City vs Real predictions: Pep plotting to topple Spanish giants

Manchester City came through their bruising Champions League encounter with Atletico Madrid and they should be confident of seeing off the city’s other inhabitants in the first leg of their semi-final tie.

Real Madrid are on the brink of sealing the title in Spain but have excelled in the role of underdogs in Europe this season.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men staged a spectacular comeback to knock out Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 before a dramatic 5-4 aggregate win over Chelsea in the quarter-finals.

Real have benefited from some lucky breaks, as well as the razor-sharp finishing of striker Karim Benzema, in the past two rounds but they will need to up their game against the Premier League champions.

Real welcome back influential Brazilian centre-back Eder Militao, who was suspended for the second leg of their tie against Chelsea, but they have major fitness doubts over two more key players.

Militao’s defensive partner David Alaba and fellow Brazil international Casemiro are in Manchester but both are struggling, so Nacho and Eduardo Camavinga could be called into Carlo Ancelotti’s starting XI.

Forwards Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Mariano Diaz have not made the party but left-back Ferland Mendy should be fit enough to start.

City boss Pep Guardiola also has some issues in defence as Joao Cancelo is suspended and John Stones is still working his way back from injury.

Experienced England international Kyle Walker should return at right-back while Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden, two of Guardiola’s preferred attacking options in Europe, are set to start.

Match stats and facts
City are short-priced favourites to take a first-leg lead at the Etihad Stadium and they won 2-1 in both legs of their last Champions League meeting with Real at the last-16 stage of the 2019-20 competition.

Guardiola’s men have an imposing home record in Europe over the past two campaigns, winning 10 of their last 11 matches on their own patch.

The only game they failed to triumph in was this season’s last-16 second leg when they drew 0-0 with Sporting, having already secured a thumping 5-0 first-leg victory in Portugal.

City’s group-stage wins over RB Leipzig, Club Brugge and PSG this season featured 17 goals but their clash with Real could be tighter.

Only one of Real’s last 10 away matches in Europe has featured strikes at both ends — the 3-1 win at Chelsea in the first leg of their quarter-final.

Meanwhile, City’s most recent tie against Atletico produced just one goal, scored by Kevin De Bruyne in the 70th minute of the first leg in Manchester.

However, France striker Benzema, 34, is enjoying the best season of his career and he poses an obvious threat to the City defence.

The Real man scored hat-tricks in the second leg of the last 16 against PSG and the first leg of the quarter-final at Stamford Bridge before taking his Champions League tally for the season to 12 with the extra-time winner against the Blues.

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