UEFA Champions League: Man-City v Real-II

Real Madrid's UEFA Champions League coach Carlo Ancelotti
Real Madrid's UEFA Champions League coach Carlo Ancelotti

Yes, it is hard to believe we will experience from Manchester City and Real Madrid a better UEFA Champions League semifinal tie this year than we did last year. For one, Man-City is having another incredible season while Real are not. Secondly, Pep Guardiola’s current holy grail is hoisting this trophy again, and we all know how he gets when he’s fixated. For another, Real coach, Carlo Ancelotti, has won it all several times over and in each of the continent’s top five leagues, and is the UCL’s winningest coach, leaving little personal-attainment incentive to pursue…and his aging charges are, well, aging.

But this is the UEFA Champions League, and it is Real’s most cherished trophy, and winning it is likely Ancelotti’s best way of arguing to remain at Madrid should the job be extended, and he choose the Spanish capital over the Brazilian National Team coaching gig. So don’t expect Carlo to chew his gum passively on the sidelines for too long. This will be a big win for Pep, a crowning jewel on his Premier League adventure. For Carlo, this could be the final badge of his club career and the perfect launching pad for his international turn at being the national team coach of the most storied national team in the world.

There is also the fact that both UEFA Champions League semifinals teams are replete with non-English and non-Spanish starters—at City, Ederson, Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake, Manuel Akanji, Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevyn de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Julian Alvarez, Riyad Mahrez and Erling Haaland, could be their starters, without a single English player. At Madrid, Modric, Kroos, Valverde, Vinicius Courtois, Militao, Alaba, Camavinga, Rodrygo, Benzema, and Tchouameni could start, fielding a Real Madrid without a single Spanish player. The significance of this non-home-country extravaganza is that with the exception of Alvarez, all of the others, on both sides of the ball, are hankering for some recent international silverware.

Finally, we have the obvious—Real are the established UEFA Champions League champions and City are the international upstarts. Guardiola is the stylish dictator and Ancelotti is the never-ruffled grandfatherly coach. City are the uber-rich Premier League exponents, owned by Abu Dhabi United Group and Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Madrid are rich in their own right but owned by 60,000 members led by Florentino Perez as president. Madrid are the most valuable football club in the world ($5.1B) according to Forbes while City, at $4.25B, is the sixth most valuable. This is a collision of giants on many fronts and the best part is, that despite all of the geo-political-monetary hoo-ha, it will all come down to how good the coaches on the sidelines, the players on the pitch, and the game referees are over two matches.

Or maybe it will come down to two plays, in two minutes, in a single game.

Any way you slice it, these will be among the very top club matches of the European season.

Photos: Carlo Ancelotti, Shutterstock Photo ID: 2060732654, by photo-oxser

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