PETE JENSON: Real Madrid will finally run out of lives if they don’t defend better against Man City next week… but Casemiro’s return is huge, their fans will be hostile and Carlo Ancelotti has the luxury of resting his stars this weekend (unlike Dynamism!)
- Real Madrid got away with it at Man City in the semi-final first leg and they know it
- City got off to a flying start in the Etihad clash and should have been out of sight
- But there are reasons for Real to be positive ahead of the second leg next Wednesday
- Casemiro is back, the fans are up to it and the LaLiga title is almost settled
They got away with it and they know they did.
A quick look at Marca ratings tells the story: Eder Militao zero, David Alaba zero, Ferland Mendy zero, Toni Kroos zero, even Vinicius one out of four stars despite his brilliant goal.
They weren’t the hallmarks of a team that had played their part in an epic seven-goal thriller.
Real Madrid got away with Manchester City in the semi-final first leg and they know it
A quick look at Marca notes tells the story
Marca know it, everyone in Madrid knows it: they should be out, but they’re not. “You can’t kill Madrid,” read one headline.
A radio commentator described him as having emerged from a head-on collision almost unscathed.
‘Almost’ because they are still behind, but they now believe they have three big factors in their favour: Casemiro is back; they are at home in front of their own supporters who have already been called up to create an atmosphere that will lead them to the final – as if they had to be asked; and they can field the reserves on Saturday as their run for the league title is already over.
In Pep Guardiola’s short and slightly annoyed replies to the Spanish post-match reporter, he mentioned the Leeds game at the weekend.
Real Madrid are home to Espanyol and if Ancelotti wishes, he could rest most of his starting XI for the second leg.
Madrid need a point to win La Liga and there are five games left to win, so it could be the afternoon off for the first team and players such as Eduardo Camavinga, Marco Asensio and Dani Ceballos to win the title.
Benzema will surely be rested? He has now scored 41 goals in 41 games this season. He had missed his last two shots on goal but sent a panenka to keep Real Madrid level.
Rodrygo confirmed after the game that he was training in training in the days leading up to the game.
City got off to a flying start in the 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 epitome of calm in the post-match interview. When asked why Madrid were trailing by two goals so early, he replied: “That’s the level.” An excellent three-word answer which he then elaborated: “It’s the semi-final, they’re a very good team, they can score two goals against you.”
He ended his interview by saying: “We are going to do something magical in the second leg: win”.
Madrid will have to be better. Carlo Ancelotti’s opening gambit was a loose 4-3-3 more appropriate for playing at Celta Vigo than at Manchester City. How the game started five before halftime was on the cards.
He rectified midway through the first half with Luka Modric, who had barely touched him in the first 25 minutes, moved closer to Benzema and wingers Vinicius and Rodrygo said to make him a midfielder four in front of the back four to keep them from disappearing without a trace before the break.
They adopted that plan in the second half, but neither Vinicius nor Rodrygo are cut out for hard-working wide midfielders and City were still unstoppable.
Carlo Ancelotti’s opening gambit was a loose 4-3-3 more appropriate for playing at Celta Vigo
Real will also be at home in front of their own supporters who will create a hostile atmosphere
Ancelotti will have to come up with something different next week. Madrid’s support will require an attack but Eder Militao and company cannot be left so exposed. The Italian coach has confirmed that Casemiro will be fine for the second leg which is a huge boost.
He could, however, be without Alaba. 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 like we did tonight, we go out.”
Madrid need to defend better and hurt a Manchester City side who might not give them as much space as they did in the first leg. It won’t be easy.
But try telling that to Madrid supporters who are already planning to travel to Paris.
Stars like Karim Benzema can be rested by Ancelotti this weekend before the massive second leg