PETE JENSON: Real Madrid will finally run out of lives if they do not defend better against Man City next week… but Casemiro’s return is huge, their fans will be hostile and Carlo Ancelotti has the luxury to rest his stars this weekend (unlike Pep!)
- Real Madrid got away with it at Man City in semi-final first leg and they know it
- City made a blistering start in Etihad clash and should have been out of sight
- But there’s reasons for Real be positive heading into return leg next Wednesday
- Casemiro is back, fans are up to the task and the LaLiga title is all-but settled
They got away with it and they know they did.
A quick glance at Marca’s ratings tell the story: Eder Militao zero, David Alaba zero, Ferland Mendy zero, Toni Kroos zero, even Vinicius one star out of four despite his brilliant goal.
They were not the marks of a team that had played their part in an epic seven-goal thriller.
Real Madrid got away with it against Manchester City in semi-final first leg and they know it
A quick glance at Marca’s ratings tells the story of a one-sided game, but not score
Marca knows, everyone in Madrid knows: they should be out, but they are not. ‘You cannot kill off Madrid’ ran one headline.
One radio commentator described it as getting out of a head-on collision almost unscathed.
‘Almost’ because they still trail but they now believe they have three big factors in their favour: Casemiro is back; they are at home in front of the own supporters who have already been summoned to create an atmosphere that will see them into the final – as if they needed to be asked; and they can field the reserves on Saturday because their league title race is already over.
In Pep Guardiola’s short and slightly annoyed answers to the Spanish post-match reporter he mentioned the Leeds game at the weekend.
Real Madrid are home to Espanyol and if Ancelotti wants to he could rest most of his starting XI for the second leg.
Madrid need a point to win LaLiga and have five games left to win it so it could be the afternoon off for the first team and players such as Eduardo Camavinga, Marco Asensio and Dani Ceballos to get the title over the line.
Surely Karim Benzema will be rested? He has now scored 41 goals in 41 games this season. He had missed his last two penalties but pinged a Panenka to keep Real Madrid in the tie.
Rodrygo confirmed post-match that he was practising in training in the days leading up to the game.
City made a blistering start in Champions League clash and should have been out of sight
But Real are boosted by the return of central defensive midfielder Casemiro for the second leg
Benzema was also the embodiment of calm in the post-match interview. When asked why Madrid were trailing by two goals so early he said: ‘It’s the level.’ A great three word answer that he then elaborated on: ‘It’s the semi-final they are a very good team, they can score two goals against you.’
He finished his interview saying: ‘We are going to do something magic in the second leg: win.’
Madrid will have to be better. Carlo Ancelotti’s opening gambit was a loose 4-3-3 more suitable for playing Celta Vigo than Manchester City. The way the game started five goals conceded before half-time was on the cards.
He rectified midway through the first half with Luka Modric, who had barely touched the ball in the first 25 minutes moved forward closer to Benzema and wingers Vinicius and Rodrygo told to make it a midfield four in front of the back four to save them from disappearing without trace before the break.
They took that plan into the second half but neither Vinicius nor Rodrygo are cut out to be hard-working wide midfielders and City were still unstoppable.
Carlo Ancelotti’s opening gambit was a loose 4-3-3 more suitable for playing Celta Vigo
Real will also be at home in front of the own supporters who will create a hostile atmosphere
Ancelotti will have to come up with something different next week. The Madrid support will demand attack but Eder Militao and company cannot be left as exposed. The Italian coach confirmed Casemiro will be fine for the second leg which is a huge boost.
He might be without Alaba though. The Austrian clearly has a problem with the abductor muscle in his right leg and the second leg could come too soon.
Ancelotti was realistic in his post-match press conference: ‘If we defend as we did tonight, we go out.’
Madrid need to defend better and hurt a Manchester City team that might not leave them as much space as in the first leg. It will not be easy.
But try telling that to the Madrid supporters already looking at travel plans to Paris.
Stars like Karim Benzema can be rested by Ancelotti this weekend ahead of massive return leg