Match Preview: Manchester City vs Real Madrid – 2021/22

By: Mohammed Sahel

Champions League football dawns upon us once again. Real Madrid travel to Manchester in a bid to step into the corridors of this year’s Champions League final. Their opponents at hand: Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Regardless of result or margin, the Etihad Stadium will host one heck of a football game tonight.

City, who beat Real’s neighbours Atlético in the previous round are very obviously title challengers once again. They’ve played some sizzling football this season and have never seemed to lose intensity. Real Madrid, hoping to find a crack in City’s pursuit will come to England with a dull reminder of the first leg in Paris some two months ago. 

This is the first round of a two-rounded bout. Chess moves all over the place, each looking to strengthen it’s claim but not let the other have a hand in it. Europe’s elite club competition is here and it’s all to play for.

What to Expect: 

City showed grit and resilience against Atlético, but they are usually very expressive in their intent. Madrid on the other hand, will hope no repeat of the PSG or Chelsea games takes place whatsoever. Real were carried, at large by Karim Benzema’s heroics against PSG but responded with a great team effort in the second leg versus Chelsea. Nevertheless, they will hope fate doesn’t put them in such a position again.

City possess frightening depth, with an extensive collection of immaculate footballers right left and centre. Kevin De Bruyne is of course the pick of the lot, but rarely the centre of attention. Guardiola is a perfectionist in every sense and he’s put together a team of indefectible ‘robots’ of sorts. The home team will of course look to get on Madrid’s nerves from the beginning, depriving them of much ball possession and forcing them to rely solely on Manchester City errors.

Real Madrid, apart from looking at the spurs of counter-attacking joy as their source of attacking intent will certainly hope the opposition manager withholds his reputation of being an ‘overthinker’. Even with the variety of talent on show tonight, team selection is a mess. Real Madrid might just stick with the flexible 4-3-3/4-4-2 shape they started with last month. City on the other hand come without a right sided defender, which will of course allow the visitors to attack that flank more freely than the hosts would like.

Ancelotti has, in recent times like Guardiola in the past — been criticised for his team selection. Both in very different ways of course. All in all, space and time on the ball is never a given in a contest of this magnitude. Both teams will fight it out, in terms of ball possession, chances created, ground covered…you name it. This first leg should see both sides even each other out in most aspects. What happens beyond that, will probably be the work of a spark of magic. 

After all, both teams seem inseparably united on not losing. Like any team should in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final…

Team News: 

City seem more distant than ever from their preferred choice of starting eleven. Which is exactly why many Madridistas seem to think Guardiola will mess this up. Both Kyle Walker (injury) and João Cancelo (suspension) miss the game, leaving the Citizens without a right-back. Centre-back John Stones also remains a doubt, having hobbled off after 77 minutes in their second-most recent fixture vs Brighton. Nathan Ake also managed just 45 minutes in that game. Plainly, their defensive options look pretty bleak.

Real Madrid on the other hand, don’t have a lot to show for when it comes to the casualty list. Not as much as Manchester City at least, but Carlo Ancelotti does remain doubtful for two of his defensive stalwarts. David Alaba picked what was first thought to be a slight problem against Osasuna. Casemiro missed that LaLiga game, and is still said to be hurting. Both the Austrian and the Brazilian travelled to Manchester, but Camavinga and Nacho Fernandez might fill in. Very 50-50. Ancelotti’s got a call to make.

Real’s other absentees include Mariano Diaz, Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard. Not that any of them would be expected to play significant parts if fit anyway.

Expected Line-ups: 

Real Madrid:


Carvajal — Militão — Alaba — Mendy

Valverde — Modrić — Camavinga — Kroos

Benzema — Vinicius

Manchester City:


Aké — Dias — Laporte — Zinchenko 

De Bruyne — Rodri — Bernardo Silva 

Mahrez — Foden — Sterling

Player to Watch: 

Real Madrid: Eduardo Camavinga. Simply put, there is no reason not to name the Frenchman as the difference maker. He did so against PSG, then against Chelsea and now he has his chance to start in Casemiro’s absence. Like with Bernardo Silva, he might well play as a substitute but his impact is too good to ignore with Casemiro’s fitness issues. Just that, he should develop a sense of when to and when not to lunge into challenges. Bar his yellow card offences (disciplinary record), Madrid will likely benefit from his on-the-ball abilities at the Etihad.

Manchester City: Bernardo Silva. Everyone knows of Kevin De Bruyne’s quality, or the youthful exuberance Phil Foden brings to City’s lineup. But few realise Bernardo Silva’s value. The Portuguese was benched for their most recent fixture but should start tonight. In any case, his silky smooth touch, dribbling ability in tight spaces and spatial awareness is elite — whether or not from the first eleven.


Manchester City 1-2 Real Madrid. 

All things considered, this is Real Madrid in the Champions League. With City’s injury issues it becomes increasingly likely that Pep Guardiola will gamble with his team (he confirmed the same yesterday), and that brings Real Madrid the opportunity to play against a disfigured City team — very much like the City team from the first leg of their recent FA Cup semi-final. Either way, this is a contest nobody should miss. Hasta El Final!

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