The first legs of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals take place this week with two mouthwatering fixtures set to whet the appetite of any supporter.
We take a closer look at what this week’s matches have to offer:
Manchester City v Real Madrid
Manuel Pellegrini takes charge of what is Man City’s biggest match in the history of the club when they take on 10-time champions Real Madrid in front of their home fans on Tuesday.
City, of course, have reached the last four of the competition for the first time in their history, after beating the highly-rated PSG in the quarter-finals last time out.
As the defeat of the Parisians, as well as their convincing wins over VfL Borussia Monchengladbach, Sevilla and Dynamo Kiev, illustrates, an on-song City are hard to stop.
A blip at St. James’ Park aside, City are in fine form going into the tie and are finally playing their best football of the season.
Sergio Aguero remains the key man for Manchester City. The Argentina international is second in the Premier League’s top scorers list behind Harry Kane despite missing two months of the season through injury, and has scored five times in his last three matches for City, including a hat-trick against Chelsea earlier month.
Yaya Toure might be absent on the night with injury, but if Aguero fires, City have every chance of getting their noses in front in the tie.
Their opponents on the night are Europe’s most decorated side, who have reached the last four for six successive seasons.
Star forward Cristiano Ronaldo has returned to full fitness while Gareth Bale is in his best form for Madrid since making the switch from White Hart lane three years ago. Ronaldo and Bale are no strangers to English shores of course, having both previously won the Premier League Player of the Year award.
The big question ahead of the tie must be about City’s ability to cope with the nerves such an occasion is likely to bring. If they start well, the tie could be decided by the finest of margins, but if they allow Real Madrid to settle early on, Zinedine Zidane’s side may put the tie beyond them with a couple of away goals.
Prediction: Man City 1-1 Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v Bayern München
In Wednesday’s match, German champions-elect Bayern travel to Madrid for their match against Atletico at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.
On paper, Diego Simeone’s Atletico side are perhaps the weakest, however, they are exactly the sort of team that will give Pep Guardiola’s Bayern a hard time. Tenacious, well-organised, masters of the dark arts and excellent on the counter attack, the Rojiblancos are the dark horses remaining in the competition.
Diego Godin’s absence in the heart of the Atletico defense is a massive one for the hosts, but despite the Uruguayan’s injury-enforced spell on the sidelines, the Colchoneros will give as good as they get in this one.
Bayern, meanwhile, have been a class apart domestically, but their form in Europe has been somewhat less impressive. At least as unimpressive as a Champions League semi-finalist is likely to be.
The Bavarians have had a torrid time in Spain of late, winning just one of their last 12 matches on Spanish soil and losing eight in the process, including a 1-0 and 3-0 defeats at the hands of Real Madrid and Barcelona at the same stage of the last two competitions.
Considering his experience in managing in the country, it is a record hat-trick Guardiola wouldn’t want on his CV before he swaps Munich for Manchester at the end of the season.
All things considered, the first leg is likely to be a cagey affair, with a 0-0 and the option of winning on away goals certainly a situation Simeone would be satisfied with.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid 0-0 Bayern München