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Three decisions Carlo Ancelotti needs to make before facing Manchester City

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Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Real Madrid haven’t had the best of luck facing Manchester City in their previous encounters. Out of the ten matches they have played, Madrid emerged victorious in three, while Manchester City triumphed in four. The remaining three matches concluded in draws.

What is notable is that Manchester City, a dominant force in the Premier League, secured victories in two of their last four UEFA Champions League meetings against Real Madrid. 

On those occasions, City impressively netted four goals each time they won. This stark statistic underscores City’s prowess against the Spanish giants and now, for the third consecutive year, these football powerhouses find themselves pitted against each other in the Champions League.

Considering Madrid’s historical struggles against their English counterpart, it is evident that Carlo Ancelotti might need to implement some tactical adjustments to improve their chances.

As we analyze potential changes, it becomes clear that Real Madrid face a significant challenge in overcoming Manchester City. The team will likely need to adapt their strategy and approach if they hope to reverse their fortunes against the English side.

The question: Militao or no Militao

Eder Militao is getting closer to being fully fit and his recent participation in an internal practice match is a positive sign for the team.

However, being fit enough to be considered for selection is one thing, and reaching the level of fitness needed to perform in a competitive match is another challenge.

Militao, who got injured last August, will require more than just motivation to make his comeback after almost nine months out.

Eder Militao hasn’t played a competitive game since August. (Photo by ARIC BECKER/AFP via Getty Images)

Currently, Real Madrid have been managing with makeshift centre-backs, including Aurelien Tchouameni and even Dani Carvajal, alongside Antonio Rudiger.

Then there’s Nacho, who might struggle against Manchester City’s tactical prowess.

The question arises: is Militao ready to play? While he may be physically fit, he still needs time to readjust to the demands of competitive football.

Putting him against a tactically adept Manchester City side would be a risky move.

Although there’s a risk involved with Nacho as well, playing Militao could be an even bigger gamble, especially considering Thibaut Courtois’ recent relapse.

How to stop De Bruyne?

It is no secret that Kevin De Bruyne is the driving force behind Manchester City’s offensive. The Belgian international has proven to be a thorn for Real Madrid, tallying three goals and four assists in the eight matches he’s played against them.

In his latest encounters with Real Madrid, De Bruyne has had a hand in three goals, scoring one himself and providing two assists. 

De Bruyne’s central role in Manchester City’s lineup presents a formidable challenge for Real Madrid and Ancelotti faces the daunting task of devising a strategy to neutralize his threat. A key aspect of this plan involves selecting the right defensive midfielder.

Should Ancelotti opt to pair Tchouameni with Rudiger, a combination he might not favour but one his manager prefers, the logical choice to counter De Bruyne would be Eduardo Camavinga. 

Kevin de Bruyne has been a menace for Real Madrid. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The young Frenchman has demonstrated his ability to perform against City in the past and has featured in Madrid’s starting lineup in their last four matches, albeit primarily in a different role.

To contain De Bruyne effectively, constant pressure must be applied, and Camavinga has shown in previous performances that he’s capable of sticking to his opponent like glue. Once this threat is minimized, Man City can be neutralized to a great extent. 

Playing with a lone striker or two?

Ancelotti has been experimenting with different formations this season to make the most of the players he has. When Jude Bellingham is in the lineup, he tends to favour a formation with two forwards, allowing Bellingham to excel in his role.

However, in Bellingham’s absence, Ancelotti has sometimes opted for a five-midfielder setup to gain better control of the game.

Even then, facing Manchester City poses a significant challenge, since City are renowned for dominating possession, a trend evident in their recent encounters with Real Madrid.

Even In their recent match against Copenhagen, City had over 70% possession, only conceding due to an errant pass from Ederson.

To counter City’s threat, Real Madrid need to focus on controlling their own half, likely requiring a midfield-heavy lineup. Yet, this risks leaving them vulnerable in attack.

It’s worth noting that City have an impressive record in Champions League knockout ties, having lost only one in nearly five years, with Real Madrid needing a miraculous comeback in their last encounter in 2022.

Ancelotti may consider an aggressive approach, similar to their previous comeback attempt. This time, deploying Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo, and Bellingham in midfield could provide the attacking impetus Madrid need while maintaining control.

In essence, Ancelotti faces a tactical dilemma against Manchester City, balancing defensive solidity with attacking prowess to overcome their formidable opponents.

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MU Shorts

Best starting XI from the Champions League quarter-finals, four Real Madrid players included

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Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals were thrilling this season. Real Madrid showcased their dominance with an impressive victory over Manchester City, proving their status as a top contender in this competition. 

Bayern Munich’s experienced team taught Arsenal a tough lesson in play, while PSG observed Barcelona’s collapse in their own backyard. 

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund battled hard against Atletico Madrid to secure their spot in the next round. 

Now that we have our final four teams, it is time to take a look at the best XI that featured during the final eight.

Goalkeeper – Andriy Lunin

While Manchester City were better on paper, they could not do much to breach Real Madrid keeper Andriy Lunin. The Ukrainian made clutch saves and even denied Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic during the all-important shootout.

Andriy Lunin saved two penalties against Manchester City. (Photo by DARREN STAPLES/AFP via Getty Images)

Right-back – Joshua Kimmich

The Bayern Munich right-back was key to their success against Arsenal, especially in the second leg where his goal decided the fate of the teams. Overall, he locked down Arsenal’s left flank with relative ease and his move back to defence proved to be a masterstroke.

Centre-backs – Eric Dier and Antonio Rudiger

The 30-year-old Bayern Munich defender won four tackles, three interceptions and two aerial duals against Arsenal in the second leg alone, which warrants him a place in this setup.

Secondly, Antonio Rudiger was simply unplayable for a certain Erling Haaland across both legs. Although a substandard clearance allowed Man City to equalize in the second leg, his overall performance was excellent.

Left-back – Josko Gvardiol

Gvardiol made a notable impact in the first leg against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, scoring his first goal for Manchester City in style. Between the two legs, he had five tackles, four interceptions, three clearances, and three key passes to his name.

Right midfielder – Federico Valverde

Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde never missed an ounce of energy across the two legs. After having scored the equalizing goal in the first leg, his tireless strides at the Etihad were key to Madrid’s qualification.

Federico Valverde was key to Real Madrid’s success. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Defensive midfielder – Rodri

The Man City midfielder won five tackles between the two legs against Manchester City and was arguably their best player on the field across the two matches.

Left midfielder – Vitinha

Vitinha’s performance in the matches against Barcelona over the last two weeks has impressed many observers. The 24-year-old scored in both games and had a strong impact on the field with five shots, five key passes, and two successful dribbles.

Right winger – Ousmane Dembele

Before facing Barcelona last week, Ousmane Dembele had only scored one goal for his new club.

However, in the two games against his former team, he scored a goal in each match. Additionally, he made a significant impact with four key passes and five successful dribbles.

Centre-forward – Rodrygo

The Real Madrid frontman has always been Manchester City’s doom and even this season, he scored two goals across both legs, deserving a place in this XI.

Rodrygo scored in both games vs Man City. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Left winger – Raphinha

Raphinha put in a strong performance in both matches against PSG, trying to lead his team to the semi-finals.

Although his efforts were admirable, they weren’t enough to secure victory. In the first leg at the Parc des Princes, he scored twice. In the return match in Spain, he opened the scoring. 

Over the course of both games, Raphinha took eight shots, made four key passes, and completed three successful dribbles.

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