Real Madrid vs Man City: Erling Haaland to spearhead ‘revenge’ mission in Champions League rematch
After their painful defeat by Real Madrid at this stage of the Champions League last season, Manchester City midfielder Rodri says his side are out for revenge tonight.
City are back at the Bernabeu for the first leg of their semi-final and the memories of last year’s second-leg collapse are still fresh in their minds.
Pep Guardiola’s side were leading 5-3 on aggregate in the 90th minute, but they collapsed, as two late goals from Rodrygo sent the game to extra-time.
Karim Benzema then completed the comeback with a penalty to leave Guardiola still chasing the one trophy that has eluded him since he took over at City in 2016.
“In the last five minutes of the second leg we didn’t handle it the right way, but we have learned from that — you have to kill when you can,” said Rodri.
“We changed a lot of things and the environment has changed a lot, so we are here to fight again and we have the hunger for revenge.”
City certainly have changed from a year ago and nights like this are exactly why they signed Erling Haaland.
If they want to, as Rodri put it, “kill” a game, then there is no one better than Haaland to do the honours. The Norway striker has been unstoppable this season, scoring 51 goals in 46 games since joining from Borussia Dortmund last summer.
Haaland’s arrival has transformed the way City play, giving Guardiola greater tactical flexibility than ever.
If needed, the Spaniard can instruct his team to go direct and in big matches this season, such as both Premier League games against title rival Arsenal, that has proved decisive.
“If you have a player like Haaland, you have to take advantage,” Guardiola said yesterday. “We will play for him. When we didn’t have him we had to play differently. Now we have to take advantage of having a player like him.”
Haaland is very dangerous, we know it... but it’s not only him.
For all his goals, it has still taken time for City to adapt to Haaland. Since the World Cup the team has gelled and they are on a 20-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
“The arrival of a player like Erling added to the way we have played for a number of years,” said Rodri. “At first it was hard to find a way — not his ability to score, but to understand the players and how the team plays.”
Haaland is a player Real Madrid have tried to sign in the past, and will look to do so again in the future.
“Haaland is very dangerous, we know it,” said Real boss Carlo Ancelotti. “But it’s not only him.
“City has a complete team that plays very well. We will try to stop a team that seems unstoppable, but we will have our chances and we can compete.”
Madrid’s best form of defence may be attack and they will look to exploit City’s backline, which is set to be without the injured Nathan Ake.
Wide forward Vinicius Jr terrorised Liverpool and Chelsea in the past two knockout rounds, and Guardiola will call upon Kyle Walker to keep him quiet, given his vast experience and expertise in one-on-one defending.
Luka Modric is fit to start in the Madrid midfielder after an injury scare and, while all the talk is about Jude Bellingham’s possible move to the Bernabeu, the Croatian underlines how this is already a game packed with stars.
Haaland will be out to show why he is arguably the biggest of them all.