Two of the beautiful game’s most recognisable instructors, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti, lock horns when European aristocrats Real Madrid welcome upstarts Manchester City to the Santiago Bernabeu for an epic Uefa Champions League confrontation on Tuesday night. Winning league titles in 11 out of his 14 seasons as a manager has elevated City boss Pep Guardiola to football deity. His record on the continent is, however, more chequered, as the Catalan won the last of his two Champions League titles with Barcelona in 2010/11.
Los Blancos supremo Ancelotti is not as much celebrated as a visionary among the game’s cognoscenti but he’s won two European crowns with Real Madrid since Guardiola last enjoyed continental success. The Italian was in charge when the record 14 time Euro kings won the much coveted La Decima in 2014 and repeated the feat last season by torpedoing Liverpool 1-0 in the final. Just like they did last year, Real Madrid have already got the better of multiple Premier League opponents.
Although Premier League Manchester City are the bookmakers overwhelming favourites to win a treble of EPL, Champions League and FA Cup titles, Ancelotti can take encouragement from his compelling record in match ups with English opponents. Real beat six time winners Liverpool 6-3 on aggregate in the round of 16, before dismissing 2012 and 2021 champions Chelsea 4-0 on aggregate in the quarterfinals.
Guardiola prefers to catch opponents off guard by making tactical tweaks before crucial encounters while what you see is what you get from Ancelotti. It is this attempt to remain unpredictable that has been responsible for City’s implosion in recent years. Losses to paperweights Monaco and Olympique Lyon, as well as EPL rivals Chelsea (2021) and Tottenham Hotspur (2019) have come as a direct consequence of unnecessary tinkering with his line up.
City are in irresistible form after notching 14 consecutive victories in all competitions and in Erling Braut Haaland boast the Champions League leading scorer with 12 goals. The 51-goal Norwegian is certain to keep Los Blancos central defenders Eder Militao and David Alaba on tenterhooks. However, reigning champions Real’s front three of Vinicius Junior, Karim Benzema and Rodrygo Goes possess an unpredictability that can unhinge the most settled of defenses.
Wednesday’s Italian derby between seven time champions AC Milan and city rivals Inter Milan is to determined by whichever team plays within it’s element at the San Siro. Simone Inzaghi’s Inter Milan have powered into Serie A’s top four after gathering a good head of steam whereas Stefano Pioli’s side are blessed to possess the pedigree that helped them overcome Serie A champions Napoli.
Real Madrid v Manchester City
AC Milan v Inter Milan