Man City, Real Madrid both held back. Who’ll cut loose?


MADRID — Manchester City averted a repeat of their Real Madrid nightmare, however they cannot dream about profitable the Champions League simply but.

The concern and respect displayed by both sides in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw on the Santiago Bernabeu served a objective, however the aspect which cuts unfastened and goes for broke at subsequent week’s return leg on the Etihad will make it to the ultimate in Istanbul on June 10.

When a group emerges unbeaten from the away fixture of a two-legged tie, they’ve the correct to think about themselves as favourites for the house sport. City will count on to get the end result they should attain their second ultimate of the competitors when Real go to Manchester subsequent week.

But for that to occur, Pep Guardiola’s aspect should look to dominate, intimidate and overcome a aspect that’s arguably essentially the most completed in world soccer relating to holding its nerve and getting a end result.

“They [Real] are so demanding, with the experience and quality,” Guardiola mentioned after Tuesday’s end result. “When you play this kind of game it is like a play-off, so hopefully we can learn, defend better and attack better.”

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Real got here again from the useless in final season’s semifinal second-leg match with a pair of ninetieth minute targets which worn out City’s two-goal benefit, with Karim Benzema profitable the sport in extra-time. And on this season’s Round of 16, Carlo Ancelotti’s gamers have been down two targets after simply 14 minutes of the primary leg at Liverpool — solely to win 5-2 on the evening. Nobody comes again from that sort of place at Anfield — Barcelona’s 4-0 collapse within the second leg of the 2019 semifinal is the final word instance of that — however Real did.

So whereas Kevin De Bruyne’s 67th minute equaliser following Vinicius Junior’s unstoppable opener within the first half tilted the tie in City’s favour, the margins are nonetheless so tight. Real can destroy any opponent on the counter-attack, which is why City held one thing again within the Bernabeu. The concern of being subjected to the identical sort of ruthless ending which value them a spot in final season’s ultimate was clearly on the forefront of their minds and it’ll nonetheless be there subsequent week.

But coping with that’s the Rubicon that City should cross. They must take the dangers that may create probabilities for Real in a high-stakes sport of soccer roulette and, in flip, Real will try to capitalise on the strain that City are underneath to lastly win the Champions League.

Real will strut into the Etihad as 14-time event winners and they’ll take each alternative to make City undergo an inferiority complicated, however each main group has to beat that problem — one which City now have to fulfill. They have dominated English soccer for one of the best a part of a decade and established themselves as a significant power in Europe. What they do not have is a defining European victory, so beating Real subsequent week offers them that chance and it’s a psychological battle as a lot as a soccer one.

So how do they do it? What will make the distinction and allow them to beat the final word Champions League rivals? Two gamers can be key — De Bruyne and Erling Haaland. When De Bruyne delivers, as he did within the Bernabeu, City not often lose. Rewind to the Champions League ultimate defeat in opposition to Chelsea in 2021 and City’s hopes nosedived when the Belgian midfielder sustained a damaged cheekbone in a conflict with then-Blues defender Antonio Rudiger on 60 minutes.

Guardiola has managed De Bruyne strategically in current months. Exhausted both bodily and emotionally by Belgium’s poor show on the World Cup, Guardiola rested and even dropped De Bruyne within the weeks and months after his return from Qatar, however the plan was to offer the midfielder a break and guarantee he was match and firing at this important stage of the season. With two targets within the 4-1 Premier League win in opposition to Arsenal final month and the purpose in opposition to Real, De Bruyne is doing precisely what Guardiola deliberate — peaking on the excellent second.

Haaland, alternatively, has not often strayed from peak type this season. With 51 targets in all competitions, he has been the signing of the season and will show to be probably the most essential signings any membership has ever made if he scores the targets to assist City pull off a Treble this season. But in Madrid, Haaland was quiet — he registered simply 21 touches of the ball — and was marked out of the sport by Rudiger’s bodily power and consciousness, with defensive companion David Alaba additionally having a huge impact on nullifying the City ahead. Too usually, Haaland’s runs weren’t noticed early sufficient by his teammates, however even nonetheless, this was a uncommon off-night.

But if Haaland is wherever near his finest subsequent week, Real may have a mountain to climb to cease him scoring. City like to begin like a whirlwind on the Etihad and Real must climate the early storm which may have Haaland on the coronary heart of it. But Real are Real and so they have achieved incomprehensible outcomes on this season and others. City have not misplaced a house leg in a Champions League knockout tie since 2018 and so they have by no means been crushed by Real on the Etihad, so the shape information favours Guardiola’s group.

That will solely encourage Real, nevertheless. They are group which relishes overcoming the chances.

“We’ll enter the second leg with the same confidence and optimism that we can win over there,” Real midfielder Luka Modric mentioned. “Neither team comes away from this with a big advantage. The tie is open, about 50-50, and we were pretty sure that nothing would be settled tonight.”

City at the moment are slight favourites, although, and that brings its personal pressures. They merely must justify that tag and rise to the event. They have completed that so many occasions, however Real Madrid are not any extraordinary opponent, so the nightmare may nonetheless return to hang-out City subsequent week.


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