Manchester City v Real Madrid: Champions League semi-final, first leg – live! | Champions League

Pep Guardiola emerges from the tunnel and shares a moment with Carlo Ancelotti. The mutual respect evident as they embrace. Then a taking of the knee… and City get the ball rolling. Here we go!

The teams are out! Manchester City wear sky blue, while Real Madrid trot out in second-choice dark blue. The coda to Hey Jude plays itself out. Blue and white City flags flutter around all four corners of the stadium. It’s quite the sight, the sound, the atmosphere. “Shades of David and Goliath in Pep’s decision to throw Stones at Benzema,” quips Peter Oh. We’ll be off in a couple of minutes!

Flags are flying at the Etihad.
Flags are flying at the Etihad. Photograph: Craig Brough/Reuters

Pep talks to BT. “We adjust, adapt, and we will try to do our best.”

By contrast, this is only City’s third European Cup semi-final. They’ve got a 50-50 record so far, having been knocked out by Real Madrid in 2016, then sashaying past Paris Saint-Germain last year, 4-1 on aggregate. Here’s Barney Ronay on how the “Citizens versus Royals dynamic” may develop over the next eight days.

This is Real Madrid’s 31st European Cup semi-final. They win more ties than they lose – just, 16 to 14 – but they’ve had some semi shockers away from home through the years. They were humped 5-1 at Hamburg in 1980; lost 4-1 to Borussia Dortmund in 2013; and then there’s the famous 5-0 spanking handed out by Milan in 1989. For further details of that last rout, Rob Smyth is, like a pint of plain, your only man.

John Stones has passed a fitness test and will start – as much as one can second-guess Pep Guardiola’s tactical intentions – at right back. He’ll stand in for the injured Kyle Walker. Joao Cancelo misses out through suspension. Gabriel Jesus, fresh from his four-goal romp against Watford, keeps his place in the front three as reward.

There’s some good injury news for Real Madrid, too. David Alaba has recovered from a hamstring problem and starts in the heart of the Real defence.

The teams

Manchester City: Ederson, Stones, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko, De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Foden.
Subs: Ake, Sterling, Gundogan, Grealish, Steffen, Fernandinho, Carson, Egan-Riley, Mbete-Tabu, Palmer, McAtee, Lavia.

Real Madrid: Courtois, Carvajal, Eder Militao, Alaba, Mendy, Valverde, Kroos, Modric, Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius Junior.
Subs: Vallejo, Nacho, Asensio, Marcelo, Lunin, Casemiro, Lucas, Bale, Ceballos, Isco, Camavinga, Fuidias.

Referee: Istvan Kovacs (Romania).

Preamble

Yeah, yeah, Real Madrid have been champions of Europe 13 times, while Manchester City’s tally stubbornly remains a big old fat round zero. But then lookie here at the two clubs’ all-time head-to-head record:

Real Madrid: P6 W2 D2 L2 F7 A7
Manchester City: P6 W2 D2 L2 F7 A7

Pep Guardiola, with reference to all those big-eared trophies in the display cabinet at the Bernabéu, says that “if we have to compete with history, we don’t have any chance.” You get his point, and yet history can be City’s friend, too, because it’s just two years ago when they beat Real 2-1 away and 2-1 at home, to knock the Spanish club out at the round of 16. It’s the last time they met, so surely those are the most relevant numbers of all.

With both teams in the box seat to win their domestic leagues, this is a heavyweight clash between two in-form sides all right. Will old-school, sepia-toned glamor prevail, or is it time for the sleek modern superclub to seize the day? Both teams are three games from glory. Kick-off at the City of Manchester Stadium is at 8pm BST. It’s on!

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