Manchester City and Real Madrid have all to play for come Wednesday, May 16. Following a tight 1-1 draw at the Spanish capital, both clubs have the opportunity to reach another Champions League final in this winner-takes-all second leg.
With City going away to Everton on the weekend with a rotated side compared to the team that played in Madrid, expect the lineup to be similar to the one that featured against Real Madrid in the first leg given how well the team performed.
It seems that the starting XI has stayed relatively the same for the huge Champions League clashes, and unless Pep Guardiola overthinks the selection, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see the following team walk out into the Etihad for what is the biggest game of the season so far.
Manchester City’s predicted lineup vs. Real Madrid
City’s shot-stopper has faced criticism this season due to his low save percentage (58%) but has been huge when it matters. He had a man-of-the-match performance against Madrid in the first leg and there is no way he gets dropped for this crucial clash.
CB: Manuel Akanji
One of, if not the bargain signing of the season, Manuel Akanji has been stellar in his first year at the Etihad. With Nathan Ake back in training but probably not up to full fitness, expect Akanji to slide into the left-sided centre-back slot.
CB: Rúben Dias
A man who needs no introduction, Rúben Dias once again proved why he has to be considered among the world’s best defenders. He was a huge reason why Karim Benzema was so quiet in the first leg and will need to have another monster performance if City are to progress into the final.
CB: Kyle Walker
Kyle Walker was seemingly out of favour at City with the new formation, however, the rock-solid defender has proven once again that he is a vital part of City’s defence. A huge performance over Vinicius Jr. proved that he is still an elite 1-on-1 defender and his speed, while not the same as before, is still very much there. Another massive performance from Walker will be needed to keep Vinicius in check.
CDM: John Stones
While the rest of City’s players get the plaudits, John Stones has quietly had perhaps his best season in a Manchester City jersey. Doubling as a defensive midfielder and a right back, Stones has been the most important cog in Guardiola’s new system and is undroppable at the moment.
No Manchester City player has played as many games or minutes as Rodri. The Spaniard did come off against Everton with a knee problem but it is likely he is fit for the semi-final clash. Perhaps City’s most important player, it is a must for Rodri to start against the elite Real Madrid midfield.
LM: Jack Grealish
One of the players who enjoyed a rest against Everton, Jack Grealish will once again be tasked with running Dani Carvajal mad down the wing. His efforts coming back were on full display during the first leg and expect Grealish to make more of an impact on the attacking front during the second match.
CM: Ilkay Gündogan
The City captain is playing some of his best football at the moment. Scoring a magnificent brace against Everton (seriously, go watch it now) on the weekend after scoring two past Leeds the weekend before, Gündogan is back to his best. Not only does he bring an extra offensive spark but his leadership and off-the-ball work sets the pace for the rest of the team. He is undroppable at the moment.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne
Real Madrid’s worst nightmare, Kevin De Bruyne is poised to have another huge game against the reigning European champions. He also took a much-needed break against Everton and is likely to be at the peak of his powers in the second leg. Another goal could be coming for the Belgian.
RM: Bernardo Silva
Another player who was in desperate need of a break against Everton, Bernardo Silva will start over Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden on Wednesday. His pressing, defending, and ability to create something out of nothing will all come in handy against a tough Real Madrid team. He offers many more dimensions than the other wingers on the bench
ST: Erling Haaland
Who else would lead the line? Scoring his 52nd goal of the season against Everton, Erling Haaland will be itching to score against the European giants, especially after his lacklustre performance in the first leg. Last time City drew 1-1 away from home in the Champions League, Haaland scored five goals in the next leg to give City a 7-0 home win against RB Leipzig. Is it too much to ask to expect the same? Whatever the outcome will be, it is unlikely that Haaland doesn’t find the back of the net in this second leg.