EI Madrid against Guardiola. The first stone of European football against the last exponent of Asian luxury. Thirteen European Cups compared to none. History that you made, history to make, anthem of the Tenth that would also be worth putting lyrics and music to the duel (follow the match live on As.com). Almost everything that surrounds City, for more than a century in tow of Manchester’s other great team, United, has a numerical expression. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, half brother of the emir of Abu Dhabi, deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and the richest man in British football, paid 250 million (less than 1% of his estimated fortune) by the club to the former Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra in 2008. Since then he has spent almost 2,000 million on footballers and has changed the path of the entity. Before his arrival, the club had won twelve titles in 128 years. In the last fourteen he has raised 16, ten of them with Guardiola, who is serving his sixth season on the bench. The Champions League is his last frontier.
The new property, whose first major operation was to buy Robinho from Madrid for 40 million, it took three years to get the team into the Champions League. Then it has not come out of there, always going to more: two punctures in the group stage, three times in the second round, as many in the quarterfinals, a semifinal and the final lost last year against Chelsea, another petrofootball brother who already has dethroned Madrid. This season he has a shot at revalidating the Premier, with Liverpool one point away, and He has already let three titles slip away: the Community Shield (against Leicester), the FA Cup (Liverpool eliminated him) and the Carabao Cup (West Ham knocked him out on penalties). A certain frustration for the most valuable squad in the world (959 million).
The team is tailor-made for Guardiola and no expense spared. City paid 860 million for the 16 players used by the coach in the tie against Atlético, at an average of 53.7 per head. All the players except Fernandinho, De Bruyne and Sterling were signed with the Catalan as coach, surrounded by a mostly Spanish team (all the technical and management bodies except a goalkeeping coach, the doctor, the cook…). There are only two homegrown players in the squad: Foden and the very young Palmer. And the club has already been sanctioned twice, with fines of 20 and 10 million, for skipping UEFA’s lax financial fair play. Besides, the TAS freed him from a two-year ban without participating in European competitions and 20 million more fine for this reason.
At his side, in Madrid, which is also a giant, everything seems smaller. The 18 players who eliminated Chelsea cost almost half that of City (491 million) and Ancelotti had to make do with what was more Alaba and Camavinga. In the Madrid squad they resist, it is true that without very leading roles, four youth squads.
The field, on the other hand, equalizes everything. City and Madrid offer similar results (two more goals from the English, one less conceded by the whites) going down different paths. From Madrid are the individualities: Benzema’s 12 goals in nine games; Vinicius’ 67 dribbles, at the top of the bill, plus his six assists; the almost 1,300 passes added by Modric and Kroos, to which only Rodri approaches; the 59 balls recovered by Casemiro, who leads the ranking among midfielders. City, without a true nine, spreads out its virtues more: it is the leader in possession (60.4%) and in passing accuracy (90.6%) and adds more attacks per game. His strengths are consistency, pressure after loss and deactivation of the rival. Nothing that has not been seen in Guardiola’s career but more refined.
Madrid escaped from that spider web woven by Pep’s Barça seized by vertigo. Hence, Rodrygo may have an opportunity after Valverde, in his role as a midfielder, took away his place in the double duel against Chelsea. The Uruguayan is also safe this time, more so if, as it seems, Casemiro does not arrive on time. Rodrygo was unleashed in Pamplona and will have a role in the tie, although it does not seem that he will start. Camavinga, another who was uncovered in El Sadar, is better placed.
Ancelotti, who booked Kroos and Modric in Pamplona, key to overcoming pressure from City, takes Mendy for granted and is not so forceful with Alaba.
In the City, the problems have concentrated in the defense. Cancelo is suspended and Walker, who was injured against Atlético, has not played or trained yesterday. They are the two most solvent sides of the team. Neither Stones is ready. In exchange, Guardiola has recovered the central defender Rúben Dias, who will form a partnership with Laporte. Aké and Zinchenko point to emergency wings. They will be the sky blue weak point. In attack, on the other hand, he has surpluses. Mahrez (the team’s top scorer) is safe and Foden, Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, who has just played poker against Watford, are playing between one or two places.
Guardiola’s record is very favorable against Madrid (11 wins, 4 draws and 4 losses), although he has been level (two wins and two losses) since he left Barça. He also beats Ancelotti in direct duels, who won both games in which he led the whites and lost all four on the Everton bench. And City has not fallen to the Etihad since September 2018, in the group stage, against Lyon. However, the Catalan coach has not yet passed the litmus test: defending a first-leg result at the Bernabéu, that stadium where there is nothing incurable for Madrid.