Manchester City vs Real Madrid: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle lists three players who can singlehandedly turn the game on its head when Manchester City and Real Madrid clash on Wednesday.

The UEFA Champions League is on its last legs in the 2022/23 season, with two more games left for the competition’s winners to lift the coveted trophy. Manchester City and Real Madrid will meet in the second semi-final on Wednesday night, with the winner facing Inter Milan in Istanbul next month.

Manchester City might have finally found the key to end the curse in the UEFA Champions League. With Erling Haaland running riot, the Citizens have barely broken a sweat in Europe this season. And the Premier League champions are on course to become the second English team to complete the sought-after treble.

On the other hand, Real Madrid will look for a historic 15th Champions League triumph this term. The Merengues are the current Champions League holders after beating Liverpool in Paris last year. And while they have had to jump through a few hoops, Los Blancos will go into Wednesday’s tie as the joint favourites to win this year’s competition.

The reverse fixture ended all square, with Kevin De Bruyne cancelling Vinicius Junior’s first-half wondergoal. And with the two teams having it all to play for on Wednesday, a few players will invariably influence the match more than others. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle lists three such stars who can singlehanded turn the game on its head when Manchester City and Real Madrid meet at the Etihad.

Ilkay Gundogan

The midfield battle will hold the key to determining the final result of the semi-final clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid. So our first two picks will feature midfielders instrumental for the two teams. And the first player on our list is Ilkay Gundogan.

Gundogan’s Manchester City future is uncertain as he enters the final weeks of his contract. And his situation has alerted several high-profile clubs, including Barcelona and Chelsea. Meanwhile, the Premier League champions are scrambling to seal an agreement with the veteran midfielder.

The German international has been sensational in the last few weeks, scoring a brace in the most recent two Premier League games. And after rediscovering his scoring touch, the Manchester City captain will be an added headache for the Real Madrid defenders.

The 32-year-old might be playing his last few games for Manchester City before he joins Chelsea or Barcelona. But that is not affecting his commitment on the pitch. And he will be desperate to go out with a bang and finally deliver the elusive UEFA Champions League crown.

Luka Modric

The other face of the midfield battle comes from Real Madrid. And while Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Eduardo Camavinga will play their parts, we have gone with the old warhorse. The player in question is Luka Modric.

The 37-year-old has been showing no signs of letting age slow him down. And while he is closer to his 40th birthday than the 30th, he continues to go from strength to strength at Real Madrid. While his pace might have reduced, the veteran midfielder has brilliantly moulded his game to get the best out of his abilities.

The Croatian international also remains a top-class performer on the international stage. So while Kroos, Valverde, and Camavinga can trouble Manchester City, Modric’s creative output has the potential to leave the opposition defenders feeling they are in for a long night.

The experienced midfielder has been humble ahead of the match, insisting the tie is “50-50” right now. But he has also asserted that the Champions League is Real Madrid’s tournament. And his output on the night will be crucial in tilting the scales in Los Blancos’ favour instead of leaving it at “50-50”.

Vinicius Junior

With Manchester City having the slight advantage due to Wednesday’s game being the home leg for them, we have picked a second Real Madrid player to round off our list. And we have gone ahead with Vinicius Junior as our last pick for this feature.

The Brazilian international continues to showcase the extent of his potential with every passing month. And with Karim Benzema in and out of the starting lineup due to his fitness issues this season, Vinicius has become a talismanic figure for Real Madrid.

He again asserted his importance by producing a piece of magic in the first leg to hand Real Madrid the lead. And with Los Blancos likely lining up in a 4-4-2 formation on Wednesday, his change of pace will give the Real Madrid attack a different dynamic.

Seldom is a second striker reliant on a pacy outlet. But if Vinicius Junior is in his element, Kyle Walker will have a long day at work this midweek. Expect another magical performance from the 22-year-old, whose star will rise again on Wednesday.

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