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Real Madrid v Manchester City – Combined XI

Real Madrid and Manchester City meet in the Champions League semi-finals this evening, a rematch of last season’s classic contest between the sides at the same stage.

The Spanish giants edged that thrilling tie on route to being crowned European champions for a record-extending 14th time, but will begin this semi-final as outsiders against a Manchester City team chasing a treble under Pep Guardiola.

As two star-studded squads prepare to meet, we’ve chosen our Real Madrid and Manchester City combined XI.

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois – Real Madrid

Thibaut Courtois strengthen his argument as world football’s finest goalkeeper last season, with a string of outstanding performances earning the Belgian the Yashin Trophy in 2022. Courtois was a crucial part of Real Madrid’s success at home and in Europe, including an iconic individual showing in the Champions League final win over Liverpool in Paris.

Courtois has kept three consecutive clean sheets in the Champions League’s knockout rounds and Real Madrid will require a commanding performance from the 30-year-old across two legs if the Spaniards are to reach successive finals.

Right-back: Manuel Akanji – Manchester City

Manuel Akanji has proven to be an astute signing for Manchester City this season with the deadline day arrival from Borussia Dortmund having become an important part of Pep Guardiola’s defensive system.

The Switzerland international’s comfortability defending central and wide areas has allowed Guardiola to implement his fluid formation, with Akanji having been a prominent part of the club’s run to the Champions League semi-finals. He has started all but one of the eight European fixtures he has been available for this season.

Centre-back: John Stones – Manchester City

John Stones is having some season at Manchester City with the England defender the central figure in his side’s new defensive structure. Whether starting, nominally, at right-back or in central defence, Stones has spent much of his time operating in midfield, providing dependable defensive support to Rodri and an assured touch in possession.

No player in the Premier League boasts a better pass accuracy than Stones, whose roving role has brought the best from his talents. Even given the abundance of stars in Pep Guardiola’s squad, it is Stones’ name which most often echoes around the Etihad. The 28-year-old has developed into the player Guardiola first envisaged when he signed from Everton seven years ago.

Centre-back: Ruben Dias – Manchester City

Ruben Dias provides the steel behind Manchester City’s forward silk and the centre-back was outstanding across two legs during the quarter-final win over Bayern Munich.

The Portugal international is a commanding presence in central defence for the Citizens, one who organises, leads and improves the performances of those around him.

A captain without the armband, his arrival from Benfica has been followed with back-to-back Premier League titles and improved performances on the Champions League stage. That is no coincidence.

Left-back: David Alaba – Real Madrid

The absences of Nathan Ake and Ferland Mendy make David Alaba an obvious choice at left-back, despite the expectation that the Austrian will start in a central role at the Bernabeu.

Alaba has been a serial winner across a long career of success, one which saw the defender win 10 Bundesliga titles and two Champions League trophies at Bayern Munich, before helping Real Madrid to a La Liga and Champions League double in 2021/22.

Incredibly, Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey success this season means Alaba and teammate Toni Kroos have now won every possible trophy with two different clubs.

Alaba is world-class in multiple positions on the pitch and there are not may players who can claim that.

Midfield: Rodri – Manchester City

Rodri returns to Spain this evening now recognised as arguably Europe’s best midfield anchor. The former Atletico Madrid midfielder is a vital part of Manchester City’s approach both in and out of possession.

Rodri leads all Premier League midfielders for pass completion (91%) this season and tops the division for progressive passes and passes into the final third, as City’s football flows through the 26-year-old.

Excellent under pressure and a physical presence when contesting duels, Rodri has all the attributes required to successfully screen City’s backline.

Midfield: Luka Modric – Real Madrid

Luka Modric’s return from a hamstring issue is a major boost to Real Madrid, with the timeless technician a crucial part of the club’s Champions League chances.

Modric continues to defy time with performances of creative class and work-rate in midfield, despite approaching his 38th birthday later this year. The Croatia international is set to sign a new one-year extension at the Bernabeu, one that could see him become the second-oldest player in history to represent Real Madrid next season, behind Ferenc Puskas.

Manchester City will be aware of Modric’s evergreen threat after his starring role in Real Madrid’s elimination of the Premier League champions last season.

Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City

Kevin De Bruyne completes our midfield line-up after another season of exceptional creativity in a Manchester City shirt.

No player across Europe’s top five leagues has provided more assists than De Bruyne (16) this season, who reached the milestone of a century of Premier League assists earlier this season.

De Bruyne continues to enhance his argument as one of the Premier League’s all-time great midfielders and has formed a formidable understanding with Erling Haaland this season. Success in Europe – the glaring omission from his CV of silverware – will cement that status further.

Forward: Vinicius Junior – Real Madrid

Vinicius Junior has announced his arrival as one of world football’s top talents across the past two seasons, evolving from promising prospect into a player capable of changing games at the highest level.

Sensational as Real Madrid won a La Liga and Champions League double last season, his winner against Liverpool earned the Spanish side a 14th European crown in 2021/22. The Brazilian has been electric once again during the current campaign, reaching 20+ goals and 20+ assists for the second successive season.

How Manchester City – who have operated without a traditional right-back of late – deal with his threat will be decisive in this tie.

Forward: Karim Benzema – Real Madrid

Karim Benzema kept Real Madrid alive in last season’s competition with an extraordinary run of goals throughout the knockout rounds. Back-to-back hat-tricks against PSG and Chelsea were followed by three goals across two legs against Manchester City, with Benzema’s brilliance recognised with the Ballon d’Or in 2022.

The 35-year-old might not be getting any younger, but he remains the danger man for Real Madrid and has scored 10 goals in his last nine appearances across all competitions.

That run includes a Copa del Rey semi-final hat-trick against Barcelona and Benzema appears primed for another big-game contribution this week.

Forward: Erling Haaland – Manchester City

Erling Haaland stands as the biggest threat to Real Madrid’s hopes of back-to-back European successes, with the Norwegian goal-machine firing Manchester City’s charge towards a treble.

Haaland has now scored 51 goals in all competitions for the Citizens this season, the most any player has scored for an English club since the Second World War and already six goals more than Benzema’s Ballon d’Or winning haul from last season.

Those are the sort of numbers Haaland has posted during a season of incredible productivity, one which has him leading both the Premier League and Champions League for goals.

If he can fire City past Real Madrid and onto a maiden European success, it will be difficult to argue he is not worthy of a Ballon d’Or of his own.

Read – Man City next? Appreciating the only six sides to win the Champions League as part of a treble

Read Also – Five times Lionel Messi lit up the Champions League

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