Manchester City – Real Madrid: The challenger against the king | Sports

In his seven years at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola has contributed to transforming the club into a fearsome competition machine, dominating the richest league in the world, but with one shortcoming: he has not won a European Cup. He has placed his team very close to him. He lost a final against Chelsea in 2021, and last year, at the Bernabéu, he was just minutes away from playing another. Until two goals from Rodrygo in less than 90 seconds sent that semifinal to extra time, which ended up depositing Real Madrid in the Saint Denis stadium against Liverpool. The winner of this Wednesday awaits Inter in the final.

And here is City again, one step away from the Istanbul final, tonight’s game at their stadium. And again with Madrid ahead (9:00 p.m., Movistar) for the second leg of a tie that in its first round ended at 1-1. Guardiola wanted to give courage to see himself so close again: “It’s a dream to be here. Nothing guarantees that we will be here in the future,” he said. “We have won all the titles except this one, and we want it with all our might.”

The size of the desire of the most successful club-state corresponds quite exactly to the size of the rival that stands in its way. Madrid has also seen itself quite often in this penultimate step: 11 times in the last 13 years, in which it has won five Orejonas, a record that it only has as a reference to evoke that first glorious period of the five in a row with Di Stéfano and company.

The residue of this era is enormous, as Luka Modric summed up yesterday: “We have played this type of match many times: semifinals, finals… What I see in our teammates is confidence and calm, full faith in ourselves, in our character, in our qualities”, he said. “We are close to something historic, impressive.”

On the other side, Guardiola tried to reduce anxiety: “It doesn’t matter what happens in the tie. Our legacy is already outstanding,” he said. “The legacy is that they’ve been having a ball for so many years. And the legacy is that people will remember that we scored many goals, that few were scored… and that we won many titles. I’ve had a boob. It’s like a good book. And maybe in Europe people don’t see any of this, but here they have had a great time. This is a legacy.”

Ancelotti seemed to lick his lips at the opportunity: “This year we are close to doing something important. Is very close. We are very excited, very motivated. It is very complicated, but I think that the difficulties help us to get the best out of us”. Yesterday he was still in a territory that he is capable of enjoying: “Today I am very calm, very excited and with a lot of faith. Tomorrow… I know tomorrow very well [por hoy]. It will be the one of concern, of bad thinking, that Haaland will mark you, De Bruyne from the outside… But then also that Vinicius makes a good dribble, that Karim [Benzema] He’s going to be smart in the area…”. And above all worries, an extraordinary confidence in the “courage” and “character” of his footballers: “If they have to score, let them score soon. That way we have more time to recover.”

Both coaches will enter the game with almost all the players ready. At City, only the injured Aké is missing, and Madrid recovers Militão, who did not play the first leg due to suspension. What in any circumstance would be good news for Ancelotti is now a small headache for the coach after the superb game between Rüdiger and Alaba against Haaland in the first leg. The alignment is perhaps the only doubt that Madrid felt.

Guardiola has prepared some modification, although he wanted to reassure those who fear his occurrences on the big nights: “It’s nothing special. I will not overthink. Don’t worry,” she clarified. “My only wish is to be ourselves.”

Ancelotti also left his: “What I want is a team capable of reading situations well. Having moments of suffering, where you have to endure, is quite normal. Read these moments well, and read well when the rival is in difficulty”.

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