Tonight the first round of the Champions League semifinals begins. Manchester City and Real Madrid will face each other in England to try to have a place in the final in Milan. History speaks in favor of whites, which come with the tag of favorites. However, City faces it with the illusion of a project that is slowly growing, getting closer to the big European teams.
These are 3 aspects which can make us believe Manchester City have options to win Real Madrid this evening at 8.45 pm CEST.
Kevin de Bruyne's good performance
He came from Wolfsburg this summer. The Belgian striker has been a great piece of news for Pellegrini. With his offensive game, he has fully integrated in the team and has solved many games with either goals or assists. The Sky Blues noticed their absence due to injury during the months of February and March, where the City only won two of the seven games played in the Premier League, losing all option for the title fight. In the Champions League, De Bruyne recovery was crucial to ensure access to the semifinals. A goal in the first leg and another on the second leg against PSG meant a historical classification of the City in the Champions League. We will see if Pellegrini places him in the attacking midfield (taking into account the absence of Toure) or as winger. Wherever he plays, he is one of the main dangers of the English team.
The return of Kompany
This season, City and Real Madrid have a common problem: doubts in defense. The injury of Kompany (he has only played 20 matches this season) prevented Pellegrini to use the captain in many important matches. The alternative players (Otamendi, Demichelis and Mangala) didn't understand each other to bring defensive safety needed in a team which want to win everything. With the recovery of the Belgian, City wins strength to stop Madrid's powerful attackers: Cristiano, Bale and Benzema. The fact of not conceding goals home will be key in a qualifying round in which, if no surprises, will be decided at Bernabéu next week.
It is the first time that Manchester City reaches the semifinals of the Champions League. Until this season the English team had never overcome round of 16 and they are not favorites at all. Real Madrid will have much more pressure, as they are eliminated from Copa del Rey and third in La Liga, so winning the 11th UCL is the main objective to try to hide a troubled season. Before them, they will have City, which have no choice in the Premier League and counting the days to the arrival of Guardiola next season. Nothing to lose, everything to win.