Manchester City venture into new territory when they host Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal. The visitors, on the other hand, have vast experience at this stage of the competition.
While the "Citizens" had never previously made it to the semifinals of European football's most prestigious club competition, Real are back for a sixth straight season after having come back to defeat Wolfsburg in their quarterfinal. However, the Spanish giants have only reached the final once during this period - when they won the Champions League in 2014.
Despite being cast as the underdogs, City coach Manuel Pellegrini (pictured above) said he had no intention of parking the bus. "We don't want to just try to defend to reach the final. I have always tried to have a team who play good football, play well," he said. "The way we do it is just as important.”
Injured stars return
In the 24 hours leading up to the meeting, there had been much speculation that two of Real Madrid's biggest attacking stars would be ruled out due to injury.
Coach Zinedine Zidane rested the ailing Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday, when Real Madrid beat Rayo Vallecano 3-2, while, Karim Benzema left the match before halftime with an injury. Both have made the trip to Manchester, and on Monday evening, Zidane revealed to reporters that both were now "100 percent" fit.
The news is not so good regarding Manchester City's injury concerns, though, after Pellegrini revealed that he will be without Yaya Toure. The Ivorian midfielder suffered a muscular injury in the team's 4-0 win against Stoke City on Saturday, and could even miss the second leg in Madrid next week. Brazilian duo Fernando and Fernandinho are expected to get the start in his place, and Pellegrini is confident they can get the job done.
"Whenever the Brazilian boys have played together they've played some big games - against PSG and against Roma when we knocked them out," Pellegrini said.
In good Kompany
Manchester City's defense should get a boost through the return of captain Vincent Kompany. The defender injured his calf in the second leg of City's last 16 tie against Dynamo Kyiv, but he played the full 90 minutes against Newcastle, a week ago. Having been rested for Saturday's match against Stoke, Kompany told reporters he was relishing the chance to face Real Madrid.
"To play against top players, that's what you want. There's not a day in my life where I'm thinking these occasions are stressful or difficult," said the Belgian. "You have to play against those players as many times as we can and try to beat those teams. That's what's going to make history for this club."