevilla 3-2 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium a few days later.
Whenever Benzema has not been able to play this season, Real Madrid have looked bereft of ideas in the final third. As such, if Manchester City can find a way to nullify Benzema’s threat, as difficult a task as it is, they will have blunted Real Madrid’s attack.