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

By: Mohammed Sahel

There is a strong scent of confidence about this Real Madrid team at the moment. Carlo Ancelotti’s team clinched a record 35th LaLiga Santander trophy last weekend but only this competition quenches their thirst to win. Real Madrid come alive in the Champions League and if there’s any game they’ll need to come alive for, it’s tonight’s semi-final second leg against Manchester City. 

Even with the Blues practically planted on top of the tie with the first leg advantage, Madrid were pretty evidently content with the 4-3 deficit. Not least because their performance in Manchester was not up to the mark but also because the Magic of the Bernabéu is likely to give them more than a fighting chance even with the odds stacked heavily against them.

What to Expect: 

Manchester City play a very precision based, highly accurate short passing based brand of football with an emphasis on retention of the ball. Tonight more than on other night’s, Pep’s side will look to make their opponents do the running. It is pretty routine stuff for them, as they come to the Bernabéu defending an advantage but with the aim of extending it as much as humanly possible. Knowing of course, that Real Madrid are probably going to score. 

No matter how many goals go in on either end, the bigger goal in sight does not change for the Cityzens. In this regard at least, the two teams will not match each other tonight. Wherein lie the idiosyncrasies of the tie — Guardiola’s reputation for overthinking these fixtures and Madrid’s reputation for overseeing some magical nights at the Bernabéu. Madrid must, as ever, look to spring into action when the time comes and the situation calls, but also it is an emotional game for them as much as it is a simple game of football. 

The same cannot be said for City who’s history in this competition suggests they come to Spain with nothing more than a game of football in mind, a very difficult one for that matter. This is where the tie will be won, or in Real’s case — lost. City’s passing style is orderly, neat and easy on the eye. Madrid’s transitional game is chaotic, disorganised but also effective. 

Ancelotti’s team will without doubt, try to colour City’s blue with a splash of chaos-wreaking white. Not the kind that Atlético Madrid did last month, but there inevitably may come a time in the game where Los Blancos will have to resort to making those fouls and pressing in a certain way. The Colchoneros did well in that regard but didn’t win. Certainly a Guardiola-coached team is also expected to press in numbers and quite routinely as well. 

Real Madrid, without David Alaba will have to make their way beyond that press either with a collective effort or with individual skill — something of the sorts of what Vini junior produced last week. A good percentage of the game will be played in the home team’s half, because City are a team that retains a high volume of possession. Simply put, countering that by taking calculated risks and making full use of the Bernabéu’s noise will be Madrid’s way out of trouble. We play until the final whistle, Hasta el Final.

Team News: 

David Alaba’s inclusion in the squad for tonight’s game comes as little surprise, he is a leader in the dressing room and his presence on nights like these is vital. Regardless, Ancelotti has confirmed the Austrian’s absence. Eden Hazard is missing too, and Gareth Bale who unlike the Belgian missed out on last week’s trophy parade will also take no part.

Manchester City can be very cunning in the way they go about their injuries, and with good reason. Given Pep Guardiola started a seemingly injured John Stones in Manchester last week, I wouldn’t necessarily be too excited about himself and Kyle Walker being named on the injury list. If Walker plays, Cancelo starts on the left. If not, the Portuguese takes his place and Zinchenko plays on the left.

The rest of the lineups are certain to remain untouched for either side.

Expected Line-ups: 

Real Madrid:


Carvajal — Militão — Nacho — Mendy

Valverde — Modrić — Casemiro — Kroos

Benzema — Vinicius

Manchester City:


Cancelo — Dias — Laporte — Zinchenko 

De Bruyne — Rodri — Bernardo

Mahrez — Jesus — Foden

Player to Watch: 

Real Madrid: Karim Benzema. There is simply no reason not to put the Frenchman’s name here. As long as Vinicius does his magic and guys like Modrić pull the strings, Benzema should see three or four high quality chances tonight at the very least. I for one, do not expect him to drop deep an awful lot today if Madrid do wish to be effective in transition. With Vinicius on one side and Valverde (he should start even with Rodrygo being in the form that he is) on the other, the supply should be aplenty. 

Manchester City: Rodri. This is where it gets interesting really. The entirety of City’s forward line is in spectacular form. Add Kevin De Bruyne to that and you’ve got an explosive attacking unit. The man who sits in behind and does the dirty work though, is Rodri. His tackling ability, knowledge of when to and when not to make a tactical foul and sometimes his vision is of great use to City’s build-up and few instances without it.


Real Madrid 3-0 Manchester City. 

A rather bold prediction. Well I’ve chosen to be less safe and more bold with the predictions this time. If Real Madrid are going to run over City, they might as well do it properly. It is key that Ancelotti’s men remain in the game even if they concede, avoid playing out from the back and launch regular counter-attacks. Pin City down on the chaotic and noisy atmosphere at the Bernabéu, make sure it’s not all one-way traffic in terms of possession and Real Madrid are well on their course to a Champions League final. Hala Madrid!

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