Man City v Real Madrid - Champions League: Big Game Preview

25 April 2022 23:31:20 GMTPlus10
Pep Guardiola's City welcome Real to the Etihad

Manchester City will welcome Real Madrid to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie.

Winning the continent's premier club competition for the first time remains the holy grail for City, but they will have their work cut out against record 13-time champions Real.

Pep Guardiola's side did of course reach the final last year before being beaten by Chelsea, and they are priced at 9/20 to secure a first-leg advantage on Tuesday, while Real are 11/2 and the draw is 15/4.

Will past failings continue to haunt City?

This is the ninth season in a row City have made it through to the knockout stages of the Champions League, but they are still yet to win the competition.

The scars of last year's final defeat to Chelsea will still be there for many of the squad, but they did at least make it through to the showpiece match for the very first time.

A return to the final is now the aim for Guardiola and co, although this is not the first time they have been pitted against Real at the semi-final stage, as they also locked horns in 2016.

It was Manuel Pellegrini's City back then, and although they only lost 1-0 on aggregate, they were outclassed by a superior and more experienced opponent -  Los Blancos went on to beat Atletico Madrid in the final that year.

City have since taken on and beaten Real in the Champions League, knocking them out at the round of 16 stage in 2020, but they went on to surprisingly lose to Lyon in the quarter finals.

Tottenham and Monaco are among the other sides that have eliminated City over recent years, and although there would be no disgrace in being knocked out by Real at the semi-final stage, it would still have to go down as another missed opportunity.

Guardiola's men can be backed at 2/9 to reach the final this year, while Los Blancos are available at 3/1.

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Prestigious season on the cards for both

City and Real are not only going for glory in Europe during the final weeks of the season, but they are also both pursuing domestic league success.

The Citizens are engulfed in a battle with Liverpool for the Premier League title and they currently hold a one-point advantage heading into the final five fixtures of the league season.

The Sky Blues can be backed at 1/7 to be crowned English champions for the fourth time in five years, while they are 6/5 to go on and win the Champions League.

Real's pursuit of a record 35th La Liga title appears a lot more straightforward, as they only need to pick up a solitary point from their final five games to be crowned champions.

Carlo Ancelotti's side face a sterner battle if they are to land a 14th European title, as they are 6/4 to finish the season as champions of Europe.

Unlike City, who can only end the season with a maximum of two trophies, Real could be celebrating a treble come the end of the campaign, as they also lifted the Supercopa de Espana back in January.

Jesus hands City welcome conundrum

Guardiola made six changes for Saturday's routine Premier League victory over Watford at the Etihad Stadium, with the likes of Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez, who were on the bench for that 5-1 success, expected to return to the starting XI on Tuesday.

However, Guardiola has been handed a welcome selection headache for the visit of Real, as forward Gabriel Jesus staked his claim for a starting role by firing in four goals against the Hornets.

Whether or not that is enough to see Jesus retain his place in the line up remains to be seen, but the Brazil international can be backed at 11/8 to score anytime.

While City have a glut of options in the final third to choose from, things are looking less fruitful at the back, with Joao Cancelo suspended for the contest and Kyle Walker, John Stones and Nathan Ake rated as fitness doubts.

Kevin De Bruyne is also still playing through the pain barrier following a recent ankle injury.

Real include injured pair

Real also have fitness concerns heading into Tuesday's contest, with defender David Alaba struggling with the thigh injury that forced him off during the 3-1 La Liga victory over Osasuna last midweek.

The Austria international could only partake in limited training sessions over the weekend, as could experienced midfielder Casemiro, although both players have been included in Ancelotti's travelling party for the trip to Manchester.

Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Mariano Diaz have not travelled with the squad, but defender Eder Militao is back from the ban that saw him miss the second leg of Real's quarter-final tie with Chelsea.

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