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Manchester City: will the Etihad Stadium show be followed by the shipwreck at the Estadio Bernabéu?

Conditions on Manchester City’s biggest day in European history could not have been more bleak. Torrential rain and 7,968 spectators at Vienna’s Prater Stadium witnessed the Skyblues 2-1 victory in the Cup Winners’ Cup final on 29 April 1970 against Gornik Zabrze.

52 years later, the club is still waiting for the second European title, it should finally work – in the Champions League. The selection of team manager Pep Guardiola won the first leg against Real Madrid 4: 3, “only” 4: 3 you must say. The Premier League leaders held an offensive gala against the Spanish record champions and could have made the result much clearer.

“We started very well and we could have done it already,” said City star Phil Foden. “We have to make better use of our possibilities.” Since it didn’t work out at the Etihad Stadium, the premier-class dream could explode again, as it did for ten years in a row.

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The billions invested by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the club’s main shareholder since 2009, were made primarily to win the Champions League crown. Against Madrid, Guardiola’s selection is clearly favored after this season’s performances.

In fact. Because Real, along with Liverpool FC, are probably the only team that has the tools to bring Manchester City to their knees.

Eurosport.de names the three most important reasons:

1.) Cibeles fountain of youth

“Madrid once again experienced a magical moment,” wrote Real Madrid on their website. Over the weekend alone, the royals completed their 35th championship with a 4-0 win over Espanyol Barcelona and a better B-Elf. Captain Marcelo then naturally spoke of the “best club in the world”. The 4-0 home debacle at the Clásico in March is finally over, historical rivals FC Barcelona are 15 points behind in the table. The title was traditionally celebrated at the Cibeles Fountain in central Madrid.

Party in Madrid: Real celebrates their 35th Scudetto

“It’s a great emotion for me,” right winger Rodrygo enthused after the party at Cibeles. An experience that should unleash further strength for the showdown against Manchester City (Wednesday from 21:00 in the Eurosport.de live ticker). The team of coach Carlo Ancelotti could not have gained more self-confidence: the Cibeles as a kind of fountain of youth for the royal team.

Meanwhile, Manchester City must manage the balance of keeping the tension high in both the league and the European Cup. City easily beat Newcastle United 4-0 away last weekend, but Liverpool are just one point behind the leaders.

2.) The Benzema factor

The hymns of praise that have been sung to the attacker for weeks have not stopped. Rightly so. Karim Benzema is the offensive life insurance for Real. The Frenchman has scored in eight of his ten Champions League appearances this season, 14 times in total. Benzema has scored nine goals in his last four knockout games. It was “hard to find the words for what he does, week after week,” said teammate David Alaba. “Especially this season, he is incredible and we are very happy that he is with us.”

Karim Benzema

Photo credit: Getty Images

The first leg showed how heavy the Benzema factor is. The city was about to dismantle Real in all its individual parts. It was 2-0 after just eleven minutes, and the hosts pressed for the third goal, until Benzema used an icy cross and in the 33rd minute he scored the volley for the 2-1. When City threatened to run away again in the second half with a 4-2 lead, the 34-year-old accidentally chipped a Panenka-style penalty into the net.

For the second leg, the goalkeeper announced that he would deliver “something magical” with the team. It cannot be ruled out that the attacker will then assume all the risks again. “I have a lot of faith in myself,” Benzema clarified. This means that strokes of genius such as Panenka’s penalty are crowned with success.

3.) Manchester’s hidden weakness

Do Manchester City have a real weakness? Quite not. The English champions are so dominant that it’s hard to fault. Of course, unlike Liverpool (Mohamed Salah), Tottenham (Heung-Min Son) or Manchester United (Cristiano Ronalo), City does not have a top scorer, which can be read from the Premier League top scorers list.
However, the leaders have the second best attack of the league with 84 goals, only that the load of goals is spread across multiple shoulders, particularly those of Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez – or more recently that of Gabriel Jesus. City’s top scorer Mahrez is currently “only” sixth in the standings, but Manchester’s variability in attack can certainly be seen as a strength.

Manchester City – Real Madrid: Benzema in duel with Sinchenko

Photo credit: Getty Images

All the more surprising was the statement of coach Guardiola, who revealed what was perhaps the only weakness of his players just before Christmas. “We are not good defenders individually,” explained the Spaniard. In fact, it is clear that City have not had a good defensive appearance in their individual matches. Especially not when the opponent was also looking for possession or was able to create counter-attacks. Guardiola counteracts the problem with a ball-oriented style of play.

“The ball is the only reason you are stable. When the midfielders take possession, you are stable behind them and have a good chance of moving forward in the game,” said the 51-year-old. With this, Manchester successfully conceals the secret weakness of the defense. Solo: Real Madrid also master this system with their exceptional cast in midfield. The higher the home team’s percentage of possession at the Bernabéu, the more dangerous it becomes for the city defense.

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