CASADO LLERENA: Manchester City likely to come out on top against Real Madrid
Column: Just Wondering
The UEFA Champions League is entering the semi-finals, and the prestigious tournament’s final four are Manchester City, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan. The four are destined to meet in the first week of May, with Manchester City going up against Real Madrid and Inter Milan playing against AC Milan.
It is not the first time Real Madrid and Manchester City have met each other in the Champions League, and this time, Manchester City is looking to correct its mistakes against Real Madrid to prevent another loss.
Manchester City has played exceptionally well in the Premier League. The team's manager, Pep Guardiola, has built a squad that understands creating space and generating opportunities.
The spectacular vision of Manchester City's player Kevin De Bruyne, mixed with the overall team player Jack Grealish and their amazing midfield presence, allows player Erling Haaland to slam goals past the net. The team’s awareness is on the next level and can catch Real Madrid’s weaknesses.
Manchester City's primary advantage is how well-balanced the team is with its defense, awareness and midfield. The team's midfield is especially dangerous because the team can easily switch its tactics and adapt to its opponent. If the team needs to play passively, then it can.
If the team decides to play hyper-aggressively, it can, especially with Haaland's immense physicality, which enables him to run through anyone’s defense forcefully. The team has talented players that can adapt to any situation, which is why the squad is the popular one to take the title. But its opponent is familiar with the competition and always ends up on top.
Real Madrid possesses the most Champions League titles and is a team that has talented and intelligent players. Karim Benzema is one of the oldest players on the team, and his experience with the team could lead Real Madrid to victory against Manchester City.
While Real Madrid's players Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos are older than the relatively young Manchester City squad, their playmaking and vision could blindside Manchester City's defense and lead to punishing counterattacks. Benzema is an explosive finishing player, and combined with Modrić's passes and centering, Benzema will likely be able to find the space and score confidently.
Kroos is an exceptional free kicker, and if Real Madrid has opportunities to shoot freekicks, then there is a good chance that it will end in a goal. But while the team has experienced players, its most valuable players are its talented youngsters.
Vinicius Júnior is the team's star forward, with 6 goals scored in the competition. Júnior is highly talented in the way he dribbles and gets past the defense of any team. His speed, acceleration and control with the ball are all factors that need to be considered when Manchester City plays Real Madrid in the coming days.
In the midfield, Real Madrid has a solid lineup made up of Luka Modrić, Kroos, Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde.
Camavinga is a highly dependable midfielder. He is very good at anticipating plays and is solid in canceling plays from the opponent. He has an overall 212 steals and 1,785 passes completed, keeping him consistent with other players in the squad.
Valverde has a solid record of canceling plays and stealing the ball pretty well. But in the last couple of games, he has been largely absent, which is troubling for Real Madrid when having to take on an explosive Manchester City.
Real Madrid's major weakness is in the wide ends of the field. In most cases, teams take advantage of Real Madrid's failure to switch up quickly, leading to losses for the club.
For example, Girona recently played Real Madrid, and it won 4-2, which is a stunning loss. Most of Girona's attackers sneaked past the defense and kept Real Madrid guessing on its next plays.
Manchester City is a dynamic team, and it is capable of switching its plays in an instant. In the first half, it can play highly defensively, shut down any plays Modrić would like to make and keep Benzema boxed in.
And in the second half, the team can play with an overwhelming offense and keep Real Madrid on its feet and unable to counter-attack.
A great example of Manchester City's dynamic playstyle is during its victory in the first leg against Bayern Munich, when the former only had approximately 45 percent of possession, while Bayern Munich had most of the possession of the ball with about 55 percent.
But Manchester City’s ability to switch from team goals to talented long shots kept Bayern Munich confused, resulting in a 3-0 win for Manchester City.
What Real Madrid needs to do to deal with Manchester City is to work on its quick switches in its defense and keep Modrić in the midfield to enable Benzema or Vinicius to score. But with how Manchester City has been playing recently, it is unlikely that Real Madrid will come out on top, and there could be a new champion this season.
Sebastian Casado Llerena is a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in journalism and media studies with a global news specialization and minoring in English. His column, "Just Wondering," runs on alternate Thursdays.
*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Due to space limitations in our print newspaper, letters to the editor must not exceed 900 words. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 700 and 900 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day's publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.