One more step to royalty

Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus will be taking the place of the injured Sergio Aguero for their last-16, second-leg Champions League clash against Real Madrid.
Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus will be taking the place of the injured Sergio Aguero for their last-16, second-leg Champions League clash against Real Madrid.PHOTO: TWITTER/ MANCITY

Man City have to knock out Real and win first Champs League title to join European elite

LONDON • Manchester City have won every domestic trophy, but the Champions League remains the missing piece in their collection.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, are the record 13-time European Cup winners, so today's last-16, second-leg clash is very much a case of nouveau riche against aristocrats.

Throw in the Barcelona connection - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola both played for and coached the Catalan giants, guiding them to two Champions League triumphs - and it is likely to be a fiery affair at the Etihad.

The English Premier League side hold a 2-1 lead over the La Liga winners and at his virtual pre-match press conference yesterday, the 49-year-old Spaniard called on his side to rise to the occasion.

"We want to win this competition for sure. We have to beat Madrid and teams like Madrid if we want to win," he said. "We have to beat them tomorrow and then the next rounds (in Portugal).

"The fact we play against Madrid or not, I will always be a Barcelona supporter. It's the club where I grew up and gave me part of who I am, but when I was with Bayern (Munich) and played against Real Madrid or Barcelona, I wanted to beat them.

"I have the feeling today that we are ready to play the game, do a good performance and win. That is my feeling. We are ready."

While Real will be missing their captain Sergio Ramos through suspension, City will also be without forward Sergio Aguero because of injury.

Having won the Spanish league for the first time since 2017, Real are on a high and even though their talismanic defender will be absent, Guardiola remains wary of Karim Benzema and Zinedine Zidane's influence from the sidelines.

On the French striker, last season's second-highest goalscorer in La Liga (21) behind Barca's Lionel Messi (25), Guardiola said: "He's a fantastic player, I have been aware since he was a young lad at Lyon and he's a great player.

"It's difficult to know when you think that you've got one of his (Zidane's) tactical plans covered, he'll hit you with another or revert.

WATCH OUT, REAL MADRID

We want to win this competition for sure... I have the feeling today that we are ready to play the game, do a good performance and win. That is my feeling. We are ready.

PEP GUARDIOLA , Manchester City manager, wants to lead the Premier League club to their first Champions League title.

"We've watched all Madrid's games since La Liga restarted so we've spoken about how we think Madrid might approach this game, but what we have done more is speak as a squad about how we can cause problems for them. That is what we've been focusing on in the build-up to this game."

Earlier, City confirmed their second signing of the close season after Ferran Torres, with the arrival of Nathan Ake from Bournemouth for £40 million (S$72.3 million).

The Dutch international declared his admiration for his new boss, saying "what he's done in the game speaks for itself", but it is likely to be one defender in and one defender out for City.

Guardiola yesterday said 19-year-old Spaniard Eric Garcia, who has only one year left on his deal, had rejected an extension and thus would likely leave to return to the Nou Camp, which he left in 2017 as a La Masia academy product.

REUTERS

MAN CITY V REAL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2020, with the headline 'One more step to royalty'. Print Edition | Subscribe