Real Madrid – Manchester City, return to magical territory | Sports

Manchester City returns this Tuesday (9:00 p.m., Movistar) to the Santiago Bernabéu for a Champions League semifinal match and the circumstance refers to one of the most incredible nights in the history of the stadium, and of the competition itself. On May 4 of last year, City had Real Madrid several steps beyond the precipice. When the clock reached 89:00, Carlo Ancelotti’s side, down 0-1 on the scoreboard, needed two goals to force extra time, having lost 4-3 in the first leg. At that time, the television prediction models only gave whites a 1% chance of passing, probably the result of rounding off to a smaller number.

Part of the public had already reached the sidewalks of the street and the footballers were close to surrendering, as Rodrygo explained that same night: “We were dead.” However, 21 seconds later, the Brazilian finished off a pass from Benzema and leveled. The explosion in the stands alerted the spectators who were expelled by logic, who begged to re-enter and followed the prodigy from outside, blindly. The next thing they heard was the roar with which the six minute extension was celebrated. And then Rodrygo’s second goal. And almost the third. And the extra time and Madrid’s pass to the final, in the craziest comeback of the spring of crazy comebacks.

“Soccer is sometimes inexplicable,” said Rodri on Monday, who wanted to look ahead. “Soccer always gives opportunities for revenge and we are here.” His coach, Pep Guardiola, tried to move away from that prospect of a propitious tie to return a major blow: “It is a mistake. We are not here to take revenge. What happened, happened in the past, and the past is over, ”he said. “It is one more opportunity. One day we will achieve it: we will reach the final and we will win it”. He recalled that last year the margin was very narrow: “In the last minutes Mendy took a ball from the line, and Courtois took a ball with his studs.” Neither he nor he reproached himself then nor does he now: “I watched both games again, and we played exceptionally well at home, we couldn’t have played better. And here, which is the real test, we didn’t play exceptionally, and it wasn’t enough,” he said. “Madrid is the best in this competition this decade.”

Despite the similarities between the night of this Tuesday and that of a year ago, there are also notable differences. The first, the order of the parties. “If there is an extension, it is better to have it at home than away,” Guardiola said on Monday. Madrid will not have that “magic of the Bernabéu” invoked so much last season by Ancelotti.

There is also another as evident as the 194 centimeters of Erling Haaland, who has accumulated 51 goals this season and who has enriched City’s records and terrified half of Europe. Ancelotti did not want to put his focus too much on the Norwegian this Monday: “We are not preparing a match against Haaland, but against a team that seems unstoppable,” he said. “If you defend well, the bad is a draw. That doesn’t mean we won’t attack. Last year, in two games against City, we conceded five and scored six. Would I sign this this year? Yes, I would sign.” To defend, they will not have Militão, suspended, nor Mendy, injured.

The Italian coach has been repeating for days that his idea for this first leg at home is to finish it with “a small advantage”. This Monday he specified what a small advantage in this tie consisted of for him: “It also means feeling good in the game. Don’t suffer too much. It is not just a problem of the result. If you feel good in the match, if you are able to avoid problems, it can also be a small advantage”.

The first round of the crossing seems to be the fight against the dark odds, none as much as that of ex-footballer Wayne Rooney on Sunday in Sunday Times: “Manchester City is not only going to defeat Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final; going to sweep them away,” he wrote.

Faced with this omen, Toni Kroos did return this Monday to the prodigy of last season: “I think it was the same a year ago, right?”, and he let out a slight laugh. “Almost no one expected us to win the Champions League, to win this semifinal, and we did. I remember one or two words from the last year that have been more or less the same. Not from Wayne Rooney, who is a guy I really like, except for what he said. But some have said the same thing a year ago and… what can I say? It does not affect us, nor does it motivate us much more, because it is impossible to be more motivated than we are”.

Madrid, in addition to the confidence of all the pieces that were claimed against the forecast last year, go with Rodrygo, the boy from the comeback, no longer as a revulsion, but as an essential piece. And with one of the most unbalancing footballers in the world: “Vinicius every time he grabs the ball, he sinks you,” Guardiola warned on Monday. And at the Bernabéu… Although without an extension.

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