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Emery gives Villarreal reason to believe

Unai Emery’s startling European record, Karim Benzema’s goals and Man City’s quest for that elusive first European title are up for discussion in Simon Hart’s matchweek blog

WORDS Simon Hart

Talking point: Can Villarreal upset the odds again?

In the past six weeks, Villarreal have returned home in celebratory mood from Champions League trips to both Juventus and Bayern München. In Turin they achieved a 3-0 victory, in Munich a 1-1 draw that felt like a win given it carried them into their first Champions League semi-final since 2006. The challenge now is to escape the lion’s den of Anfield on Wednesday night with hope still intact.

It goes without saying that history is on Liverpool’s side. They have played in 11 previous European Cup semi-finals and lost just two of them. They have never lost at Anfield in a semi-final match in this competition, winning nine of 11 games. Their coach, Jürgen Klopp, has his own proud semi-final record in Europe with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool: P4 W4.

Indeed, Klopp’s semi-final victories include a 3-0 success against Villarreal in his first season at Anfield. On that night in 2016 Liverpool overturned a 1-0 first-leg defeat to reach the final of the Europa League.  

What happened next, though, may offer Villarreal supporters reason to believe: a Liverpool final defeat against a Sevilla side coached by Unai Emery, now the man at the helm of the Yellow Submarine.  

The Emery factor is not about that one solitary night in Basel. His record marks him out as a superb strategist on these occasions. Since losing his first Europa League semi-final as a coach, with Valencia against Atlético de Madrid in 2012, the Spaniard has won five straight semi-finals – three with Sevilla, one with Arsenal and another with Villarreal en route to winning last season’s competition.

Raúl Albiol gave a MOTM display against Bayern München.

On their way to this second Champions League semi-final appearance, Emery has organised them superbly. In both Turin and Munich, Villarreal defended deep and with great discipline, while carrying a threat with quick transitions to attack. Of the players still in the competition, centre-backs Raúl Albiol and Pau Torres rank first and second for most clearances – with 46 and 45 respectively from ten appearances each. Goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli’s save percentage of 86.7% is second-best among the goalkeepers in action in the knockout stage. Up front they have been clinical on their travels, scoring from all four shots on target across those games at Juventus and Bayern.

As Arsenal manager, Emery lost twice at Anfield, conceding eight goals. The evidence suggests Villarreal will not crumble so easily.

Player to watch: Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema will be the focus of the City defence in the semi-finals.

Manchester City have not conceded in four knockout games. Yet the question of who might end their run of clean sheets leads to one obvious answer: Karim Benzema. After all, this is the man who scored a hat-trick in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain. He scored another hat-trick in the quarter-finals against Chelsea. He got another goal in the second leg of that thrilling tie, Real’s decisive second in extra time.

The quality of the Frenchman's finishing is underlined by the gap between his xG of 6.46 – and his goal tally of 12. It is not just his penalty-box work either but his contribution elsewhere as he drifts into the wide areas and links up play. The last Madrid club to visit City – Atlético in the round of 16 – ended the night without a single shot. City’s defence will have more work to do on Tuesday and Benzema’s contest with their centre-backs will be intriguing to see.

The number: 3

Will the number 3 be the magic number for City?

This is City’s third semi-final in their quest for that so-far-elusive first European crown. It is also their third knockout tie with Real Madrid. The first ended in semi-final defeat in 2016, a 0-0 draw in Manchester followed by a 1-0 loss at the Santiago Bernabéu.

The second offered a different story, a 4-2 aggregate triumph in the round of 16 in 2020 when City won 2-1 in Madrid and again back in Manchester where – to quote UEFA’s 2019/20 technical report – the visitors “wilted in the face of City’s intense pressing”. There were times during Madrid’s quarter-final second leg against Chelsea when the Merengues seemed set for a similar fate yet they found a way to win, as they so often do in this competition. The same went for City at Atlético last time out, when they were forced to put their pretty passing patterns to one side and roll up their sleeves and scrap, showing another string to their bow. It augurs well for a club desperate to go one better than last season and win the trophy.

This is a tie that from the outset looks finely poised and – returning to that number three – all three of Madrid’s trips to City have worked out that way on the scoreboard. From City's 2-1 win in August 2020, to the 0-0 stalemate in April 2016 to the sides’ 1-1 draw when they met for the first time, in the group stage in November 2012. Madrid’s scorer that night? Benzema.

Talking point: Can Villarreal upset the odds again?

In the past six weeks, Villarreal have returned home in celebratory mood from Champions League trips to both Juventus and Bayern München. In Turin they achieved a 3-0 victory, in Munich a 1-1 draw that felt like a win given it carried them into their first Champions League semi-final since 2006. The challenge now is to escape the lion’s den of Anfield on Wednesday night with hope still intact.

It goes without saying that history is on Liverpool’s side. They have played in 11 previous European Cup semi-finals and lost just two of them. They have never lost at Anfield in a semi-final match in this competition, winning nine of 11 games. Their coach, Jürgen Klopp, has his own proud semi-final record in Europe with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool: P4 W4.

Indeed, Klopp’s semi-final victories include a 3-0 success against Villarreal in his first season at Anfield. On that night in 2016 Liverpool overturned a 1-0 first-leg defeat to reach the final of the Europa League.  

What happened next, though, may offer Villarreal supporters reason to believe: a Liverpool final defeat against a Sevilla side coached by Unai Emery, now the man at the helm of the Yellow Submarine.  

The Emery factor is not about that one solitary night in Basel. His record marks him out as a superb strategist on these occasions. Since losing his first Europa League semi-final as a coach, with Valencia against Atlético de Madrid in 2012, the Spaniard has won five straight semi-finals – three with Sevilla, one with Arsenal and another with Villarreal en route to winning last season’s competition.

Raúl Albiol gave a MOTM display against Bayern München.

On their way to this second Champions League semi-final appearance, Emery has organised them superbly. In both Turin and Munich, Villarreal defended deep and with great discipline, while carrying a threat with quick transitions to attack. Of the players still in the competition, centre-backs Raúl Albiol and Pau Torres rank first and second for most clearances – with 46 and 45 respectively from ten appearances each. Goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli’s save percentage of 86.7% is second-best among the goalkeepers in action in the knockout stage. Up front they have been clinical on their travels, scoring from all four shots on target across those games at Juventus and Bayern.

As Arsenal manager, Emery lost twice at Anfield, conceding eight goals. The evidence suggests Villarreal will not crumble so easily.

Player to watch: Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema will be the focus of the City defence in the semi-finals.

Manchester City have not conceded in four knockout games. Yet the question of who might end their run of clean sheets leads to one obvious answer: Karim Benzema. After all, this is the man who scored a hat-trick in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain. He scored another hat-trick in the quarter-finals against Chelsea. He got another goal in the second leg of that thrilling tie, Real’s decisive second in extra time.

The quality of the Frenchman's finishing is underlined by the gap between his xG of 6.46 – and his goal tally of 12. It is not just his penalty-box work either but his contribution elsewhere as he drifts into the wide areas and links up play. The last Madrid club to visit City – Atlético in the round of 16 – ended the night without a single shot. City’s defence will have more work to do on Tuesday and Benzema’s contest with their centre-backs will be intriguing to see.

The number: 3

Will the number 3 be the magic number for City?

This is City’s third semi-final in their quest for that so-far-elusive first European crown. It is also their third knockout tie with Real Madrid. The first ended in semi-final defeat in 2016, a 0-0 draw in Manchester followed by a 1-0 loss at the Santiago Bernabéu.

The second offered a different story, a 4-2 aggregate triumph in the round of 16 in 2020 when City won 2-1 in Madrid and again back in Manchester where – to quote UEFA’s 2019/20 technical report – the visitors “wilted in the face of City’s intense pressing”. There were times during Madrid’s quarter-final second leg against Chelsea when the Merengues seemed set for a similar fate yet they found a way to win, as they so often do in this competition. The same went for City at Atlético last time out, when they were forced to put their pretty passing patterns to one side and roll up their sleeves and scrap, showing another string to their bow. It augurs well for a club desperate to go one better than last season and win the trophy.

This is a tie that from the outset looks finely poised and – returning to that number three – all three of Madrid’s trips to City have worked out that way on the scoreboard. From City's 2-1 win in August 2020, to the 0-0 stalemate in April 2016 to the sides’ 1-1 draw when they met for the first time, in the group stage in November 2012. Madrid’s scorer that night? Benzema.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Talking point: Can Villarreal upset the odds again?

In the past six weeks, Villarreal have returned home in celebratory mood from Champions League trips to both Juventus and Bayern München. In Turin they achieved a 3-0 victory, in Munich a 1-1 draw that felt like a win given it carried them into their first Champions League semi-final since 2006. The challenge now is to escape the lion’s den of Anfield on Wednesday night with hope still intact.

It goes without saying that history is on Liverpool’s side. They have played in 11 previous European Cup semi-finals and lost just two of them. They have never lost at Anfield in a semi-final match in this competition, winning nine of 11 games. Their coach, Jürgen Klopp, has his own proud semi-final record in Europe with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool: P4 W4.

Indeed, Klopp’s semi-final victories include a 3-0 success against Villarreal in his first season at Anfield. On that night in 2016 Liverpool overturned a 1-0 first-leg defeat to reach the final of the Europa League.  

What happened next, though, may offer Villarreal supporters reason to believe: a Liverpool final defeat against a Sevilla side coached by Unai Emery, now the man at the helm of the Yellow Submarine.  

The Emery factor is not about that one solitary night in Basel. His record marks him out as a superb strategist on these occasions. Since losing his first Europa League semi-final as a coach, with Valencia against Atlético de Madrid in 2012, the Spaniard has won five straight semi-finals – three with Sevilla, one with Arsenal and another with Villarreal en route to winning last season’s competition.

Raúl Albiol gave a MOTM display against Bayern München.

On their way to this second Champions League semi-final appearance, Emery has organised them superbly. In both Turin and Munich, Villarreal defended deep and with great discipline, while carrying a threat with quick transitions to attack. Of the players still in the competition, centre-backs Raúl Albiol and Pau Torres rank first and second for most clearances – with 46 and 45 respectively from ten appearances each. Goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli’s save percentage of 86.7% is second-best among the goalkeepers in action in the knockout stage. Up front they have been clinical on their travels, scoring from all four shots on target across those games at Juventus and Bayern.

As Arsenal manager, Emery lost twice at Anfield, conceding eight goals. The evidence suggests Villarreal will not crumble so easily.

Player to watch: Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema will be the focus of the City defence in the semi-finals.

Manchester City have not conceded in four knockout games. Yet the question of who might end their run of clean sheets leads to one obvious answer: Karim Benzema. After all, this is the man who scored a hat-trick in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain. He scored another hat-trick in the quarter-finals against Chelsea. He got another goal in the second leg of that thrilling tie, Real’s decisive second in extra time.

The quality of the Frenchman's finishing is underlined by the gap between his xG of 6.46 – and his goal tally of 12. It is not just his penalty-box work either but his contribution elsewhere as he drifts into the wide areas and links up play. The last Madrid club to visit City – Atlético in the round of 16 – ended the night without a single shot. City’s defence will have more work to do on Tuesday and Benzema’s contest with their centre-backs will be intriguing to see.

The number: 3

Will the number 3 be the magic number for City?

This is City’s third semi-final in their quest for that so-far-elusive first European crown. It is also their third knockout tie with Real Madrid. The first ended in semi-final defeat in 2016, a 0-0 draw in Manchester followed by a 1-0 loss at the Santiago Bernabéu.

The second offered a different story, a 4-2 aggregate triumph in the round of 16 in 2020 when City won 2-1 in Madrid and again back in Manchester where – to quote UEFA’s 2019/20 technical report – the visitors “wilted in the face of City’s intense pressing”. There were times during Madrid’s quarter-final second leg against Chelsea when the Merengues seemed set for a similar fate yet they found a way to win, as they so often do in this competition. The same went for City at Atlético last time out, when they were forced to put their pretty passing patterns to one side and roll up their sleeves and scrap, showing another string to their bow. It augurs well for a club desperate to go one better than last season and win the trophy.

This is a tie that from the outset looks finely poised and – returning to that number three – all three of Madrid’s trips to City have worked out that way on the scoreboard. From City's 2-1 win in August 2020, to the 0-0 stalemate in April 2016 to the sides’ 1-1 draw when they met for the first time, in the group stage in November 2012. Madrid’s scorer that night? Benzema.

Emery gives Villarreal reason to believe
Blog

Emery gives Villarreal reason to believe

Unai Emery’s startling European record, Karim Benzema’s goals and Man City’s quest for that elusive first European title are up for discussion in Simon Hart’s matchweek blog

WORDS Simon Hart

Talking point: Can Villarreal upset the odds again?

In the past six weeks, Villarreal have returned home in celebratory mood from Champions League trips to both Juventus and Bayern München. In Turin they achieved a 3-0 victory, in Munich a 1-1 draw that felt like a win given it carried them into their first Champions League semi-final since 2006. The challenge now is to escape the lion’s den of Anfield on Wednesday night with hope still intact.

It goes without saying that history is on Liverpool’s side. They have played in 11 previous European Cup semi-finals and lost just two of them. They have never lost at Anfield in a semi-final match in this competition, winning nine of 11 games. Their coach, Jürgen Klopp, has his own proud semi-final record in Europe with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool: P4 W4.

Indeed, Klopp’s semi-final victories include a 3-0 success against Villarreal in his first season at Anfield. On that night in 2016 Liverpool overturned a 1-0 first-leg defeat to reach the final of the Europa League.  

What happened next, though, may offer Villarreal supporters reason to believe: a Liverpool final defeat against a Sevilla side coached by Unai Emery, now the man at the helm of the Yellow Submarine.  

The Emery factor is not about that one solitary night in Basel. His record marks him out as a superb strategist on these occasions. Since losing his first Europa League semi-final as a coach, with Valencia against Atlético de Madrid in 2012, the Spaniard has won five straight semi-finals – three with Sevilla, one with Arsenal and another with Villarreal en route to winning last season’s competition.

Raúl Albiol gave a MOTM display against Bayern München.

On their way to this second Champions League semi-final appearance, Emery has organised them superbly. In both Turin and Munich, Villarreal defended deep and with great discipline, while carrying a threat with quick transitions to attack. Of the players still in the competition, centre-backs Raúl Albiol and Pau Torres rank first and second for most clearances – with 46 and 45 respectively from ten appearances each. Goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli’s save percentage of 86.7% is second-best among the goalkeepers in action in the knockout stage. Up front they have been clinical on their travels, scoring from all four shots on target across those games at Juventus and Bayern.

As Arsenal manager, Emery lost twice at Anfield, conceding eight goals. The evidence suggests Villarreal will not crumble so easily.

Player to watch: Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema will be the focus of the City defence in the semi-finals.

Manchester City have not conceded in four knockout games. Yet the question of who might end their run of clean sheets leads to one obvious answer: Karim Benzema. After all, this is the man who scored a hat-trick in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain. He scored another hat-trick in the quarter-finals against Chelsea. He got another goal in the second leg of that thrilling tie, Real’s decisive second in extra time.

The quality of the Frenchman's finishing is underlined by the gap between his xG of 6.46 – and his goal tally of 12. It is not just his penalty-box work either but his contribution elsewhere as he drifts into the wide areas and links up play. The last Madrid club to visit City – Atlético in the round of 16 – ended the night without a single shot. City’s defence will have more work to do on Tuesday and Benzema’s contest with their centre-backs will be intriguing to see.

The number: 3

Will the number 3 be the magic number for City?

This is City’s third semi-final in their quest for that so-far-elusive first European crown. It is also their third knockout tie with Real Madrid. The first ended in semi-final defeat in 2016, a 0-0 draw in Manchester followed by a 1-0 loss at the Santiago Bernabéu.

The second offered a different story, a 4-2 aggregate triumph in the round of 16 in 2020 when City won 2-1 in Madrid and again back in Manchester where – to quote UEFA’s 2019/20 technical report – the visitors “wilted in the face of City’s intense pressing”. There were times during Madrid’s quarter-final second leg against Chelsea when the Merengues seemed set for a similar fate yet they found a way to win, as they so often do in this competition. The same went for City at Atlético last time out, when they were forced to put their pretty passing patterns to one side and roll up their sleeves and scrap, showing another string to their bow. It augurs well for a club desperate to go one better than last season and win the trophy.

This is a tie that from the outset looks finely poised and – returning to that number three – all three of Madrid’s trips to City have worked out that way on the scoreboard. From City's 2-1 win in August 2020, to the 0-0 stalemate in April 2016 to the sides’ 1-1 draw when they met for the first time, in the group stage in November 2012. Madrid’s scorer that night? Benzema.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Talking point: Can Villarreal upset the odds again?

In the past six weeks, Villarreal have returned home in celebratory mood from Champions League trips to both Juventus and Bayern München. In Turin they achieved a 3-0 victory, in Munich a 1-1 draw that felt like a win given it carried them into their first Champions League semi-final since 2006. The challenge now is to escape the lion’s den of Anfield on Wednesday night with hope still intact.

It goes without saying that history is on Liverpool’s side. They have played in 11 previous European Cup semi-finals and lost just two of them. They have never lost at Anfield in a semi-final match in this competition, winning nine of 11 games. Their coach, Jürgen Klopp, has his own proud semi-final record in Europe with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool: P4 W4.

Indeed, Klopp’s semi-final victories include a 3-0 success against Villarreal in his first season at Anfield. On that night in 2016 Liverpool overturned a 1-0 first-leg defeat to reach the final of the Europa League.  

What happened next, though, may offer Villarreal supporters reason to believe: a Liverpool final defeat against a Sevilla side coached by Unai Emery, now the man at the helm of the Yellow Submarine.  

The Emery factor is not about that one solitary night in Basel. His record marks him out as a superb strategist on these occasions. Since losing his first Europa League semi-final as a coach, with Valencia against Atlético de Madrid in 2012, the Spaniard has won five straight semi-finals – three with Sevilla, one with Arsenal and another with Villarreal en route to winning last season’s competition.

Raúl Albiol gave a MOTM display against Bayern München.

On their way to this second Champions League semi-final appearance, Emery has organised them superbly. In both Turin and Munich, Villarreal defended deep and with great discipline, while carrying a threat with quick transitions to attack. Of the players still in the competition, centre-backs Raúl Albiol and Pau Torres rank first and second for most clearances – with 46 and 45 respectively from ten appearances each. Goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli’s save percentage of 86.7% is second-best among the goalkeepers in action in the knockout stage. Up front they have been clinical on their travels, scoring from all four shots on target across those games at Juventus and Bayern.

As Arsenal manager, Emery lost twice at Anfield, conceding eight goals. The evidence suggests Villarreal will not crumble so easily.

Player to watch: Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema will be the focus of the City defence in the semi-finals.

Manchester City have not conceded in four knockout games. Yet the question of who might end their run of clean sheets leads to one obvious answer: Karim Benzema. After all, this is the man who scored a hat-trick in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain. He scored another hat-trick in the quarter-finals against Chelsea. He got another goal in the second leg of that thrilling tie, Real’s decisive second in extra time.

The quality of the Frenchman's finishing is underlined by the gap between his xG of 6.46 – and his goal tally of 12. It is not just his penalty-box work either but his contribution elsewhere as he drifts into the wide areas and links up play. The last Madrid club to visit City – Atlético in the round of 16 – ended the night without a single shot. City’s defence will have more work to do on Tuesday and Benzema’s contest with their centre-backs will be intriguing to see.

The number: 3

Will the number 3 be the magic number for City?

This is City’s third semi-final in their quest for that so-far-elusive first European crown. It is also their third knockout tie with Real Madrid. The first ended in semi-final defeat in 2016, a 0-0 draw in Manchester followed by a 1-0 loss at the Santiago Bernabéu.

The second offered a different story, a 4-2 aggregate triumph in the round of 16 in 2020 when City won 2-1 in Madrid and again back in Manchester where – to quote UEFA’s 2019/20 technical report – the visitors “wilted in the face of City’s intense pressing”. There were times during Madrid’s quarter-final second leg against Chelsea when the Merengues seemed set for a similar fate yet they found a way to win, as they so often do in this competition. The same went for City at Atlético last time out, when they were forced to put their pretty passing patterns to one side and roll up their sleeves and scrap, showing another string to their bow. It augurs well for a club desperate to go one better than last season and win the trophy.

This is a tie that from the outset looks finely poised and – returning to that number three – all three of Madrid’s trips to City have worked out that way on the scoreboard. From City's 2-1 win in August 2020, to the 0-0 stalemate in April 2016 to the sides’ 1-1 draw when they met for the first time, in the group stage in November 2012. Madrid’s scorer that night? Benzema.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Talking point: Can Villarreal upset the odds again?

In the past six weeks, Villarreal have returned home in celebratory mood from Champions League trips to both Juventus and Bayern München. In Turin they achieved a 3-0 victory, in Munich a 1-1 draw that felt like a win given it carried them into their first Champions League semi-final since 2006. The challenge now is to escape the lion’s den of Anfield on Wednesday night with hope still intact.

It goes without saying that history is on Liverpool’s side. They have played in 11 previous European Cup semi-finals and lost just two of them. They have never lost at Anfield in a semi-final match in this competition, winning nine of 11 games. Their coach, Jürgen Klopp, has his own proud semi-final record in Europe with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool: P4 W4.

Indeed, Klopp’s semi-final victories include a 3-0 success against Villarreal in his first season at Anfield. On that night in 2016 Liverpool overturned a 1-0 first-leg defeat to reach the final of the Europa League.  

What happened next, though, may offer Villarreal supporters reason to believe: a Liverpool final defeat against a Sevilla side coached by Unai Emery, now the man at the helm of the Yellow Submarine.  

The Emery factor is not about that one solitary night in Basel. His record marks him out as a superb strategist on these occasions. Since losing his first Europa League semi-final as a coach, with Valencia against Atlético de Madrid in 2012, the Spaniard has won five straight semi-finals – three with Sevilla, one with Arsenal and another with Villarreal en route to winning last season’s competition.

Raúl Albiol gave a MOTM display against Bayern München.

On their way to this second Champions League semi-final appearance, Emery has organised them superbly. In both Turin and Munich, Villarreal defended deep and with great discipline, while carrying a threat with quick transitions to attack. Of the players still in the competition, centre-backs Raúl Albiol and Pau Torres rank first and second for most clearances – with 46 and 45 respectively from ten appearances each. Goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli’s save percentage of 86.7% is second-best among the goalkeepers in action in the knockout stage. Up front they have been clinical on their travels, scoring from all four shots on target across those games at Juventus and Bayern.

As Arsenal manager, Emery lost twice at Anfield, conceding eight goals. The evidence suggests Villarreal will not crumble so easily.

Player to watch: Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema will be the focus of the City defence in the semi-finals.

Manchester City have not conceded in four knockout games. Yet the question of who might end their run of clean sheets leads to one obvious answer: Karim Benzema. After all, this is the man who scored a hat-trick in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain. He scored another hat-trick in the quarter-finals against Chelsea. He got another goal in the second leg of that thrilling tie, Real’s decisive second in extra time.

The quality of the Frenchman's finishing is underlined by the gap between his xG of 6.46 – and his goal tally of 12. It is not just his penalty-box work either but his contribution elsewhere as he drifts into the wide areas and links up play. The last Madrid club to visit City – Atlético in the round of 16 – ended the night without a single shot. City’s defence will have more work to do on Tuesday and Benzema’s contest with their centre-backs will be intriguing to see.

The number: 3

Will the number 3 be the magic number for City?

This is City’s third semi-final in their quest for that so-far-elusive first European crown. It is also their third knockout tie with Real Madrid. The first ended in semi-final defeat in 2016, a 0-0 draw in Manchester followed by a 1-0 loss at the Santiago Bernabéu.

The second offered a different story, a 4-2 aggregate triumph in the round of 16 in 2020 when City won 2-1 in Madrid and again back in Manchester where – to quote UEFA’s 2019/20 technical report – the visitors “wilted in the face of City’s intense pressing”. There were times during Madrid’s quarter-final second leg against Chelsea when the Merengues seemed set for a similar fate yet they found a way to win, as they so often do in this competition. The same went for City at Atlético last time out, when they were forced to put their pretty passing patterns to one side and roll up their sleeves and scrap, showing another string to their bow. It augurs well for a club desperate to go one better than last season and win the trophy.

This is a tie that from the outset looks finely poised and – returning to that number three – all three of Madrid’s trips to City have worked out that way on the scoreboard. From City's 2-1 win in August 2020, to the 0-0 stalemate in April 2016 to the sides’ 1-1 draw when they met for the first time, in the group stage in November 2012. Madrid’s scorer that night? Benzema.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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