In less than 24 hours, one of Real Madrid and Manchester City will feel the confetti rolling over their shoulders. Indeed, the clash between the two European sides is only a semifinal, but the sheer quality of football in the tie has been nothing less than a grand finale.
The winner on Wednesday night will be the undisputed favourite to take home the UEFA Champions League. In either case, a special storyline awaits – an incredible title defence for Real Madrid or a special first for the Blues.
Manchester City may have the home advantage on the night, but Real Madrid are the perennial favourite in the UCL for their sheer determination and ability to turn up when required. The game at Etihad will be the biggest fixture in club football this season, and the hype is justified.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Manchester City vs Real Madrid.
1. A clash of champions
The ninety minutes of football that graced the Santiago Bernabeu last week had every supporter on the edge of their seat. The prospect of Europe’s two best teams taking on each other had generated great expectations and it is safe to say that it did not disappoint.
The game may not have had goals aplenty, but that was not for a dearth of trying. Very little separated the two teams on the night and the low-scoring encounter was the result of an equally weighted attack and defence balancing each other out on both halves of the field.
The two European giants now take each other on for the second time in two weeks. Once again, they begin with parity on the scoreline but do not have the luxury of a cushion to fall back on this time around.
Nothing less than a win will suffice for Carlo Ancelotti’s men heading into the away leg of a difficult tie. The final promises a relatively easier outing and a win tomorrow could go a long way in assuring the Merengues of a title defence.
All eyes will thus be on Ancelotti tomorrow as to what strategy he brings to the Etihad. Going by Manchester City’s style of play, however, one could expect a more defensive and cautious approach with the hope of striking gold on the counter.
2. The Militao muddle
When Eder Militao was ruled out of the first leg against the Premier League champions, many gave Manchester City the edge over Real Madrid. After all, such has been the influence of the Brazilian international on Real Madrid’s defence from both a consistency and leadership point of view.
Ancelotti thus opted to start his next-best duo of Antonio Rudiger and David Alaba on the night. In the ninety minutes that followed, the German-Austrian combination belittled the visitors’ attack with precise tackles and wonderful reading of the game.
Now, Ancelotti faces a dilemma. Militao’s availability would normally place him as one of the first names on the team sheet. Yet, to change a tried and tested formula might prove suicidal in a game of such tight margins.
Moreover, Militao’s form in recent games has been far from convincing. One is specifically reminded of the Brazilian’s gift to Real Sociedad in La Liga not so long ago and the 4-2 thrashing to Girona.
There have been talks of starting all three defenders to build a wall around Erling Haaland but it appears that such a drastic change will not be made at a critical stage in the competition. Needless to say, a lot rides on Ancelotti’s selection of the centre-back department on Wednesday night.
3. Ancelotti’s trump card
One of Real Madrid’s most improved players under Ancelotti has been Eduardo Camavinga. The Frenchman has seen a steep bullish period for his stocks this season and has been rapidly progressing from strength to strength.
The left-back situation, however, has tied him down to a position he would not normally play at. Given the team’s acute shortage of options, Camavinga has been forced to operate on the left of defence repeatedly this season and has thus seen his productivity decrease.
The youngster has now become an experienced campaigner at left-back. His special display in the first leg is a testament to the same, given that he effectively controlled Bernardo Silva down his flank and weakened the English team’s attack.
On Wednesday, the Frenchman could finally feature in the middle of the park for Los Blancos. Ferland Mendy’s return from injury frees him from the unconventional position, and Camavinga could thus be Ancelotti’s trump card.
The youngster is expected to start alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in midfield and will be a key pillar in progressing the ball forward on the break. Further, his work rate off the ball will give Real Madrid a big advantage in the midfield battle.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Granada | La Liga
Napoli fought tooth and nail for all three points against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this week. They took the early lead in the first half, then fought back to find an equaliser after Real Madrid put two past them.
In the end, however, they were outdone by the hosts’ resilience and never-say-die attitude. The result thus registered Real Madrid’s fourth win on the trot and twelfth game without a defeat.
The men in white must now look ahead to their next La Liga game scheduled to kick off in just over 24 hours. Faced against Granada in a critical matchday, the aim will be to take all three points and thus maintain a healthy position in the standings.
Ancelotti announced some key recoveries in his pre-match press conference and also confirmed that Jude Bellingham would be fit to participate on the evening. Yet, he is concurrently in a difficult moment in terms of squad fitness.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Granada vs Real Madrid.
A clash of two poles
While Ancelotti’s Real Madrid sit lavishly on the top of La Liga’s standings, their opponents for Saturday afternoon have quite a contrasting fate. Granada sit on the other end of the league table and find themselves in a desolate situation 14 match days into the season.
Granada are currently 19th in La Liga with just one win in 14 games, and have changed managers, with Alexander Medina replacing Paco Lopez. They have lost a staggering nine games and walked away with one point on four occasions.
Granada have only scored 19 goals all season while conceding on 33 occasions. Comparing the numbers to Real Madrid’s 31 goals scored and nine goals conceded speaks volumes about the form of both teams heading into tomorrow’s clash.
The visitors’ last win in La Liga came back in August, and it is safe to say that a victory vs Real Madrid will do them a world of good. They will be the underdogs at the Bernabeu, but nothing is impossible considering that they drew with Barcelona not so long ago.
Saturday’s clash will thus be interesting, to say the least. With the injury-inflicted league leaders taking on a relegation-threatened side, the script cannot be predicted.
The rising phenomenon
Real Madrid’s injury crisis has not been easy on the manager. Ancelotti has been forced to rework his dynamics time and time again with a new player falling prey to the endless pit in every game.
The Italian is now in a situation where he has only four players left in the middle of the park. Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, Jude Bellingham, and Dani Ceballos all started Real Madrid’s last game but it was young Nico Paz who stole the headlines.
The youngster has risen to prominence in Los Blancos’ latest injury emergency and his prominence has only increased over the past weeks. In the team’s latest outing against Napoli, he was on the field for close to half an hour and scored a crucial goal in the 84th minute.
With a tight schedule ahead and limited resources at his disposal, Ancelotti must look to rotate his men in midfield. Paz, on that front, is the Italian gaffer’s best choice and must look to make the most of his minutes tomorrow.
The golden chance
The biggest talking point from La Liga so far has been Girona’s stunning run at the beginning of the season. The Catalan side surprised everyone with win after win and stole the headlines by retaining the sole lead in the league until match day 13.
After six straight wins, Athletic Club broke Girona’s streak last weekend with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Estadi Montilivi. Having dropped two points, they are now level with Real Madrid in the standings with 35 points in 14 games.
It will thus be Ancelotti’s objective to take all three points against Granada and make a strong push towards taking the lead over Girona. After all, the co-leaders face a difficult opponent in Valencia and could well drop points.
Moreover, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are set to face off later this weekend. One, or both of the Spanish giants will drop points on the night, thus giving Real Madrid further impetus to gun for all three points tomorrow.
Considering the team’s good run of form in recent games, the dressing room will be confident about securing the much-needed result.