Manchester City will host Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg on Tuesday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the decorated Spanish opponents that stand between Pep Guardiola’s men and a second-straight showpiece final.
When Real were thrashed 4-0 by bitter rivals Barcelona at the Bernabeu on March 20, Carlo Ancelotti’s men were staring down the barrel of a potentially-wretched end to the campaign. But then Madrid humbled Chelsea 3-1 in the Champions League quarter-final first leg. Los Blancos lost the second leg 3-2 after extra-time but progressed 5-4 on aggregate to tee up this last-four tussle with City. But Ancelotti’s men have won every other match since that heavy Barca reverse and are now set to stroll to the league title. Throw in a chance for a 14th Champions League crown and Madrid’s might is again on full show.
Karim Benzema is the captain and goal machine around whom Madrid base everything this term. The 34-year-old has 39 goals in 40 appearances in all competitions for Real this term. Boss Ancelotti has likened the France hitman to a fine wine, only getting better with age. Benzema’s ability to lose defenders in the area and produce punishing headers from deep in the box proved a skill that Chelsea simply could not contain. Vinicius Junior’s form out wide has seen the Brazil international link up expertly with Benzema in Madrid’s best moments in recent weeks.
Venerated Italian coach Ancelotti is back in Madrid for his second spell with Real and appears to be binding a previously-disparate squad back together. Real took losing last term’s LaLiga title to city rivals Atletico as hard as any would expect and Ancelotti had his work cut out to sharpen up a talented but out-of-sorts group. That 4-0 loss to Barcelona could easily have proved the catalyst to a quick exit for the head coach, but the impending league title is a clear step in the right direction for Madrid.
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