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Real Madrid vs Man City – Analysis, Prediction, Team News

Tuesday 9th May 2023
20:00 GMT
Santiago Bernabeu

As part of our Champions League predictions, we examine the first leg of Real Madrid’s semi-final clash with Man City. This is a re-run of last year’s semi-final – will it have a happier ending for Pep’s men this time around? Read on with our Real Madrid vs Man City prediction.

Real Madrid


2-0 (A)


2-0 (H)


1-0 (H)


5-2 (A)


5-1 (H)

Man City

Bayern Munich

1-1 (A)

Bayern Munich

3-0 (H)

RB Leipzig

7-0 (H)

RB Leipzig

1-1 (A)


3-1 (H)

Real Madrid vs Man City Preview

This match represents Real Madrid’s 16th Champions League semi-final and their 32nd including the European Cup. That total is just under half of the total semi-finals in the competitions’ combined history, and it’s fair to say they’re something of a permanent fixture at the semi-final stage. This tie is also a re-run of last season’s Champions League semi-final, which Real won in dramatic fashion with Rodrygo scoring twice in two minutes to force the match to extra time. A 95th-minute Benzema penalty saw Ancelotti’s men through.

Domestically, two defeats in three matches have effectively handed Barcelona the league title, though even if they won those games they’d still be seven points adrift in second place. As it stands, Real are almost certain, and practically assured, of Champions League qualification for next season and therefore they will be playing for pride to finish above their rivals and neighbours Atletico Madrid. Real won their first Copa del Rey in nine years on the weekend, defeating Osasuna 2-1 in a keenly contested match.

They had a couple of stutters in the Champions League group stage – a 3-2 away defeat to RB Leipzig and a 1-1 draw away with Shakhtar Donetsk, but since then they’ve been imperious. A 5-1 shellacking of Celtic ensured they topped Group F, and from 2-0 down at Anfield, they rallied to outplay the hosts in a dominant 5-2 victory before rounding off the tie with a comfortable 1-0 win in Madrid. Chelsea may have caused a moment or two of panic in the Madrid defence but over the two legs Real ran out 4-0 winners and their progression was never seriously in doubt.

Manchester City are aiming to reach their second Champions League final in three years, and this is their fourth Champions League semi-final. It’s perhaps unfair to suggest that their inability to win the competition under Pep Guardiola be classed as a failure, but arguably they have underachieved in Europe’s premier competition given the playing resources at their disposal. They’ll be hugely wary of a Real Madrid side packed with quality who can score at any given time regardless of the flow of the game.

Arsenal have kept the Premier League title race alive to their immense credit, and City now find themselves competing on two fronts, with six fixtures in 19 days before a week’s rest prior to the FA Cup final. Whereas they surely would have hoped that Newcastle on the weekend in particular could have done them a favour. Crucially, they have a game in hand, and with only four games remaining (three for Arsenal), City are still firmly in the driving seat. That being said, following a missed penalty and an immediate goal on the break for Leeds, City were defending a 2-1 lead for the final 10 minutes or so, which shows that nothing can be taken for granted in football.

City won their Champions League group at a canter, though two consecutive 0-0 draws against Dortmund and FC Copenhagen highlighted the fact that this campaign hasn’t always been plain sailing. Over the last couple of months, kickstarted by a superb 3-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal, City have reached another level, and their Champions League round of 16 second-leg tie against RB Leipzig ended in a 7-0 rout. Their 3-0 victory over Bayern Munich was impressive though perhaps not as straightforward as the scoreline suggests, but that’s an inevitability as the competition stiffens towards the business end.

Team News

Injuries and Suspensions

Real Madrid:

Might Not Play:

Will Not Play: Mendy, Militao

Man City:

Might Not Play:

Will Not Play: Ake

Real Madrid vs Man City Lineups (Predicted)

Real Madrid (4-3-3): Courtois; Camavinga, Rudiger, Alaba, Carvajal; Kroos, Modric, Valverde; Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo, Benzema

Man City: (3-2-4-1 / 4-2-3-1) Ederson; Walker, Dias, Akanji; Rodri, Stones; Grealish, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva; Haaland

Real Madrid vs Man City Lineup
Man City vs Real Madrid Lineup

Real Madrid vs Man City Analysis

Real Can Test City’s New Setup to its Limits

There has been an awful lot of talk lately about City’s new formation. Essentially, if we cut through the jargon and the supposition, what City’s coaching staff have done is pushed John Stones into a deeper-lying double pivot with Rodrigo, and moved their central midfield two further up as a consequence. This gives them what is effectively a 3-2-4-1, and they’re reliant on their wide central defenders to defend the channels in addition to their wide men. It allows them to retain their defensive control while maximising their attacking threat, in theory.

They passed their first major European test against Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals with this setup, but they did give away plenty of chances and if Bayern weren’t in disarray by their own lofty standards then City could have been in trouble. Now they face a Real Madrid side who are highly capable of generating attacking threats in all areas of the pitch, and they could stretch City’s setup to its breaking point with both Vinicius and Rodrygo able to provide a threat out wide as inverted wingers but also as strikers in a more conventional forward three.

It works consistently against the big sides because Real’s midfield is full of inventive midfielders such as Modric, Kroos and Valverde who aren’t afraid to play risky passes to find their forward three in promising positions. This is admittedly making some huge assumptions about how Manchester City will approach the match. Pep is famous for his experimentation in big European matches – sometimes his tweaks come off, sometimes they don’t.

We anticipate that City are going to have to do more defending than they’re accustomed to, and we feel the game will have more of a Manchester City – Arsenal feeling to it where City prioritised generating a threat in transition to punish Arsenal. To that end, Pep highly values the defensive contributions of Bernardo Silva, and we expect him to be reinstated for this match on the right flank to help deal with Vinicius Jr. who thrives on the big stage.

City Can Unsettle Real Madrid with a Higher Tempo Approach

Whenever Manchester City play, regardless of the opponent, it’s tempting to suggest that they’ll look to impose their usual controlled, high-press variant of football and look to defend the counter by any means necessary. However, we have seen this season that City are willing to prioritise generating an attacking threat over defensive control. This is almost certainly a reaction to their near misses in the Champions League which had a familiar feel to them.

The reasoning is simple – better teams are more difficult to play through at walking pace. Better defensive units are better organised and can shut off passing lanes and win individual duels, which makes the 65%-plus possession game difficult to pull off against Europe’s best. It also renders the team vulnerable to repeated counterattacks against world-class attackers.

With all that in mind, it’s no wonder that City have been working all season to formulate a less pedestrian brand of football designed to hurt the elite of European football. Effectively, they have defeated Arsenal 7-2 in the Premier League, and 4-1 against Bayern Munich is nothing to sniff at. Possession stats are as follows: 36% and 52% against Arsenal. 44% and 45% against Bayern Munich. It is of immense credit to City’s coaching staff that they’ve been brave enough to go against their control at all costs approach – if it’s broke, you should fix it.

Real are without a doubt a highly dangerous attacking side, but they found themselves 2-0 down at Anfield in quick order and they can look vulnerable at times – recently, they’ve conceded three against Villarreal, four against Girona and were well-beaten away to Real Sociedad 2-0. All with mostly first-choice lineups. If City can concentrate on moving the ball quickly to prevent Real from being able to sit in and shut off all avenues of supply to Haaland, then they can exploit the same vulnerabilities.

Our Prediction

This is probably the most fascinating match of the entire campaign – a high-stakes tactical encounter that will either see City’s new approach vindicated or see it snap in the face of a rampant Real Madrid attacking unit. We’re going to pick the middle ground in the expectation that both sides will effectively ‘turn up’ and work on exploiting the other side’s weaknesses.

Normally in these high-stakes matches, a low-scoring game would be the safer prediction. However, where these two sides are concerned, the last four Champions League encounters have produced 17 goals in 4 matches. Real have too much quality to be forced to sit in and break – both in terms of City having to defend a lethal team in transition which will inevitably make them more cautious, but also that Real Madrid have world-class midfielders in their own right and we can expect them to be able to keep the ball when necessary at times to take the sting out of the match. We think this could be end-to-end at times as the creative and attacking qualities of both teams shine through.

Real Madrid 2-2 Man City

Real Madrid vs Man City Betting Tip – Over 2.5 Goals Odds:


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