The atmosphere at the Etihad Stadium when Man City step out onto the pitch against Real Madrid will surely be amongst the best that the players will have ever experienced.
With the second-leg of the Champions League semi-final so perfectly balanced, it’s a true winner-takes-all tie, and with Internazionale waiting in the final for the winners of this game, there can scarcely have been a better time for Pep Guardiola to break his duck in the competition post-Barca.
Not since his incredible 2011 Barcelona squad humbled Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side at Wembley has the Catalan managed to lift the trophy again as manager.
With Nathan Ake unavailable, Guardiola has gone with his strongest possible XI for Wednesday night’s encounter.
Your City XI ?
XI | Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Akanji, Rodrigo, Gundogan (C), De Bruyne, Bernardo, Grealish, Haaland
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 17, 2023
Ederson takes up his usual spot between the posts, and he’ll be marshalling a back three consisting of Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias and Manuel Akanji.
John Stones and Rodri will provide cover in central midfield with Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva giving the team its width.
Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan will offer creativity and support to Erling Haaland who may find himself free of the shackles given that Carlo Ancelotti has, somewhat surprisingly, benched Antonio Rudiger.
It’s an XI that can out play, out pass and out fight Real Madrid, but the pressure will be mainly on the hosts from minute one.
Guardiola needs to manage that expectation and watch for any counter attacks that are more than likely to form Real’s modus operandi on the night.