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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Manchester City

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Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The last time Manchester City stepped on the grasses at the Santiago Bernabeu, they did not enjoy the greatest of outings. The Premier League champions suffered and toiled for 90 minutes but were eventually eliminated from the UEFA Champions League after a stunning comeback from Los Blancos.

A lot has been said about the repeat of last season’s semifinal exactly a year later. As the European giants prepare to face each other’s wrath one more time, many pundits have gone on to choose Pep Guardiola’s side as the better team on paper. Yet, being the underdogs has always suited Los Blancos.

With the likes of Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, and Jack Grealish leading the English attack, tomorrow’s clash might be Real Madrid’s biggest test all season.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of the first leg of Real Madrid vs Manchester City.

1. Two almost unblemished squads

Both Manchester City and Real Madrid have had their fair share of scares earlier in the month with injury setbacks.

The Merengues risked missing the likes of Luka Modric and David Alaba on the night through fitness troubles. The former’s hamstring injury had him completely ruled out of the first leg while the Austrian was on the borderline with his return date too.

However, Both stars will be available at Santiago Bernabeu come Tuesday night. Alaba started in the Copa del Rey final and is expected to start once again midweek. Meanwhile, Modric was used more cautiously against Osasuna with this very clash in mind.

Three players, however, will be unavailable on the night for the Italian manager. Dani Ceballos is in the squad but will miss the clash through injury while Ferland Mendy and Eder Militao must sit out through injury and suspension, respectively. Needless to say, it is the latter’s absence that is more worrying.

Pep Guardiola, for what it’s worth, will also have a close-to-complete squad on the night. Kevin De Bruyne’s swift recovery from a minor setback brings him back into the thick of things and instantly elevates the quality of the English champions.

With two almost complete squads taking on each other in tomorrow’s game, there is no excuse for anything other than a cracking game of football.

2. 12 vs 11

The Santiago Bernabeu crowd will be roaring. (Photo by Flor Tan Jun/Getty Images)

After his team’s victory against Osasuna at Estadio de La Cartuja over the weekend, Carlo Ancelotti made an interesting statement in his post-match press conference pertaining to the UCL Semifinal clash.

“We will have an advantage vs City on Tuesday: our fans at the Bernabeu. We will play 12 vs 11. We will fight for the Champions League. We will do everything possible to play another final.”

There is more depth to Ancelotti’s words than there appears to be at first sight. After all, it was in front of the Bernabeu crowd last season that the men in white managed to complete the comeback over Manchester City.

This time around, the second leg will be played at the Etihad Stadium. The reversal of grounds implies a reversal of advantages when compared to last season and it is thus critical that Real Madrid capitalise on tomorrow’s game.

The importance of a lead heading into the second leg cannot be understated in a game of such high stakes.

Pep Guardiola’s team boast of one of Europe’s finest defences, and it is thus critical that they do not have a lead to defend heading into the second leg at home. After all, if such a situation arises where a draw would suffice for the Blues to progress, one would back their defence to do so.

3. The ghosts of last season

The ecstasy of putting three late goals past Manchester City to complete one of the UEFA Champions League’s best comebacks took the team to euphoria last season. After that win, few doubted the Merengues‘ chances against Liverpool in the final.

However, one must remember how dangerously close Real Madrid stared elimination in the eye just seconds before the 90-minute mark on the night. With a two-goal lead on aggregate, Manchester City were well-placed to qualify and only Rodrygo’s clutch goals turned the situation around.

In fact, Pep Guardiola’s side was the better team across the two legs last season. To come back with 15 minutes of brilliance is indeed Real Madrid’s greatness, but such luck may not work out this time.

If Manchester City was a beast last season, they have upgraded significantly in 2022-23. The signing of Erling Haaland has taken the Premier League champions to the next level.

If the Blues could put five goals past Los Blancos without the world’s most lethal striker, there is no end to what they can do with Haaland on the field. Real Madrid can not afford to ride on the success of last season and hope for a miracle. This time, it is only they who can rescue themselves.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Aloyinlapa Abdur-Rahman

    May 9, 2023 at 9:03 am

    A very big stake between a Champions league veteran Club and the other in the form of its life. On paper and latest form, one might not hesitate to give it expressly to Man City as they are arguably the best team world over at the moment. Madrid being a team that easily prove her doubters wrong makes one to apply a clutch slowly. All the same, I’ll still give it to Man City if they can sustain Madrids resilience. To Madrid, it’s not over until it’s over. It’s a match neutrals stand to enjoy.

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Features

Five players who will be fixed starters for Real Madrid next season

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Following a successful campaign, Real Madrid are poised for significant changes in their roster due to a combination of player arrivals and departures.

The responsibility of blending new faces with established stars will fall to coach Carlo Ancelotti and his staff as they aim to maintain the club’s competitive edge domestically and in Europe.

And to predict the team’s probable strategy and performance amidst these changes, it is imperative to identify the key players who will be constant starters.

Kylian Mbappe

The new talisman. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

With Real Madrid no longer viewing Mbappe through rose-tinted lenses and finally being able to dress him in the royal white jersey, the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Owing to his instinctive nature to find the back of the net, he is poised to be paired alongside Vinicius Jr. in attack.

Last season, the 2018 World Cup winner scored a whopping 44 goals in all competitions. Thus Real Madrid will be banking heavily on Mbappe’s ability to ask questions of opposition defenders in the final third.

It is being said that Mbappe is all set to wear the iconic number 9 jersey at Real Madrid, which is indicative of the role he will play, as a focal striker.

Vinicius Jr.

The main man at Real Madrid. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Brazilian is in pole position to win the Ballon d’Or this year, and looking back on his season with Real Madrid, it is easy to see why.

Despite losing Karim Benzema, his usual partner in crime over the past few years, Vinicius performed remarkably well in Ancelotti’s new system.

Relentlessly taking on defenders, arriving into space, scoring goals, and stepping up in the biggest of moments, he was one of Real Madrid’s major lynchpins throughout the season as they lifted a historic double.

Vinicius impressively racked up 24 goals last season, and given his importance to the team, the likelihood of him not maintaining a starting role next season is nearly nonexistent.

Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid Fans’ Player of the Season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Defying all expectations in his debut season, Jude Bellingham established himself as a key player for Real Madrid, demonstrating exceptional versatility, and maturity far beyond his years.

Although the Englishman’s performances wavered in the final stretch of the season, Bellingham’s contributions ensured Los Blancos were able to compete in the Champions League and especially La Liga.

In addition to scoring 23 goals in all competitions, he has constantly been a beacon of reliability in midfield and has proven to be the voice of reason on the pitch.

There have been murmurs about Bellingham potentially being berthed deeper next season as Real Madrid intends to use him as Kroos’ replacement. However, given his versatility, he is expected to be a crucial player wherever he plays.

Antonio Rudiger

A mainstay at the back. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Rudiger is one of the major reasons Real Madrid managed to successfully disguise their injury crisis. Despite players falling like dominos in the back-line, the German stood resolutely as a dependable figure for most of the campaign, arguably enjoying one of his best seasons.

Expertly anticipating opposition strikers’ movements, he leaps forward to thwart attacks before they begin. Moreover, thanks to his large stature and incredible recovery pace, he is able to cover distances behind.

Reports have mentioned that Carlo Ancelotti views him as a crucial component of the squad and potential arrivals, such as those of Leny Yoro and Rafa Marin, in the back-line are unlikely to devalue his presence.

Thibaut Courtois

Back like he was never gone. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In spite of spending more than half of the campaign on the sidelines recovering from an ACL and MCL injury, Courtois is worth his weight in gold for Real Madrid.

He performed admirably in the final few games of the season and did no wrong against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final.

While Andriy Lunin made up for his absence with flying colours, he is placed below Courtois in the pecking order for now, which also has made the Ukrainian lean towards an exit.

The fact that Lunin, after his sublime season, stands no chance of dethroning Courtois between the sticks is a testament to how much the club appreciates the Belgian. Even at the age of 32, the Belgian keeper is anticipated to retain an important role in the team.

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