Just over a year ago, Real Madrid pulled off an impressive victory over Manchester City, an event that Madrid fans still celebrate and the Citizens are eager to avenge. The team that will face Ancelotti’s men are still formidable contenders, but they have changed since their defeat the previous season.
Guardiola has implemented significant improvements to a team that already excels in almost every aspect of the game, with a particular focus on defence.
Strange as it may seem, given that City have conceded the second fewest goals per game in the big five leagues since Guardiola’s arrival, he has worked hard to strengthen the defence at critical moments when the team is not in control of the ball. This strategy seems to have paid off this season.
City continue to dominate most games, but there have been occasions when they have had less possession than their opponents. For example, against Arsenal, they had just 36.4% of possession, but still won the game.
In terms of threat during the match, Arsenal showed more danger, particularly towards the end. However, all three City goals came at times when they were not particularly pressing Ramsdale’s goal. This pattern was also observed in the match against Bayern Munich.
Bernardo Silva recently stressed that City have learned to be more direct and not monopolise the game for 90 minutes. Haaland, for example, has been involved in just 3.3 per cent of City’s touches in the Premier League this season, but has scored 45.2 per cent of the goals.
City have reduced their dominance in the final third of the pitch, with possession in that area decreasing by almost 5% compared to last season. This change has allowed for more counter-attacks and transitions.
Guardiola continues to use high pressing on the pitch, but has implemented a new strategy that he is likely to use against Madrid. When the opposing team overcomes the first line of pressure, City defend en bloc in their own area.
Haaland’s presence on the pitch has proved to be a blessing for City, as his work off the ball stretches the opposition, creating space for wide players. With Haaland, City have doubled their goals against in both major competitions.
Finally, aerial play is another area in which City have improved, and which they will surely be looking to exploit at the Santiago Bernabeu.