Real Madrid, again against Manchester City in the Champions League: the champion, on the path of the king | Soccer | Sports

When former Chelsea footballer Obi Mikel opened the ball for the team that was going to match up with Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals, he took out the piece of paper and read “Manchester City,” Txiki Begiristain, sports director of the English club, was amazed. He placed his head on his left hand in a gesture that was difficult to interpret. He did it a few minutes later: “What I thought is: ‘What a shame. Again… Bored with these balls. Always the same”. It is the third consecutive edition of the tournament in which they meet, a high-voltage duel close to becoming a classic. The first leg will be played on Tuesday, April 9 at the Bernabéu and the return leg on Wednesday, April 17 in England.

Some of the most memorable images of Madrid’s 14th European Cup happened against City in the second leg of the semi-finals at a Bernabéu with part of the stands covered by tarpaulins due to the construction. The comeback with Rodrygo’s two goals that took a lost tie to extra time was the most extreme of the unusual comebacks of those days.

That blow contributed to increasing Madrid’s legend in the European Cup – “the kings of the competition,” Guardiola said yesterday – and at the same time fueled City’s competitive ambition, so close to their second final at the time. The draw gave him a second chance the following year, also in the semi-finals, although with the second leg at the Etihad. After showing more restraint at the Bernabéu (1-1), City went on a rampage in Manchester, burned Ancelotti’s team (4-0) and ended up lifting their first Orejona against Inter in Istanbul.

Yesterday Ancelotti wanted to avoid reading this third consecutive matchup with the last champion as a possibility of revenge or as a threat of fear for what happened last year in England: “What prevails is optimism; not the worry,” he said. “The rival is the rival that everyone sees as a favorite. He won the Champions League last year. The idea when you start the Champions League is to win the competition. If you want to win the competition, you have to beat the best. City may be the best team in Europe. “I don’t know, we’ll see.”

What still resonates is that the second leg was perhaps the worst with the Italian on the bench. Although yesterday he still did not want to go in to gut what led to that tough 4-0: “We will think about it. The truth is that in the second leg we didn’t play a good game for many reasons. We will have time to think about this. Now we are focused on tomorrow’s game,” he said in reference to today’s league visit to Pamplona (16.15, Movistar).

Then a national team break begins, which the coach views with optimism. Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militão, who have been out for months due to broken cruciate muscles, have rejoined the group’s work and these days they will be tested in two friendly matches against the youth team in Valdebebas. He believes that they can now enter the list for the next match, on March 31 against Athletic at the Bernabéu (9:00 p.m., Dazn): “Without risking. The important thing is that they are available. I think they will be, because they are doing very well,” he said.

In Nyon, a draw was also held yesterday all the way to the final on June 1 at Wembley: the winner of this cyclical tie between the champion and the king will meet the winner of Arsenal-Bayern in the semi-finals.

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