Columnists, Soccer, Sports

Full-Time Focus: Back to the Etihad

It is safe to say that last time Real Madrid visited the Etihad Stadium, they left unhappy. 

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

Even though it seems like a lifetime ago, it has just been one year since Manchester City humiliated Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals. 

The situation was similar to the one both teams find themselves in today. The first leg in the Santiago Bernabeu was a disputed match that ended in a draw, forcing the second leg to be the definitive matchup. 

Madrid ended up losing 4-0 in Manchester. City’s overall performance can be considered one of the best modern displays of football. Even though Madrid did not play as well as expected, especially from a defensive point of view — Manchester gave them no room to compete. 

In the past years, Real Madrid versus Manchester City has become the new European “classic.” For example, they have faced each other in the Champions League for three years straight now. As of now, City has eliminated Madrid three out of the last five times. 

Manchester City won the treble last year. It was a spectacular season in every sense. As impressive as it is to win the Premier League and the FA Cup, Guardiola’s real goal was to win the Champions League. 

Finally winning took a huge weight off City’s shoulders. Last season they quenched a thirst that had been worsened by media and fan expectations. Even Guardiola insisted that City cannot expect a repeat of last year’s 4-0 win over Real. Even though they want to win, they aren’t facing the same pressure. 

A big part of Guardiola’s work this season has been dealing with feelings of complacency. 

“We need to feel the pressure that you don’t want to lose the game. If you think we have done it already, we will not have this hunger to compete against these teams,” he said in a press conference Monday.

Real Madrid’s trophy case shows us that they have never struggled with lack of ambition. At the end of the day, they won four Champions in five years this past decade. The Spaniards always seem to have something to prove. That internal pressure is what makes them one of the biggest clubs in the world. 

This pressure is what has made them so prone to criticism when things haven’t turned out so good. Last season was a great example of that — their loss against City created a small pushback against Carlo Ancelotti.

The implications of tomorrow’s game change depending on your perspective. 

For Real Madrid, it gives them the chance to reinstate themselves as Europe’s most dangerous club. The power dynamic has changed ever since Guardiola stepped foot in Manchester and started a success project. 

It also gives Madrid a second chance to prove themselves a talented competitor. It would be ignorant to say that last year’s elimination did not bruise the team’s ego. 

The situation then was different of course. Madrid was struggling in the domestic league, and it seemed that they were in a transitory year — they did not have their star Jude Bellingham.

If Manchester City are able to eliminate Real Madrid for a second year in a row, this could be the start of a new empire. They are already considered one of the best teams in the world — this could possibly catapult them into being considered one of the best in history.

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