Manchester City plan to play a behind closed doors friendly this weekend in preparation for next week’s Champions League tie against Real Madrid.
After a series of recovery sessions on Monday, City’s players will have Tuesday off before returning on Wednesday for what will be the start of an intensive training period leading up to the second leg of their Round of 16 tie against the Spanish champions at the Etihad on Friday week.
Pep Guardiola, the City manager, gave his squad some time off last week in the lead up to their final Premier League match against Norwich City but he is taking no chances ahead of the Real game as he seeks to take full advantage of their 2-1 first-leg win to set up a quarter-final showdown with Juventus or Lyon in Lisbon. The final is on Aug. 23.
City’s preparations are also likely to involve a friendly at the club’s CFA training base or the Etihad Stadium as Guardiola bids to maintain fitness levels and competition during the 12-day lead up to the Real match.
“Everyone wants to play in that game [against Real] — they are training for that,” Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football, said. “We’ll play maybe a friendly behind closed doors this weekend and that will help to get [us] fit for Real Madrid.
“Real Madrid are in good form. They’ve won the league — they were behind Barcelona and then they could beat them. It makes them a very dangerous team, that’s the competition we are in, but we are so confident and have to remember the game we did over there.”
Guardiola said he planned to watch Real’s 11 La Liga games since they returned from lockdown, only one of which they failed to win, in addition to those matches they have played this season without their captain Sergio Ramos, who is suspended owing to his red card in the first game against City.
The City manager — who said training would be set up specifically to tailor to Real’s strengths and weaknesses — may pay particular attention to the Madrid side’s 3-0 defeat to Paris St. Germain in the Champions League group stage in September.
Kevin De Bruyne, the City midfielder, said he was expecting Guardiola to really put the squad through their paces.
“Even with games with nothing to play [in the league], we’ve given it our all,” De Bruyne said. “Now we’ve a couple of days to recover and then 10 days of full training and just preparing ourselves for the big game.
“If we do well we have four games left, but if we do really bad then it’s just one game. So let’s try to get as far as possible and try to have a nice Champions League to end the season.”
In the meantime, Begiristain said he was pressing ahead with City’s rebuilding plans for next season, with the club eager to wrap up as much transfer business as early as possible.
Ferran Torres could be City’s first arrival as a replacement for the departed Leroy Sané, provided they can agree a fee with Valencia for the Spain Under-21 winger, who is eager to play under Guardiola. City also want one or two centre-halves and a left back. The likes of John Stones and Nicolás Otamendi could also depart.
“We are working a lot, we have to be ready,” said Begiristain. “It will be a strange window, people have to move fast. We have to bring players who can improve our squad but also it means that maybe someone can leave.
“We have the Champions League so we have to wait to move forward. We might have less time than ever but we’ll have time to make the changes we need to the squad.”