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Champions League Preview - Semi-Final 2nd Leg

The Champions League final is less than a month away and the four teams remaining in the competition are desperate to reach the spectacle in Istanbul.

Manchester City showed their European savvy to hold Real Madrid to a draw amid the raucous Bernabeu atmosphere, while AC Milan were completely blown away by city rivals Inter at the San Siro to leave them perilously close to an embarrassing exit.

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Inter Milan v AC Milan - (3-0)

Inter Milan will hope to finish what they started last Wednesday in front of their adoring fans at the ground they share with bitter rivals AC, who failed to make ‘home’ advantage count last time out.

Goals from Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan within the space of the opening 11 minutes left AC reeling. The fifth and final Derby della Madonnina of the season could not have more riding on and the Nerazzurri know they simply have to hold their nerve to reach a first Champions League final since 2010.

As for the Rossoneri, they have to break the pattern of this season after losing three Milan derbies already this season - twice in the league and once in the Supercoppa. If Stefano Pioli was in need of any sort of motivation, Inter’s Champions League record is unlikely to provide much inspiration - they have yet to trail at any point in the knockout stages and have kept clean sheets in four of their five games. Domestic form also suggests an Inter victory; they are on a seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions and now have a five-point lead in Serie A over their rivals.

Romelu Lukaku has also started to hit form at exactly the right moment for Inter, scoring twice in a 4-2 victory against Sassuolo and Simone Inzaghi had the added advantage of resting key players ahead of the second leg. The same cannot be said AC Milan as their much-changed side slipped to an embarrassing 2-0 defeat at Spezia, where the ultras behind the goal demanded answers from the players.

Throughout Champions League history, only one team has lost the first leg of a semi by two or more goals and then went on to go through - Liverpool's incredible comeback against Barcelona in 2019 being the only exception - but that is the task standing ahead of Pioli's side.



Inter Milan v AC Milan Team News

As mentioned above, Inter had the luxury of being able to rest players and Lauturo Martinez, Denzel Dumfries and Andre Onana are all expected to come back into the starting XI for Tuesday’s game.

Federico Dimarco has five assists from open play in the Champions League this season - more than any other player - meaning Robin Gosens may not be rushed back after recovering from a dislocated shoulder. Edin Dzeko would hope to come back into contention after scoring, although Lukaku’s goalscoring form may keep him in alongside Martinez.

For AC, Rafael Leao, Junior Messias, Rade Krunic and Ismael Bennacer all missed the trip to La Spezia and Alexis Saelemaekers could deputise for the Portugal forward if he misses out completely.

Olivier Giroud will lead the line, meaning Divock Origi will be relegated to the role of impact sub, although captain Davide Calabria will be returning to right-back ahead of Pierre Kalulu.



Manchester City v Real Madrid - (1-1)

Two of the greatest sides in the world right now will lock horns once again as Premier League champions-elect Manchester City welcome 14-times European Champions Real Madrid to the Etihad on Wednesday evening.

City left the Bernabeu with a respectable 1-1 draw thanks to a scintillating Kevin De Bruyne strike cancelling out Vinicius Jr’s rasping drive to leave the tie and the scoreline finely poised. The momentum changes in the game were fascinating to watch, with both goals coming against the run of play after long spells of domination from both sides.

Claiming a draw will undoubtedly leave City as favourites in front of what is sure to be a partisan Cityzens crowd, who know their team can advance to the Champions League final and win the Premier League title in the space of three days. Victory over Everton on Saturday means Arsenal’s defeat to Brighton leaves Pep Gaurdiola’s men with the title just one victory away, with Chelsea hoping to spoil the party.

Ilkay Gundogan scored twice and claimed an assist in the win at Goodison Park, but thoughts of retaining the Premier League title will be very much put on the backburner. City have a 22-game unbeaten run to protect against Real first, winning 15 games in a row at the Etihad, scoring at least twice in 14 of those games. They have also not lost a Champions League game at home since September 2018.

This will mean little to perennial European conquerors Real, who may have won the Copa del Rey already this season, but lost the LaLiga title to bitter rivals Barcelona at the weekend. A 1-0 victory over Getafe thanks to Marco Asensio’s goal ensured Los Blancos did their part, but Barca held their nerve to win away at rivals Espanyol to clinch the title. Their away record leaves something to be desired as well, losing their last two on the road to Girona and Real Sociedad.



Man City v Real Madrid Team News

Nathan Ake is the only injury doubt for the English champions, with the Netherlands international sitting out the previous two Premier League games.

Given Ake is the only injury doubt, but may still actually be fit for the return leg, Guardiola has free reign to pick his strongest starting XI. Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva and John Stones are ready to come back into contention, while Erling Haaland will resume his rivalry with Antonio Rudiger at the back.

Eduardo Camavinga limped off in the closing stages of the win against Getafe, but Carlo Ancelotti confirmed it should not be anything serious. The young French international is reportedly in line to return to a familiar midfield role, with Spanish media reporting Rodrygo will be sacrificed in the tactical shake-up.

It comes after Ferland Mendy completed 45 minutes in his comeback at the weekend, with David Alaba and Karim Benzema rested and Eder Militao back from his Champions League ban. Alaba could fit in at left back alongside Militao, with Camavinga pushed into his usual role of midfield.

 

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V: 1.37.0 All rights reserved. August 2021
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