Manchester City and Real Madrid clash in the first-leg of their mouthwatering Champions League semi-final tie at the Etihad Stadium tonight.
It’s the first time that City have reached this stage of the competition while Madrid are aiming to lift the trophy for the 11th time.
Both sides triumphed in the quarter-final with a 3-2 aggregate win - the Citizens beat Paris Saint-Germain while Los Blancos overturned a 2-0 first-leg defeat by Wolfsburg by winning 3-0 at the Bernabeu.
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The Champions League is both City’s and Madrid’s main focus this season. Manuel Pellegrini’s side are out of the Premier League title race while Zinedine Zidane’s team need both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to slip up in La Liga to triumph.
The two squads boast some incredible talent and Sky Sports’ Guillem Balague has picked a combined XI ahead of the clash.
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The football expert opted for a 4-3-3 formation and selected: Joe Hart; Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Vincent Kompany, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Fernando, Toni Kroos; Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Six players from the Spanish club compared to five from City suggests that Madrid are probably favourites to qualify for the final in Milan on May 28.
Bookmakers have Madrid as second favourites, behind Bayern Munich, to win the trophy - something that Balague strongly disagrees with.
"I think Real Madrid are the weakest of the four teams. As a team, they showed their weaknesses against Wolfsburg and they had an easy passage to the semis with Roma and Wolfsburg,” he said.
"I think to lose 2-0 in Germany is a sign of what they can do, but also to beat Wolfsburg 3-0 is a sign of what they can do in another sense.
"Ronaldo found form at the best time of the season with key goals against Roma, Barca and Wolfsburg.
"But as a team, Real Madrid defend badly and can be exposed. Certainly it is an opportunity for City to reach the final,” he added.
In the other semi-final, Atleti take on tournament favourites Bayern Munich. Pep Guardiola will be hoping to end his Bayern reign in style by lifting the trophy but faces a tough task to overcome the Spanish side that knocked holders Barcelona out, and are level on points with them in the league.
Despite being fourth favourites, according to the bookmakers, Balague believes Diego Simeone’s men are favourites for European glory.
"Atletico can win the champions League. For me, they are the favourites. It's a fascinating battle between two coaches who love more than most to influence their sides. The teams are a mirror of who [Diego] Simeone and Pep were as players and are as coaches,” he said.
"I think Atletico Madrid are more comfortable, marginally, with what they do. Physically, they are strong, solid, with no injuries. Bayern need to find themselves a strong centre-back pairing because Joshua Kimmich and Javi Martinez will struggle.
"Atletico Madrid showed against Barca they can defend as a team, but also that they weren't scared to find the victory in their own way, in both ways.
"They find themselves more sharp at this stage of the season than two years ago when they got to the final. For me, they are the favourites,” he added.
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