Carlo Ancelotti said his Real Madrid side must stop Manchester City’s whole team and not just striker Erling Haaland when they meet in the Champions League semi-finals today. The reigning 14-time record champions host Pep Guardiola’s hungry visitors in the first leg who are spearheaded by Norwegian hitman Haaland, who boasts 51 goals in 45 games across all competitions.
The 22-year-old has notched 12 of those in eight Champions League matches, but Ancelotti said his plan was to try and foil a City side that looks “unstoppable” as a whole. “Obviously Haaland is a very dangerous player. He’s showing impressive qualities, above all in goalscoring. He’s a threat obviously,” Ancelotti said yesterday.
“Just talking about Haaland means not talking about a complete team that plays good football, defends well, attacks, that has ideas. We’re not setting up for a game to stop Haaland, but to stop a team that seems unstoppable, but I think we can have chances to have an equal game, one that we can win.”
City have been foiled time and time again in their quest to win the Champions League, but Haaland’s lethal edge gives them a strong chance of beating Madrid and reaching the final. Ancelotti said he thought Manchester City have more avenues to cause danger with Haaland in the side. “It’s a more complete team than last year. They had a very good forward in Gabriel Jesus, but he has different characteristics to Haaland,” continued the Italian coach. “Today, they can take advantage more of long balls, because they have a very tall striker, and behind him is (Kevin) De Bruyne, so they can win balls in the air. They have not changed their style, they are very well organised at the back and a team that handles the ball very well.”
Seeking ‘revenge’ huge mistake against Madrid: Guardiola
Seeking Champions League revenge against Real Madrid would be a grave error by Manchester City, Guardiola claimed yesterday.
The City coach said his team would try and capitalise on an “opportunity” instead of aiming to make Ancelotti’s reigning champions pay for eliminating them at the same stage last season.
The former Barcelona player and manager was at odds with City’s defensive midfielder Rodri, who said the team were hungry for revenge against the record 14-time winners today at the Santiago Bernabeu. “It will be a huge mistake, we’re not here for revenge, just an opportunity,” Guardiola said.
“Last season we did everything, more than everything to reach the final, but (in) football... it’s not enough.”
City have never lifted the trophy but Madrid have triumphed five times in the last nine seasons. Guardiola’s side beat Madrid 4-3 in the first leg last season and led by a goal in the return, until two late Rodrygo Goes strikes forced extra-time.
Karim Benzema scored a penalty in the additional period to send Madrid through to the Paris final, where they beat Liverpool.
“I think we did 180 minutes brilliantly but it’s not enough sometimes, you can lose the leg in five minutes,” said Spanish midfielder Rodri. “You have to kill the opponent when you can. We’ve learnt from the past but I don’t like to talk about the past. We’ve learnt a lot, it’s another year, another goal, with the hunger of having revenge.”
Real Madrid players train on the eve of their Champions League semi-final first leg match against Manchester City. (AFP)