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Manchester City and Real Madrid shared seven goals in a superb Champions League semi-final first leg last week. Pep Guardiola’s side stormed into a 2-0 lead inside 11 minutes and threatened to blow the 13-time European champions away. Yet City spurned a couple of presentable openings essentially put the match to bed early on, and Madrid duly fought their way back into the contest. City were the better team throughout, but los Blancos dug deep to stay in the game and some fine moments of individual quality – chiefly from Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior – ensured their defeat was only by a narrow margin.
City’s 4-3 triumph means there is everything still to play for in the second leg. The abolition of the away goals rule means that extra time is a distinct possibility in a way that it would not be if that rule change had not come into effect at the start of the season. Yet the bottom line is that Madrid need to win the second leg to have a chance of reaching the final. For City, avoiding defeat would be enough.
That gives the Premier League side an advantage. Yet sometimes the clarity of needing to win is beneficial. Madrid know exactly what they must do on Wednesday. City, conversely, could find themselves in two minds. If the score is 1-1 on the night with 20 minutes left to play, do they hold what they have or attempt to kill the tie by scoring a second?
Guardiola is not the type of manager who will encourage his team to sit on a lead, so we can expect City to try and win the match – at least in the early stages. They will take heart from the number of chances they were able to create against Madrid last week, but they will also be aware that players like Benzema, Vinicius and Luka Modric are some of the best in their positions in Europe. This is not an easy one to call.
These two teams are in very different positions in their domestic leagues, and it will be interesting to see whether that has any effect on Wednesday’s encounter. Real Madrid wrapped up the La Liga title at the weekend, as Carlo Ancelotti became the first manager in soccer history to win the league in Spain, England (with Chelsea), Italy (with AC Milan), Germany (with Bayern Munich) and France (with Paris Saint-Germain).
Madrid are more than 12 points clear at the summit of the standings with four rounds of fixtures left to play. City, for their part, have a much more slender one-point buffer over Liverpool in the race for the Premier League title. Both teams won at the weekend, with Guardiola’s side thrashing Leeds 4-0 and Liverpool running out 1-0 winners against an in-form Newcastle.
On the one hand, it could be said that Madrid’s domestic situation is favorable. They will now be able to focus their efforts exclusively on the Champions League, since the La Liga trophy is already safely in the cabinet at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
On the other hand, some would argue that City are in a better position. Their key players will retain their match sharpness from week to week since Guardiola is unlikely to rest them, and the extension of their current four-game winning run would only boost the confidence levels within the squad.
Manchester City and Real Madrid are two top teams who tend to inflict defeat on their opponents in different ways. City beat you on flow. Madrid beat you on moments. This contrast was on display in the first leg at the Etihad Stadium and is likely to be apparent at the Estradio Santiago Bernabeu in the return fixture.
Despite being the away team, City will probably have more of the ball. They will mostly be proactive while Madrid are more reactive. Both approaches are valid and both can bring success. It remains to be seen which will emerge triumphant on Wednesday.
Taking everything into account, it is worth backing City to come out on top. All things considered, they are the stronger side. Madrid were a little fortunate to get past PSG and Chelsea in previous rounds. They are not capable of dominating opponents in the way City do on a regular basis. Carlo Ancelotti will be relying heavily on Benzema to deliver the goods again.
That approach has paid off on numerous occasions already this term, but City might prove too strong here. Go for an away win in this one.
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|Real Madrid vs Manchester City Information|
|Teams||Real Madrid vs Manchester City|
|Location||Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain|
|Time||Wednesday, 4 May 2022, 3.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||CBS|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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