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Real Madrid's goal machine, a managerial comeback and a triumphant semi-final record are on the menu for Simon Hart's latest pre-match preview

WORDS Simon Hart

Talking point: Who’ll join Liverpool in the final?

Here’s a surprising statistic about Real Madrid ahead of their semi-final return leg against Manchester City. They may be the club with the most European Cups – 13 – but when it comes to semi-finals, Los Blancos have never actually managed to come back after a first-leg defeat.  

On the eight previous occasions they have been behind at the midway point of a Champions League or European Cup semi-final tie they have lost – most recently against Juventus in 2014/15 when a 2-1 loss in Turin was followed by a 1-1 home draw. The first time, incidentally, was against Manchester’s other club, United, in 1968 when they went down 1-0 at Old Trafford before a 3-3 draw in Madrid. After last week’s 4-3 thriller at City, another goalfest would surely be asking for too much … wouldn’t it?
The prize at stake is a final showdown in Paris with a Liverpool side who saw off Villarreal’s spirited attempts at a second-leg comeback at La Cerámica last night. For Madrid, it would mean a repeat not only of the 2018 Kyiv final, won by Madrid, but of the clubs’ 1981 Paris showdown at the Parc des Princes – when Alan Kennedy scored the only goal for Bob Paisley’s Reds.  

The alternative, of course, is a second successive all-English final, with the Premier League’s best two teams, City and Liverpool facing off. For Pep Guardiola it means to guide City to a first European crown (and his third) he must beat first the great rival of his Barcelona days – Madrid – and then the Liverpool team who are pushing his City side all the way in England.

But back to tonight. The return of Casemiro, injured in the first leg, will help bring balance in the home midfield as Madrid missed his defensive intuition when they did not have the ball in Manchester last week and City stretched them – almost, it felt at times, to snapping point. Home coach Carlo Ancelotti affirmed yesterday that “his return is going to help us, he strengthens the defensive side which we must improve on”.

Of course, City must also contend with the Bernabéu factor. AS’s “Magia Blanca” – White Magic – front-page headline today highlighted the special sorcery that Madrid have already produced at their home stadium to get past Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea. Madrid, as showed in the first leg, have the ability to absorb blows before landing a knockout of their own, more often than not through the 42-goal Karim Benzema. City dug deep defensively to hold out against Atlético de Madrid on their last visit to the Spanish capital last month. Whether or not they can muzzle Benzema will be one of the key questions of the night.

Real Madrid's man in form, Karim Benzema

If Madrid, 16 times Champions League/European Cup finalists, have all the knowhow in the world, Villarreal are at the other end of the experience spectrum. Unai Emery may be the coach with the most Europa Leagues/UEFA Cups in history but a Champions League final remains uncharted territory for the Yellow Submarine. Can they overturn a 2-0 deficit against Liverpool?

It will help that Gerard Moreno is back as they missed his ability to hold the ball up in the first leg. Villarreal had one shot in 90 minutes at Anfield. No shots on goal. That will have to change and it will not be easy. Liverpool have not lost an away game by two goals since their 3-1 quarter-final loss at Real Madrid last April. Of their 30 away fixtures since they have lost just two – each time by a single goal.  

This week’s number: 5

Real Madrid players celebrate with boss Carlo Ancelotti

Madrid’s securing of their 35Spanish top-flight title last weekend also earned Carlos Ancelotti a fresh milestone, with the Italian completing his collection of league championships won in Europe’s biggest five leagues after triumphs in Serie A (2004), the Premier League (2010), Ligue 1 (2013) and the Bundesliga (2017). Cue images of Don Carlo smoking a cigar as Madrid celebrated with the fans at the Plaza de Cibeles. The aim now for the three-time Champions League-winning coach is the fifth final of his managerial career.

Talking point: Who’ll join Liverpool in the final?

Here’s a surprising statistic about Real Madrid ahead of their semi-final return leg against Manchester City. They may be the club with the most European Cups – 13 – but when it comes to semi-finals, Los Blancos have never actually managed to come back after a first-leg defeat.  

On the eight previous occasions they have been behind at the midway point of a Champions League or European Cup semi-final tie they have lost – most recently against Juventus in 2014/15 when a 2-1 loss in Turin was followed by a 1-1 home draw. The first time, incidentally, was against Manchester’s other club, United, in 1968 when they went down 1-0 at Old Trafford before a 3-3 draw in Madrid. After last week’s 4-3 thriller at City, another goalfest would surely be asking for too much … wouldn’t it?
The prize at stake is a final showdown in Paris with a Liverpool side who saw off Villarreal’s spirited attempts at a second-leg comeback at La Cerámica last night. For Madrid, it would mean a repeat not only of the 2018 Kyiv final, won by Madrid, but of the clubs’ 1981 Paris showdown at the Parc des Princes – when Alan Kennedy scored the only goal for Bob Paisley’s Reds.  

The alternative, of course, is a second successive all-English final, with the Premier League’s best two teams, City and Liverpool facing off. For Pep Guardiola it means to guide City to a first European crown (and his third) he must beat first the great rival of his Barcelona days – Madrid – and then the Liverpool team who are pushing his City side all the way in England.

But back to tonight. The return of Casemiro, injured in the first leg, will help bring balance in the home midfield as Madrid missed his defensive intuition when they did not have the ball in Manchester last week and City stretched them – almost, it felt at times, to snapping point. Home coach Carlo Ancelotti affirmed yesterday that “his return is going to help us, he strengthens the defensive side which we must improve on”.

Of course, City must also contend with the Bernabéu factor. AS’s “Magia Blanca” – White Magic – front-page headline today highlighted the special sorcery that Madrid have already produced at their home stadium to get past Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea. Madrid, as showed in the first leg, have the ability to absorb blows before landing a knockout of their own, more often than not through the 42-goal Karim Benzema. City dug deep defensively to hold out against Atlético de Madrid on their last visit to the Spanish capital last month. Whether or not they can muzzle Benzema will be one of the key questions of the night.

Real Madrid's man in form, Karim Benzema

If Madrid, 16 times Champions League/European Cup finalists, have all the knowhow in the world, Villarreal are at the other end of the experience spectrum. Unai Emery may be the coach with the most Europa Leagues/UEFA Cups in history but a Champions League final remains uncharted territory for the Yellow Submarine. Can they overturn a 2-0 deficit against Liverpool?

It will help that Gerard Moreno is back as they missed his ability to hold the ball up in the first leg. Villarreal had one shot in 90 minutes at Anfield. No shots on goal. That will have to change and it will not be easy. Liverpool have not lost an away game by two goals since their 3-1 quarter-final loss at Real Madrid last April. Of their 30 away fixtures since they have lost just two – each time by a single goal.  

This week’s number: 5

Real Madrid players celebrate with boss Carlo Ancelotti

Madrid’s securing of their 35Spanish top-flight title last weekend also earned Carlos Ancelotti a fresh milestone, with the Italian completing his collection of league championships won in Europe’s biggest five leagues after triumphs in Serie A (2004), the Premier League (2010), Ligue 1 (2013) and the Bundesliga (2017). Cue images of Don Carlo smoking a cigar as Madrid celebrated with the fans at the Plaza de Cibeles. The aim now for the three-time Champions League-winning coach is the fifth final of his managerial career.

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: Who’ll join Liverpool in the final?

Here’s a surprising statistic about Real Madrid ahead of their semi-final return leg against Manchester City. They may be the club with the most European Cups – 13 – but when it comes to semi-finals, Los Blancos have never actually managed to come back after a first-leg defeat.  

On the eight previous occasions they have been behind at the midway point of a Champions League or European Cup semi-final tie they have lost – most recently against Juventus in 2014/15 when a 2-1 loss in Turin was followed by a 1-1 home draw. The first time, incidentally, was against Manchester’s other club, United, in 1968 when they went down 1-0 at Old Trafford before a 3-3 draw in Madrid. After last week’s 4-3 thriller at City, another goalfest would surely be asking for too much … wouldn’t it?
The prize at stake is a final showdown in Paris with a Liverpool side who saw off Villarreal’s spirited attempts at a second-leg comeback at La Cerámica last night. For Madrid, it would mean a repeat not only of the 2018 Kyiv final, won by Madrid, but of the clubs’ 1981 Paris showdown at the Parc des Princes – when Alan Kennedy scored the only goal for Bob Paisley’s Reds.  

The alternative, of course, is a second successive all-English final, with the Premier League’s best two teams, City and Liverpool facing off. For Pep Guardiola it means to guide City to a first European crown (and his third) he must beat first the great rival of his Barcelona days – Madrid – and then the Liverpool team who are pushing his City side all the way in England.

But back to tonight. The return of Casemiro, injured in the first leg, will help bring balance in the home midfield as Madrid missed his defensive intuition when they did not have the ball in Manchester last week and City stretched them – almost, it felt at times, to snapping point. Home coach Carlo Ancelotti affirmed yesterday that “his return is going to help us, he strengthens the defensive side which we must improve on”.

Of course, City must also contend with the Bernabéu factor. AS’s “Magia Blanca” – White Magic – front-page headline today highlighted the special sorcery that Madrid have already produced at their home stadium to get past Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea. Madrid, as showed in the first leg, have the ability to absorb blows before landing a knockout of their own, more often than not through the 42-goal Karim Benzema. City dug deep defensively to hold out against Atlético de Madrid on their last visit to the Spanish capital last month. Whether or not they can muzzle Benzema will be one of the key questions of the night.

Real Madrid's man in form, Karim Benzema

If Madrid, 16 times Champions League/European Cup finalists, have all the knowhow in the world, Villarreal are at the other end of the experience spectrum. Unai Emery may be the coach with the most Europa Leagues/UEFA Cups in history but a Champions League final remains uncharted territory for the Yellow Submarine. Can they overturn a 2-0 deficit against Liverpool?

It will help that Gerard Moreno is back as they missed his ability to hold the ball up in the first leg. Villarreal had one shot in 90 minutes at Anfield. No shots on goal. That will have to change and it will not be easy. Liverpool have not lost an away game by two goals since their 3-1 quarter-final loss at Real Madrid last April. Of their 30 away fixtures since they have lost just two – each time by a single goal.  

This week’s number: 5

Real Madrid players celebrate with boss Carlo Ancelotti

Madrid’s securing of their 35Spanish top-flight title last weekend also earned Carlos Ancelotti a fresh milestone, with the Italian completing his collection of league championships won in Europe’s biggest five leagues after triumphs in Serie A (2004), the Premier League (2010), Ligue 1 (2013) and the Bundesliga (2017). Cue images of Don Carlo smoking a cigar as Madrid celebrated with the fans at the Plaza de Cibeles. The aim now for the three-time Champions League-winning coach is the fifth final of his managerial career.

One step to go...
Blog

One step to go...

Real Madrid's goal machine, a managerial comeback and a triumphant semi-final record are on the menu for Simon Hart's latest pre-match preview

WORDS Simon Hart

Talking point: Who’ll join Liverpool in the final?

Here’s a surprising statistic about Real Madrid ahead of their semi-final return leg against Manchester City. They may be the club with the most European Cups – 13 – but when it comes to semi-finals, Los Blancos have never actually managed to come back after a first-leg defeat.  

On the eight previous occasions they have been behind at the midway point of a Champions League or European Cup semi-final tie they have lost – most recently against Juventus in 2014/15 when a 2-1 loss in Turin was followed by a 1-1 home draw. The first time, incidentally, was against Manchester’s other club, United, in 1968 when they went down 1-0 at Old Trafford before a 3-3 draw in Madrid. After last week’s 4-3 thriller at City, another goalfest would surely be asking for too much … wouldn’t it?
The prize at stake is a final showdown in Paris with a Liverpool side who saw off Villarreal’s spirited attempts at a second-leg comeback at La Cerámica last night. For Madrid, it would mean a repeat not only of the 2018 Kyiv final, won by Madrid, but of the clubs’ 1981 Paris showdown at the Parc des Princes – when Alan Kennedy scored the only goal for Bob Paisley’s Reds.  

The alternative, of course, is a second successive all-English final, with the Premier League’s best two teams, City and Liverpool facing off. For Pep Guardiola it means to guide City to a first European crown (and his third) he must beat first the great rival of his Barcelona days – Madrid – and then the Liverpool team who are pushing his City side all the way in England.

But back to tonight. The return of Casemiro, injured in the first leg, will help bring balance in the home midfield as Madrid missed his defensive intuition when they did not have the ball in Manchester last week and City stretched them – almost, it felt at times, to snapping point. Home coach Carlo Ancelotti affirmed yesterday that “his return is going to help us, he strengthens the defensive side which we must improve on”.

Of course, City must also contend with the Bernabéu factor. AS’s “Magia Blanca” – White Magic – front-page headline today highlighted the special sorcery that Madrid have already produced at their home stadium to get past Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea. Madrid, as showed in the first leg, have the ability to absorb blows before landing a knockout of their own, more often than not through the 42-goal Karim Benzema. City dug deep defensively to hold out against Atlético de Madrid on their last visit to the Spanish capital last month. Whether or not they can muzzle Benzema will be one of the key questions of the night.

Real Madrid's man in form, Karim Benzema

If Madrid, 16 times Champions League/European Cup finalists, have all the knowhow in the world, Villarreal are at the other end of the experience spectrum. Unai Emery may be the coach with the most Europa Leagues/UEFA Cups in history but a Champions League final remains uncharted territory for the Yellow Submarine. Can they overturn a 2-0 deficit against Liverpool?

It will help that Gerard Moreno is back as they missed his ability to hold the ball up in the first leg. Villarreal had one shot in 90 minutes at Anfield. No shots on goal. That will have to change and it will not be easy. Liverpool have not lost an away game by two goals since their 3-1 quarter-final loss at Real Madrid last April. Of their 30 away fixtures since they have lost just two – each time by a single goal.  

This week’s number: 5

Real Madrid players celebrate with boss Carlo Ancelotti

Madrid’s securing of their 35Spanish top-flight title last weekend also earned Carlos Ancelotti a fresh milestone, with the Italian completing his collection of league championships won in Europe’s biggest five leagues after triumphs in Serie A (2004), the Premier League (2010), Ligue 1 (2013) and the Bundesliga (2017). Cue images of Don Carlo smoking a cigar as Madrid celebrated with the fans at the Plaza de Cibeles. The aim now for the three-time Champions League-winning coach is the fifth final of his managerial career.

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: Who’ll join Liverpool in the final?

Here’s a surprising statistic about Real Madrid ahead of their semi-final return leg against Manchester City. They may be the club with the most European Cups – 13 – but when it comes to semi-finals, Los Blancos have never actually managed to come back after a first-leg defeat.  

On the eight previous occasions they have been behind at the midway point of a Champions League or European Cup semi-final tie they have lost – most recently against Juventus in 2014/15 when a 2-1 loss in Turin was followed by a 1-1 home draw. The first time, incidentally, was against Manchester’s other club, United, in 1968 when they went down 1-0 at Old Trafford before a 3-3 draw in Madrid. After last week’s 4-3 thriller at City, another goalfest would surely be asking for too much … wouldn’t it?
The prize at stake is a final showdown in Paris with a Liverpool side who saw off Villarreal’s spirited attempts at a second-leg comeback at La Cerámica last night. For Madrid, it would mean a repeat not only of the 2018 Kyiv final, won by Madrid, but of the clubs’ 1981 Paris showdown at the Parc des Princes – when Alan Kennedy scored the only goal for Bob Paisley’s Reds.  

The alternative, of course, is a second successive all-English final, with the Premier League’s best two teams, City and Liverpool facing off. For Pep Guardiola it means to guide City to a first European crown (and his third) he must beat first the great rival of his Barcelona days – Madrid – and then the Liverpool team who are pushing his City side all the way in England.

But back to tonight. The return of Casemiro, injured in the first leg, will help bring balance in the home midfield as Madrid missed his defensive intuition when they did not have the ball in Manchester last week and City stretched them – almost, it felt at times, to snapping point. Home coach Carlo Ancelotti affirmed yesterday that “his return is going to help us, he strengthens the defensive side which we must improve on”.

Of course, City must also contend with the Bernabéu factor. AS’s “Magia Blanca” – White Magic – front-page headline today highlighted the special sorcery that Madrid have already produced at their home stadium to get past Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea. Madrid, as showed in the first leg, have the ability to absorb blows before landing a knockout of their own, more often than not through the 42-goal Karim Benzema. City dug deep defensively to hold out against Atlético de Madrid on their last visit to the Spanish capital last month. Whether or not they can muzzle Benzema will be one of the key questions of the night.

Real Madrid's man in form, Karim Benzema

If Madrid, 16 times Champions League/European Cup finalists, have all the knowhow in the world, Villarreal are at the other end of the experience spectrum. Unai Emery may be the coach with the most Europa Leagues/UEFA Cups in history but a Champions League final remains uncharted territory for the Yellow Submarine. Can they overturn a 2-0 deficit against Liverpool?

It will help that Gerard Moreno is back as they missed his ability to hold the ball up in the first leg. Villarreal had one shot in 90 minutes at Anfield. No shots on goal. That will have to change and it will not be easy. Liverpool have not lost an away game by two goals since their 3-1 quarter-final loss at Real Madrid last April. Of their 30 away fixtures since they have lost just two – each time by a single goal.  

This week’s number: 5

Real Madrid players celebrate with boss Carlo Ancelotti

Madrid’s securing of their 35Spanish top-flight title last weekend also earned Carlos Ancelotti a fresh milestone, with the Italian completing his collection of league championships won in Europe’s biggest five leagues after triumphs in Serie A (2004), the Premier League (2010), Ligue 1 (2013) and the Bundesliga (2017). Cue images of Don Carlo smoking a cigar as Madrid celebrated with the fans at the Plaza de Cibeles. The aim now for the three-time Champions League-winning coach is the fifth final of his managerial career.

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: Who’ll join Liverpool in the final?

Here’s a surprising statistic about Real Madrid ahead of their semi-final return leg against Manchester City. They may be the club with the most European Cups – 13 – but when it comes to semi-finals, Los Blancos have never actually managed to come back after a first-leg defeat.  

On the eight previous occasions they have been behind at the midway point of a Champions League or European Cup semi-final tie they have lost – most recently against Juventus in 2014/15 when a 2-1 loss in Turin was followed by a 1-1 home draw. The first time, incidentally, was against Manchester’s other club, United, in 1968 when they went down 1-0 at Old Trafford before a 3-3 draw in Madrid. After last week’s 4-3 thriller at City, another goalfest would surely be asking for too much … wouldn’t it?
The prize at stake is a final showdown in Paris with a Liverpool side who saw off Villarreal’s spirited attempts at a second-leg comeback at La Cerámica last night. For Madrid, it would mean a repeat not only of the 2018 Kyiv final, won by Madrid, but of the clubs’ 1981 Paris showdown at the Parc des Princes – when Alan Kennedy scored the only goal for Bob Paisley’s Reds.  

The alternative, of course, is a second successive all-English final, with the Premier League’s best two teams, City and Liverpool facing off. For Pep Guardiola it means to guide City to a first European crown (and his third) he must beat first the great rival of his Barcelona days – Madrid – and then the Liverpool team who are pushing his City side all the way in England.

But back to tonight. The return of Casemiro, injured in the first leg, will help bring balance in the home midfield as Madrid missed his defensive intuition when they did not have the ball in Manchester last week and City stretched them – almost, it felt at times, to snapping point. Home coach Carlo Ancelotti affirmed yesterday that “his return is going to help us, he strengthens the defensive side which we must improve on”.

Of course, City must also contend with the Bernabéu factor. AS’s “Magia Blanca” – White Magic – front-page headline today highlighted the special sorcery that Madrid have already produced at their home stadium to get past Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea. Madrid, as showed in the first leg, have the ability to absorb blows before landing a knockout of their own, more often than not through the 42-goal Karim Benzema. City dug deep defensively to hold out against Atlético de Madrid on their last visit to the Spanish capital last month. Whether or not they can muzzle Benzema will be one of the key questions of the night.

Real Madrid's man in form, Karim Benzema

If Madrid, 16 times Champions League/European Cup finalists, have all the knowhow in the world, Villarreal are at the other end of the experience spectrum. Unai Emery may be the coach with the most Europa Leagues/UEFA Cups in history but a Champions League final remains uncharted territory for the Yellow Submarine. Can they overturn a 2-0 deficit against Liverpool?

It will help that Gerard Moreno is back as they missed his ability to hold the ball up in the first leg. Villarreal had one shot in 90 minutes at Anfield. No shots on goal. That will have to change and it will not be easy. Liverpool have not lost an away game by two goals since their 3-1 quarter-final loss at Real Madrid last April. Of their 30 away fixtures since they have lost just two – each time by a single goal.  

This week’s number: 5

Real Madrid players celebrate with boss Carlo Ancelotti

Madrid’s securing of their 35Spanish top-flight title last weekend also earned Carlos Ancelotti a fresh milestone, with the Italian completing his collection of league championships won in Europe’s biggest five leagues after triumphs in Serie A (2004), the Premier League (2010), Ligue 1 (2013) and the Bundesliga (2017). Cue images of Don Carlo smoking a cigar as Madrid celebrated with the fans at the Plaza de Cibeles. The aim now for the three-time Champions League-winning coach is the fifth final of his managerial career.

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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