The semi-final second leg of the Champions League on Wednesday (9 p.m.) between Manchester City and Real Madrid, the “match of the year” according to the press, will feature a slew of stars and duels on all floors, such as at the first leg (1-1), for a place in the final.
A sometimes whimsical goalkeeper, Ederson released two big saves at the end of the first leg, on a header from Karim Benzema and a powerful strike from Aurélien Tchouaméni, which could weigh heavily at the end of the double confrontation.
Renowned for his footwork and his reflexes, Ederson is also known for his sometimes reckless risk-taking and his hazardous outings, such as the one outside his area in the round of 16 second leg against Leipzig.
“Pep” had quickly come to his support: “I have, we have, no doubt” about him, he had decided, “his performances throughout all these years have helped us to achieve what we have successful, Ederson is an exceptional goalkeeper”.
Praises similar to those addressed by Carlo Ancelotti to Thibaut Courtois last week: “I still believe that a goalkeeper must know how to use his hands better than his feet. But he does both very well. Courtois has enormous qualities. It’s a chance to have a goalkeeper like him.
On the way out, Courtois was also almost perfect, discouraging the “cyborg” Erling Haaland or the maestro Kevin de Bruyne with his parades.
In a complicated season for the right-back, victim of a new tactical inspiration from Guardiola consisting of using John Stones as a right-back without the ball and a central midfielder with it, the duel against Real was made for Kyle Walker.
“He can’t” fill this new role, the manager had admitted earlier this month, but “he will always have his speed. At 60, he will still be the fastest of all of us,” he joked.
After completely extinguishing Kylian Mbappé at the Qatari World Cup with England, he fought a huge fight against Vinicius in the first leg. If the Brazilian scored, their smiley hug at the end of the match showed mutual respect and their impatience to fight again.
With his speed, the Brazilian jewel of Real, the only scorer in the last C1 final at the Stade de France (1-0 against Liverpool), will be the number one danger.
“He is never injured, he always feels very good. At the moment, he brings us a lot, his way of playing is spectacular. He is the future of this club. And the future is now,” praised Ancelotti on Friday.
Out of the shadow of Karim Benzema, less prominent but still Real’s top scorer this season, Vinicius is now taking center stage: he has 23 goals and 21 assists in all competitions this season, making him the most decisive player in the White House “.
Stung by public criticism – extremely rare – from Guardiola towards him in March, De Bruyne raised his level of play in the final sprint where his agreement with Haaland is devastating.
“He has an incredible ability to make assists, score goals and see passes that nobody sees. But I still believe that it will improve when the simple things” are better done, had reproached the Catalan, pointing to his retention of the ball or his mobility.
Since then, KDB has produced five goals and seven assists in nine games, including an equalizer in the first leg, and City will rely on their regenerated maestro to bring down the defending champions.
But opposite, Toni Kroos, repositioned as a defensive midfielder that he had to rediscover this season, has also regained his standards.
“I always said I could play N.8 or N.6. It’s quite different: when you are N.8, you know that if you lose a duel, there will always be someone behind you. In N.6, you think differently, you engage in a more cautious way… But with the ball, it doesn’t change much: I play my game, ”summarized the German before the first leg.
In the event of a final coronation, Kroos, like Benzema, Modric, Carvajal and Nacho, will join Paco Gento with his six European championship titles, to also enter a little more into the legend.