Man City eye revenge against Real Madrid – Champions League talking points

By Sports Desk May 08, 2023

Manchester City travel to the Bernabeu Stadium to face Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some talking points ahead of the game.

Revenge for City

The tie is a rematch of last year’s semi-finals when City left the Bernabeu heartbroken after letting a place in the final slip through their grasp.

City had been leading 1-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate heading into stoppage time when they suddenly capitulated and conceded twice. Real went on to win in extra time.

Pep Guardiola’s men will certainly hope revenge is in the air and they will want to use the fact the home leg comes second this time to their advantage.

Momentum with City in treble chase

City certainly approach the match in form having hit their stride over the last three months.

They are unbeaten in 20 matches – 17 of which they have won – and have a strong chance of winning the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

Arguably, the Spanish giants are the toughest obstacle left to clear as they look to win the treble.

Copa del Rey joy for Madrid

Real’s form is more difficult to assess. With the LaLiga title seemingly out of reach, Carlo Ancelotti’s side have lost two of their last three league matches, suggesting the wily Italian has been prioritising other fixtures.

Those would be Saturday’s Copa del Rey final against Osasuna, which they won 2-1, and the two City encounters over the coming week.

Their triumph at the weekend, secured after two goals from Rodrygo, should certainly have raised confidence levels.

Haaland the missing piece

Erling Haaland has been a sensation for City this season, scoring 51 goals in all competitions and with the high likelihood of more to come.

 After years of near misses in the Champions League, City are hoping the prolific Norwegian is the last piece of the jigsaw as they look to finally land the big prize.

He has revelled in Europe, not least when he fired five past RB Leipzig in the last 16 and then struck in both quarter-final legs against Bayern Munich. All eyes will be on him to see if he can deliver at the Bernabeu.

Bellingham reports

Cynics would suggest there is little coincidence over the timing of recent reports from Spain that the much-coveted Jude Bellingham is set to join Real in the summer.

 The England midfielder is widely expected to leave Borussia Dortmund this summer and Manchester City were reportedly among the interested parties.

Whether the development would actually unsettle an outfit as composed as Guardiola’s City is debatable, but it certainly adds to the pre-match hype.

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    The treble

    City head to Wembley hoping to complete the second leg of a glorious treble. The Premier League title is in the bag and the Champions League final against Inter Milan is still to come. Adding spice to the occasion is the fact that United are the only other English club to have achieved this feat, back in 1999. Their fans would certainly love nothing more than to stop their neighbours emulating them.

    Champions League final influence

    It will be interesting to see how much of a bearing the Champions League final has on City manager Pep Guardiola’s selection. The European competition is the one great prize that has eluded him during his time at City and is undoubtedly his priority. He could opt to hold players back with that in mind. However, this is not his normal way and, with a week between the fixtures, there is time for rest and recovery. Guardiola will also need to keep his star players sharp and there can be few better games in which to do so than a Wembley final.

    Ten Hag recovery

    Erik ten Hag has lifted spirits at Old Trafford after a dreadful 2021-22 campaign in which they got through three managers. There have still been some bad defeats along the way – most notably 4-0 at Brentford, 6-3 at City and 7-0 at Liverpool – but the Dutchman has generally earned credit for the way he turned the team around. He won the Carabao Cup and got them back into the Champions League. There was even talk of a title challenge at one stage as they hit form mid-season. United are still some way off where they aspire to be, but winning the FA Cup would cap a promising campaign.

    Haaland chasing more headlines

    Erling Haaland has written his name all over this season. The prolific Norwegian has had a sensational impact at City, scoring 52 goals in all competitions. Dixie Dean’s near century-old all-time single-season record of 63 may be beyond him now but he will be hungry for more and to add a significant, competition-winning strike to his tally. He is not the only dangerman in the City side but he will be the one feared most by United.

    United options

    United’s pursuit of Champions League football fuelled a strong finish to their Premier League campaign. With players also staking claims for cup final places, they secured third place with a run of four-successive wins. This has given Ten Hag the pleasant problem of deciding which players to leave out. The make-up of the attack could be particularly interesting with Marcus Rashford now fit after illness, Antony close to returning from injury and Alejandro Garnacho and Jadon Sancho having done their cases no harm in recent weeks.

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    Past meetings

    This season’s Premier League encounters are the only times these managers have faced off, with City winning the first encounter 6-3 in October before United came back to win 2-1 at Old Trafford in January.

    But while they do not have a huge history of playing against one another, these managers know each other well.

    Ten Hag left Go Ahead Eagles in his homeland in 2013 to become head coach of Bayern Munich II – the reserve team of the perennial Bundesliga champions, who were then managed by Guardiola.

    The United boss said the Spaniard inspired him, with the pair talking regularly with the Dutchman watching him very carefully. Ten Hag has previously described his training sessions as “a joy to watch”.

    Guardiola clearly thinks highly of his cross-city rival, who he said would have made an excellent successor for him at the Etihad Stadium before his United appointment was confirmed.


    Guardiola, arguably the greatest coach of this generation, boasts an eye-watering medal haul.

    The 52-year-old has won 11 top-flight titles – three LaLiga crowns, three Bundesliga titles and now five Premier League triumphs. Guardiola oversaw a pair of Champions League victories at Barcelona, which he hopes to add to against Inter Milan in June’s Istanbul finale.

    The Catalan has also won domestic trophies aplenty wherever he has been, with Saturday offering the chance to win his second FA Cup.

    The freshly-crowned LMA Manager of the Year takes on a man that led Ajax to three Eredivisie titles during his time in Amsterdam, as well as a pair of KNVB Cups and the Johan Cruyff Shield.

    Ten Hag’s first silverware as a manager was the Regionalliga Bayern title in 2014, while this season’s Carabao Cup victory was his latest triumph and first at United.

    This season

    City are looking to write their name in history by matching United’s 1999 treble heroes. Guardiola’s side saw off Arsenal’s impressive title charge during an unrelenting end to the season that led them to be crowned with three games to spare – their fifth in six years and third in succession.

    Inter stand in their way as City make their second Champions League final appearance on June 10, where they would have the chance to wrap up the treble, unless Ten Hag’s Red Devils can put a spoke in the wheel at Wembley.

    United have improved vastly on last season’s wretched campaign to finish third in the Premier League, securing a Champions League return on the back of ending their six-year wait for silverware.

    Ten Hag became just the second manager in the club’s medal-laden history to win a major trophy in his first season at the helm with February’s Carabao Cup triumph against Newcastle.

    Now comes the chance to add another trophy to the cabinet with a statement victory that would end their neighbours’ treble dreams.

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    Man City 4 Chelsea 0 (third round, Jan 8)

    City sailed through with surprising ease as Chelsea put up little resistance at the Etihad Stadium just three days after a hard-fought Premier League clash between the sides at Stamford Bridge.

    A superb Riyad Mahrez free-kick, a Julian Alvarez penalty and a Phil Foden effort effectively wrapped up the contest in the first half.

    Mahrez completed the scoring from the spot late on.

    Man City 1 Arsenal 0 (fourth round, Jan 27)

    City edged a tight and entertaining game that lived up to its pre-match billing as a heavyweight contest.

    A tidy finish from defender Nathan Ake, placing a shot into the bottom corner after good work from Jack Grealish, settled the tie in the 64th minute.

    Bristol City 0 Man City 3 (fifth round, Feb 28)

    Foden struck twice as City saw off their Championship hosts with little alarm.

    The England midfielder opened the scoring after seven minutes when he turned home a low Mahrez ball at the back post and made victory certain with a deflected effort after the break.

    Kevin De Bruyne added a brilliant third with a low curling shot from outside the area.

    Man City 6 Burnley 0 (quarter-finals, Mar 18)

    City gave their former captain Vincent Kompany a hero’s reception on his return to the Etihad – but showed his Championship-leading side little mercy on the field.

    The prolific Erling Haaland, who had smashed five past RB Leipzig just days earlier, helped himself to a hat-trick as the Clarets were put to the sword.

    Alvarez weighed in with a double and Cole Palmer also got on the scoresheet in the rout.

    Man City 3 Sheff Utd 0 (semi-finals, Apr 22)

    Another promotion-challenging Championship side failed to lay a glove on City as Guardiola’s men booked a return to the final for the first time in four years after three successive semi-final defeats.

    Mahrez took centre-stage by scoring the first FA Cup semi-final hat-trick since 1958 and the first at Wembley.

    The Blades were made to rue missing a gilt-edged early chance through Iliman Ndiaye as Mahrez grabbed his first from the spot, ran through the defence for a fine solo second and swept in to complete his treble.

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