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Champions League Preview- Semi-Final 1st Leg

The bright lights of the Bernabeu will perhaps be dwarfed by the stars on display in the Spanish capital when Real Madrid welcome Premier League champions Manchester City.

Just 24 hours later, a place in the Champions League final will be tantalisingly dangled in front of both AC Milan and Inter Milan in their shared home of the San Siro.


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Real Madrid vs Manchester City 

Real Madrid clinched the Copa del Rey on Saturday against Osasuna, with Rodrygo striking twice to overcome their dogged opponents and add to Carlo Ancelotti’s growing trophy cabinet. However, the LaLiga crown is slipping to their bitter rivals Barcelona and will soon be fully relinquished.

Yet European success is always the barometer for Los Blancos and a 15th Champions League trophy would undoubtedly still represent a great success. The Spanish giants have only failed to win the competition once in the past five seasons when they made it to the semi-final stage - losing to Chelsea in 2021.

Man City have no such domestic concerns and now sit one point clear of Arsenal atop the Premier League table after victory against Leeds United, where Erling Haaland had a rare quiet day in front of goal.

The treble is also still a distinct possibility with an FA Cup final still to come next month, with the stalemate against Bayern Munich the only game in the last 16 that City have not won. City exited the competition at this stage last season to Madrid, edging a seven-goal thriller 4-3 at the Etihad, before a stoppage-time comeback at 3-1 sealed a remarkable performance.



Real Madrid v Man City Team News

Eder Militao is suspended for the first leg for his accumulation of three yellow cards in the Champions League, Ferland Mendy and Dani Ceballos will definitely not be available due to injury

Luka Modric should feature from the start after overcoming a hamstring problem, while Eduardo Camavinga is likely to feature at left-back alongside David Alaba at centre-half to cope with Militao’s absence.

Nathan Ake is the bgigest concern for Pep Guardiola after his hamstring appeared to go against Leeds, but Rodri, John Stones, Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva will all be available to come straight back in after being rested.

Haaland averages a goal every 58 minutes in the Champions League - the best record in the competition’s history - and will undoubtedly be the main focus for the makeshift Real defence.



AC Milan vs Inter Milan 

The bitter Milan rivals represent two of the five last Italian clubs still standing in European competition, with Roma, Juventus and Fiorentina still competing on the continental front.

This is the fourth version of the Derby della Madonnina of the season, with both teams recording one league victory apiece - the Rossoneri were 3-2 winners back in September, while the Nerazzurri edged February's contest 1-0, and they also came out on top in the Supercoppa Italiana.

Milan were runners-up from Group E during the autumn, but rallied to knock out Tottenham in the first knockout stages, before frustrating and knocking out Napoli in the quarter-finals - a small token of revenge for losing their Serie A crown to the Neapolitans.

After qualifying from a tough Champions League group featuring Bayern Munich and Barcelona, Inter have put domestic issues aside to dispatch Porto and Benfica to reach the final four. Since that pulsating 3-3 draw with Benfica, they have brushed aside Empoli, Lazio, Verona and Roma by scoring 14 times and conceding just once, in addition to Derby d'Italia victory over Juventus in the Coppa Italia.



Inter Milan v AC Milan Team News

The biggest concern for AC going into this game will be the fitness of starman Rafael Leao after the Portugal international limped off during the win against Lazio and was replaced by Alexis Saelemaekers. The Belgium international could deputise in Leao’s place, in place of Ante Rebic being recalled.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not registered for the Champions League this season due to injury, while Brahim Diaz may be recalled to the right of midfield for Stefano Piloi’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

Lauturo Martinez, Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were all rested by Simone Inzaghi during the win against Roma last weekend, but Romelu Lukaku will surely be loathe to miss out on a starting place after showing signs of looking back to his best.

Milan Skriniar is entering the final games of his Inter career before joining Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer and will likely miss both legs due to injury.

 

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