The Sky Blues have gone further in the Champions League than they have ever gone in their entire history. Prior to this season, Manchester City had never made it beyond the first knockout rounds. This time around, Manuel Pellegrini’s men finished top of their group – a quartet named the “Group of Death” as it also included Sevilla, Juventus, and Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Thanks to edging out 2015 finalists Juventus, City avoided the team that had thwarted them twice before: Barcelona. Dynamo Kiev presented a much easier opponent, and once that was done, PSG were next. It was not easy, but Manchester City scored two vital road goals at the Parc des Princes to give themselves a vital advantage, and all it took was a goal from Kevin De Bruyne to confirm their spot in the final four.
Real Madrid, naturally, will present a much tougher test than Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his Les Parisiens colleagues. For starters, there is, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been in excellent form this season, and has scored a whopping 16 Champions League goals so far. To illustrate how impressive this is, City as a whole team have netted 18.
In addition, Keylor Navas has been a big reason why Real Madrid have yet to concede a European goal at home all season. That’s right. No one has scored against Zinedine Zidane’s troops on their home turf in the Champions League. Sure, Real Madrid have had a pretty easy path so far. Roma and Wolfsburg, whilst being solid sides, are nowhere near the levels of Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, PSG, Manchester City, Juventus, or Bayern Munich. Even Portuguese champions Benfica would likely be rated a notch above both the Giallorossi and Dieter Hecking’s side due to their dominance of the Primeira Liga and solid showings in the Europa League.
Nonetheless, it is still a record not to be scoffed at, but it will be tested once Sergio Aguero and Manchester City come to town next week. The visitors will have some major selection worries, however. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema could be in doubt for this game, with the latter limping off injured this past weekend. CR7 himself did not even feature due to a muscular complaint. Still, if Joe Hart – who was brilliant to keep Ibrahimovic at bay – might be relaxing a bit, he may not want to forget about Gareth Bale, who was quite excellent and netted a brace in Real’s comeback 3-2 win over Rayo.
In addition, Real Madrid have a fantastic record against English opposition – eight games unbeaten in the Champions League, and will be hoping to make it nine on Tuesday. As for Manchester City, they should be welcoming back both Vincent Kompany and De Bruyne for this must-win match. Raheem Sterling is another who was rested at the weekend and may also feature, but Yaya Toure, who suffered a thigh injury during the 4-0 win over Stoke will have to pass a late fitness test.
Tuesday’s tie will be the 27th European semi-finals tie for Real Madrid. It will be, of course, the first ever for Manchester City. However, when the match begins, it will not matter, as 180 minutes will decide if City or Real will be featuring in this season’s final at the Stadio San Siro in Milan.
Will Manchester City be able to continue what will be a storied European campaign by taking down one of the biggest giants of European football? Or will Real Madrid head back to the Spanish capital with one foot already into the finals?
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