Real Madrid-Manchester City: Champions League favorites clash in quarter-finals

“It will be a very attractive match for the world of football, with two teams with great individual quality on the pitch

Real Madrid-Manchester City: Champions League favorites clash in quarter-finals

“It will be a very attractive match for the world of football, with two teams with great individual quality on the pitch. » The Italian Carlo Ancelotti, the coach of Real Madrid, did not really get involved in predictions. It's difficult to find a more beautiful poster than the one which sees the Spanish club and Manchester City oppose each other in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, Tuesday April 9 at 9 p.m. On the one hand, the record holder for victories (fourteen) in the premier competition of Europe (the last in 2022); on the other, the title holder: the two big favorites of this 2024 edition.

The Madrilenians welcome the Londoners to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium for the first act of their double confrontation (return match Wednesday April 17). This duel has the feel of a “classic”: it is the fourth time in five seasons that the two clubs have faced each other in the elimination phase, for a balanced record – two qualifications each.

Although the Madrilenians are approaching this new meeting with “confidence”, Carlo Ancelotti still has in mind May 17, 2023, the day of the semi-final return at the Etihad Stadium: his men had collapsed against the future winner ( 4-0). So, on Tuesday, insists the Madrid coach, they will have to be “mentally strong” to take their revenge. According to defender Antonio Rüdiger, the plan is in any case defined: “Try to control dangerous players like Phil Foden, [Kevin] De Bruyne and, of course, [Erling] Haaland,” summarizes the Real player.

On the dynamic side, the balance seems to weigh in favor of the Merengue, who are crushing the competition in La Liga (8 points ahead of their runner-up, FC Barcelona). Their evening rivals will have to battle with Liverpool and Arsenal until the end to retain their league title. The Sky Blues can, however, boast a series of twenty-two matches without defeat in the Champions League, the last dating back to the semi-final second leg of the 2021-2022 edition... against Real (3-1, after extra time ).

To win the competition, “you have to beat the best”

“The idea is to win the competition, and to do that you have to beat the best,” argues Carlo Ancelotti. It will be difficult, but if we want to be European champions we will have to eliminate City. » To do this, the coach should count on the Brazilians Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo, formidable in attack... at least as much as on his English prodigy Jude Bellingham, the providential man of the White House since his arrival in the summer of 2023.

“Bellingham’s impact has been enormous. His influence on the game is obvious, it’s a different team than last season,” noted Pep Guardiola, the Citizens coach, after the quarter-final draw on March 15. Facing Real Madrid is “always a difficult challenge”, admits the ex-Barça coach, who speaks with knowledge of the facts. “It is an exceptional club, which can control a lot of things in this competition thanks to the experience it has gained. »

Eleven championship titles

Real Madrid and Manchester City will not be the only clubs to take to the Champions League pitches on Tuesday. At the same time, Arsenal will host Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium. On paper, an advantage to the Londoners, leaders of the Premier League. In difficulty in the Bundesliga, the Bavarians lost in quick succession against Dortmund (2-0) and Heidenheim (3-2). To the point that the “Rekordmeister” finds himself left behind by Bayer Leverkusen after having won eleven league titles.

If Thomas Tuchel's men may seem feverish, distrust remains in the ranks of the Gunners. “Football is such a competitive environment, it’s difficult to be consistent, it can happen to anyone,” insisted Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta in a pre-match press conference. “Everyone knows the quality of this club, the incredible quality of their players, and it doesn’t matter if they struggled in the last game, or the last two or three games. It’s still Bayern and they can hurt us,” added their Brazilian striker, Gabriel Jesus.

The Bavarians also have their knowledge of the Champions League on their side. Arsenal are in fact playing their first quarter-final since 2010, when their opponents only missed two during this period. Above all, the Munich residents have always beaten their rivals of the day in their direct confrontations: four meetings since 2005, for four eliminations.