Real Madrid dreams of step on the Estadio da Luz six years after that epic pulse with Atlético that allowed Iker Casillas to lift the long-awaited ‘tenth’. The coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted everything, has placed the Lisbon venue as the setting for a Final to 8 with which no one counted but in which everyone wants to be. And, like then, the white road to the portuguese capital passes through Pep Guardiola.
Victim of his greatest humiliation on that night in late April 2014 in which Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos surrendered the Allianz Arena with separate doublets in the best performance of the now defunct ‘BBC’ to bury the curse that weighed on Real Madrid on his visits to Munich, Guardiola re-established himself five months ago as an ogre in the Chamartín complex. At the command of Manchester City, such an affront avenged at the Santiago Bernabéu in a day of fright for the locals, who squandered the booty obtained with Isco’s goal in a disastrous final stretch of a game that moved to the dictation of Kevin De Bruyne.
The income provided by the scores of Gabriel Jesús and De Bruyne, added to the expulsion of Sergio Ramos that prevented the camero from contesting the return in a ‘skyblue’ temple that was presumed crowded, made the tie very expensive for Manchester City, despite Real Madrid’s legendary ability to survive in extreme situations. But the coronavirus altered the script. The ball stopped, the Champions League anthem fell silent for 149 interminable days and in that period languishing hopes were renewed.
Aware of the huge scale of the challenge faced by a team that has never overcome a crossroads of the maximum continental competition after falling in the first leg to the side of their parish but relaunched for his conquest of the League, the thirteen times king of Europe will appear at the Etihad Stadium determined to continue fighting for the fourteenth ‘orejona’ in its history.
For this you will have to deal with the loss of Sergio Ramos, disastrous for your interests in recent times. Surviving his absence will be another high challenge for a rear guard that has propelled the Whites this season and also for a vanguard whose records have benefited from the superb contribution of who finished the League as the second top scorer in their squad.
Militao will form the axis of the rear with Varane in a real trial by fire for a duo that opened the Champions League wrecking in the Parque de los Príncipes but that has gained credibility with the latest performances of the Brazilian. Hazard status pending, who does not finish recovering the best sensations in his battered right ankle, Zidane will have to solve several unknowns. Mendy seems to have won the game to Marcelo in the dispute for the left-back, but the question remains whether the Marseillaise will opt to include a fourth midfielder, as in several of the great nights that forged the legend of a coach who remains undefeated at continental crossings, or he will bet on an offensive trident in which Benzema is fixed and Marco Asensio and Vinicius have the best cards to occupy the wings if the Belgian remains as a shooter.
With the favorite vitola thanks to the result of the first leg, a Manchester City presents itself has its Achilles heel in Europe since its current owners stormed in 2008 to turn a club of modest purposes into a colossus of world football. Monaco, Liverpool and Tottenham reaped their aspirations to lay their buttocks on the European throne in the first three campaigns under the aegis of Guardiola, and their historical top in the competition are still those semifinals of the 15-16 in which he succumbed to Real Madrid de Zidane who would end up raising the ‘eleventh’ in Milan.
Stripped of the Premier title by a Liverpool who engulfed with martial step his desire to retain the scepter of English champion, to the City only the Champions card remains to save the season. Like Real Madrid, he arrives fully after winning eight of his last ten league games, although Arsenal dropped him from the FA Cup in the semifinals. He has only conceded one goal in Etihad since the revival of football and boasts the best attack in Europe.
The ‘citizens’ come to the appointment without the ‘Kun’ Agüero, injured in the knee, but the great moment of Gabriel Jesús and, above all, of a Raheem Sterling who destroyed Real Madrid with his electricity in the first leg are left over to examine the best lag on the continent in a duel of titans to life or death. Lisbon awaits the survivors.
- Manchester City:
Ederson, Zinchenko, Laporte, Eric García, Walker, Rodri, Gündogan, De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Sterling and Gabriel Jesús.
- Real Madrid:
Courtois, Carvajal, Varane, Militao, Mendy, Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Marco Asensio, Vinicius y Benzema.
Felix Brych (Alemania).
Movistar Champions League.