Preview: Real Madrid well rested to take on Man City in Ancelotti’s 200th Champions League game

AP , Tuesday 9 Apr 2024

One of the Champions League’s newest rivalries resumes this week with Real Madrid hoping to take advantage of the extended rest it’s had ahead of Tuesday’s quarterfinal against Manchester City.

Real Madrid s Jude Bellingham, centre, controls the ball during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain. Photo: AFP

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, entering his record-extending 200th Champions League match, has had eight full days to prepare his squad for facing Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City for the third straight year in the knockout rounds of Europe’s top club competition.

City, meanwhile, played on Saturday at Crystal Palace in the Premier League and Guardiola wasn’t happy about the considerable difference in the teams’ preparation time. Madrid’s last Spanish league match was on March 31, a 2-0 win at Athletic Bilbao. Madrid didn’t have to play this past weekend as the Spanish calendar was reserved for the Copa del Rey final.

Madrid eliminated City two seasons ago with a late comeback in the second leg of the semifinals at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where it hasn’t lost in 27 straight games in all competitions dating back to last April.

But City got the better of Madrid last season, advancing after a 4-0 rout in the second leg of the semifinals at home. Both clubs went on to win the Champions League title after eliminating their rival.

The last four matches between the clubs produced 17 goals in total. They will have faced each other 12 times in 12 years after this season’s quarterfinals. So far there are four wins for City and three for Madrid, with three draws.

Both teams are trying to reach the semifinals of the Champions League for the fourth straight time.


Ancelotti arrives as the coach with most Champions League titles (four) and victories (114), and he will be reaching his milestone 200th game in charge at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

It will be the 59th game in the Madrid dugout for the 64-year-old Italian, who is in his 21st Champions League season.

“It’s a big achievement,” he said. “I remember my first game, it was against Sparta Prague when I was at Parma. Reaching 200 games means a lot. Surviving so many years in football, especially at my age, is a success.”


Ancelotti will try to win his third Champions League title with Madrid with a squad that this season was boosted by the signing of Jude Bellingham.

The young England midfielder has never played in the Premier League, having joined Borussia Dortmund at an early age, but he has faced Man City four times and scored twice against the English side.

Bellingham has 20 goals and 10 assists since joining Madrid and is one of the club’s top attacking weapons this season along with Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo.

“Bellingham’s impact has been massive,” Guardiola said “It’s a different team from last season. His influence is obvious, and we have to try to discover what he does to control it. Facing Real Madrid is always a tough challenge, nobody can deny it. They are an exceptional club and in this competition they can control many things with the experience they have in the past.”


Madrid and Man City drew 1-1 in the first leg at the Bernabeu last season in a match marked by the duel between Madrid defender Antonio Rüdiger and Man City striker Erling Haaland, who was the Champions League’s leading scorer at the time.

But Rüdiger and Madrid’s defense made sure Haaland wasn’t a factor, and the Norway international got only a few touches throughout the match.

“I’m really looking forward to the duel with him. You dream about these games. It’s amazing to be a part of this. Against Erling Haaland or whoever,” Rüdiger told UEFA this week. “They have a lot of great players, not just Haaland. He’s obviously a great forward. I’m really looking forward to this game.”

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