Record breaker: Erling Haaland set a new Premier League record of 35 goals in a season in Man City's 3-0 win over West Ham
Record breaker: Erling Haaland set a new Premier League record of 35 goals in a season in Man City's 3-0 win over West Ham AFP News

Real Madrid and Manchester City will be facing each other in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the second season in succession. Los Blancos emerged victorious and eventually lifted the trophy in 2022, and the Premier League side will be hoping to change their fate this time around.

Manchester City has a new recruit

The big difference this year compared to last season is the presence of Erling Braut Haaland. The Norwegian was signed by Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund for 60 million euros last summer, and has since set the pitch on fire.

So far this season, Haaland has already broken a number of records. Most notably, he is now the all-time top scorer in a single season in England after netting 51 goals in 46 games and counting.

He is the current top scorer in the Champions League with 11 goals so far, and expectations are high that he will add to that tally over the two legs against the defending champions.

Will history repeat itself?

However, the lingering question is whether or not Manchester City is ready to overcome the demons from last season's heartbreaking exit. It may be remembered that City hosted the first leg of the 2021-22 semi-final clash against Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium, where they won 4-3.

In the return leg at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Riyad Mahrez scored in the 73rd minute to give City the lead 1-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate. They had a two-goal advantage with just 20 minutes remaining, and citizens were already booking their trips to Paris for final.

However, in yet another miraculous comeback that season, Real Madrid somehow managed to squeeze through. Brazilian forward Rodrygo Goes scored in 90th minute, but Los Blancos were still a goal down on aggregate.

When the referee declared six minutes of stoppage time, Real Madrid and all of their fans inside the stadium knew they had a chance. True enough, Rodrygo managed to score the equaliser a minute later, and a shell-shocked Manchester City squad found themselves forced into extra time.

With momentum finally on their side, Real Madrid forced City to concede a penalty which Karim Benzema calmly converted. They led for the first time over the two legs, and eventually advanced winning 6-5 on aggregate. It has gone down in history as one of the most remarkable comebacks in Champions League history, and there is no doubt that players on both sides will be thinking back to that match when they come face-to-face again on Tuesday.

Manchester City decide to skip training at the Bernabeu

In an unusual decision, Manchester City have decided not to take advantage of the opportunity to train at Real Madrid's home stadium ahead of the first leg on May 9. Instead, they will be training at home in Manchester before flying to Madrid just 24 hours before kick-off.

According to Mundo Deportivo, only Guardiola will visit the stadium ahead of the match to fulfill his press duties. Upon their arrival, players will remain at the hotel before heading to the stadium on matchday itself. It is unclear why they made this call, especially with many teams complaining about the condition of the Bernabeu pitch, which is in the middle of a renovation.

Confidence is brimming in England

Meanwhile, Manchester United and England legend Wayne Rooney, who now has a career as a pundit, fully believes that the Sky Blues will win the tie. Not only will they win, he thinks "Manchester City will not only beat Real Madridin the semi-final of the Champions League, but they are going to destroy them."

He shared his thoughts in a column for The Times, where he added that City are currently "on another level." He also pointed out that Haaland could spell the difference for Guardiola's side this season.

Meanwhile, another Premier League legend, Rio Ferdinand, also thinks City will advance and will probably win the treble this season. "Manchester City could win every game they have coming up, and they have shown that with the amount of points they have accumulated in the last two seasons," Ferdinand told BT Sport.

Despite this, Ferdinand is warning Manchester City about facing a team like Real Madrid. "We've seen the history they have in the Champions League. Real Madrid can pull a great performance out of nothing," he said.