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Champions League Preview: Manchester City v Real Madrid

Champions League trophyWhen it comes to measuring sides’ experience of big matches, fans and pundits tend to compare the histories of the two clubs. Compared to events actually happening out on the pitch, this is little more than a side note for statisticians of course, but it is difficult to ignore the gulf in know-how when it comes to this week’s clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid. The Spanish giants have reached the last four of Europe’s most prestigious club competition in each of the last six seasons. Despite that formidable record, City – taking part in their first European semi-final since 1971 – can take heart from the fact that Los Blancos only progressed to the tournament decider once in that time, in 2013/14.

“Big players decide big games,” said the Citizens’ manager Manuel Pellegrini, who is set to leave his post at the end of the season. “A lot of players have to be at their best. It’s very important for them to win the Champions League because if you want to be a big team, you always have to be involved in the last stages of the Champions League and sometimes win it.”

With that in mind, reaching the last four means Manchester City have taken another step forward in their long-term project. Madrid fans will breath a sigh of relief at the news that Cristiano Ronaldo – whose 16 goals put him far ahead of his rivals in this year’s UEFA Champions League goalscorers’ list – will make the trip to Manchester despite doubts over a thigh injury.

“I think the most important thing is to score away from home; it’s also very important not to concede,” said the Spanish side’s winger Gareth Bale. “At the Santiago Bernabeu we are very strong and obviously we will have a lot of chances there.”

Did you know?
Manchester City are the tenth English semi-finalists in the history of Europe’s most prestigious club competition, meaning that England have provided more representatives than any other country. Manchester United, Leeds United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal preceded the Citizens in reaching the last four during the UEFA Champions League era while Aston Villa, Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Tottenham Hotspur made it to the semi-finals while the competition was still known as the European Cup.

The stat
17 – The highest number of goals scored by an individual in a single UEFA Champions League season is 17, a record set by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013/14. The Portuguese star defeated Wolfsburg almost singlehandedly with his hat-trick in the second leg of the quarter-finals to take his tally for this campaign to 16 strikes and give him the opportunity to beat his own record in the last four.