Madrid, May 3 (IANS) Real Madrid and Manchester City play what promises to be a thrilling Champions League semi-final return leg in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday night.
The tie is finely balanced 4-3 in Manchester City’s favor after the English side outplayed Madrid a week ago only for Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr to show their effectiveness in front of goal to keep the Spanish side very much in the tie.
Real Madrid were crowned Spanish La Liga champions on Saturday after a comfortable 4-0 win at home to Espanyol and that will be a huge boost to their morale, as will the fact that for the third consecutive time this season, they play the return leg in the Bernabeu, which has already seen two big escape acts.
The last-16 stage saw Real Madrid overturn a 2-0 deficit against Paris Saint Germain 30 minutes after being dominated by the French side for the rest of the tie, and although they were on the ropes when they trailed 3-0 at home to Chelsea in the last round, Benzema popped up to once again save the day.
Those results mean that Real Madrid will be confident that despite losing four matches in this season’s Champions League, they will be able to overturn Manchester City. Coach Ancelotti rested nearly his entire starting 11 against Espanyol, with only keeper, Thibaut Courtois and veteran Luka Modric in the side.
There is a doubt over the fitness of central defender David Alava for Wednesday and Nacho will step into central defense, while Casemiro will probably be back to add some muscle to a midfield Manchester City pulled apart with consistent ease last week.
Bearing in mind City’s pace on the ball, Ancelotti will also have to decide whether to play Fede Valverde or winger Rodrygo on the right of midfield, Rodrygo scored twice at the weekend, while Valverde offers energy all over the pitch.
Manchester City have Joao Caicedo back in the side and the return of the Portuguese right-back after suspension will be a big help to Guardiola’s men considering how John Stones was forced off last week and veteran midfielder Fernandinho struggled for pace against Vinicius.
Guardiola’s men know that if they can play their best football in the Bernabeu, then they will create chances, but Guardiola will also know that playing a European semi-final away leg in Madrid’s home ground has been known to intimidate the best of players.