Carlo Ancelotti appeared to feign ignorance when asked about reports that Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is set to sign for Real Madrid. 

Thomas Tuchel revealed at the weekend that Rudiger had informed him of his desire to leave Stamford Bridge when his contract expires at the end of the season. 

The Germany international will reportedly finalise a deal to join Madrid this week. 

Asked about Rudiger by beIN SPORTS after Madrid's 4-3 Champions League semi-final defeat to Manchester City on Tuesday, Ancelotti replied with a smile: "Toni? Who is this? 

"He's a Chelsea player until... He's still a Chelsea player and I cannot say anything about this." 

Ancelotti highlighted Madrid's defending as a key factor in their loss to City. 

Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus found the back of the net inside 11 minutes at the Etihad Stadium – the earliest Madrid have conceded twice in a single Champions League game. 

Karim Benzema pulled one back on his 600th appearance for the club and Vinicius Junior found the back of the net after Phil Foden nodded in a cross from Fernandinho in the second half. 

Bernardo Silva restored City's two-goal cushion before Benzema gave Madrid a sliver of additional hope with an audacious Panenka following a handball in the box by Aymeric Laporte. 

"You cannot cover a position with four defenders, You have to help with a midfielder," said Ancelotti. 

"There were losses in individual duels, so we have to be more attentive. With the ball, we had opportunities. We suffered a bit without it, though. But we have to have confidence. 

"We came out of the first leg with a result that isn't good, because we've conceded four goals and not defended well. 

"We hurt City with the ball, but what we have to do is defend better. The result can change in the second leg. They're a very strong team – they showed it tonight – but we competed. Defending better is the key to reaching the final." 

Madrid will be crowned LaLiga champions if they get a point at Espanyol on Saturday, but Ancelotti has no intention of denying the players a chance to celebrate ahead of Wednesday's return game against City at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

"If we are able to win the league, of course we'll celebrate. And it will help us for Wednesday's game," he added. 

Karim Benzema believes Real Madrid need another special night at the Santiago Bernabeu to progress to the Champions League final following their 4-3 loss to Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's side were 2-0 up inside 11 minutes at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday as a thrilling semi-final first leg got off to a flying start. 

Benzema's double – only his Panenka in the 82nd minute matching the degree of difficulty from a finish around body in the 33rd – ultimately helped Real Madrid limit the damage.

The 34-year-old called upon his club's fans to help them get to May's final in Paris.

"There are 90 minutes at the Bernabeu for the fans to make a difference again," Benzema told Movistar+. "We leave here with our heads held high to play a good game in the return leg. The fans leave proud.

"We have to keep our heads calm and see what we have to do to improve, a little of everything and especially at the beginning of games."

Benzema's brace against the Premier League leaders made him the fifth player in the Madrid's history to score over 40 goals in a single season, after Cristian Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez.

City were dominant against a Madrid side who badly missed Casemiro at the base of midfield, however, with Toni Kroos' defensive vulnerability a key factor in three of City's goals.

As has been the case during the knockout stage this season, in a game certainly not short on drama, Carlo Ancelotti's side managed to simply find a way to stay alive with a result that defied logic.

"A defeat is never good, but we are excited about this Champions League and the important thing is we never give up," Benzema said. "Now we have to go to the Bernabeu and we need the fans like never before to do something magical, which is to win.

"We entered the game without confidence, and that's what happens with an opponent like Manchester City. In this game a little bit of everything was missing."

Phil Foden has warned Manchester City they must "take more chances" following their epic Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid.

The England international was on target during a thrilling showdown at the Etihad Stadium, in which Pep Guardiola's side established a narrow 4-3 advantage.

City travel to Madrid for next week's second leg knowing they will progress to a second successive final if they maintain that slight edge, having lost 1-0 to Chelsea in last year's showpiece.

The margin of victory could have been greater but for wasteful finishing. Indeed, the hosts registered 16 shots on goal, with only six hitting the target.

And Foden knows he and his team-mates must demonstrate more of a clinical edge on the big occasions.

"For the fans watching, it was obviously a great game of football," he told BT Sport.

"We are playing a side that have won the Champions League many times and if we give the ball away, they are going to punish us. 

"It is something we need to work on in the second leg. The tie is still on.

"It was a great game; end to end. We started really well and could have killed them off. In these games, we need to take more chances."

Despite only holding a single-goal advantage, Guardiola was delighted with the performance of his side and is confident they can finish the job at Santiago Bernabeu.

"We played a fantastic game against an incredible team," the head coach added.

"All around the world and for Manchester City, we are so proud. But it is about reaching the final and sometimes, football happens. 

"We go to Madrid to try to win the game. Both teams want to attack and have the quality to play. 

"Congratulations to Carlo and his team as they are so good. At the same time, we saw ourselves that we can be there."

On April 26, 2016, Manchester City and Real Madrid played out a tepid 0-0 draw in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final at the Etihad Stadium. 

Back at the same ground, in the same round of the same competition six years later, they produced a spectacle that had the contrast cranked up to the maximum.

It was the joint-highest scoring semi-final in the competition's history, and it was a story that twisted and turned from the first minute until the last.

But the opening chapter reached its conclusion with City holding a 4-3 advantage after an enthralling 90 minutes.

A start for the history books 

City pressed Madrid high from the off and it was shortly after regaining possession in the final third that Kevin De Bruyne made a phenomenal dart into the box to head home Riyad Mahrez's pinpoint delivery. 

There were just 95 seconds on the clock, making it the quickest goal in Champions League semi-final history. The previous mark was 2 minutes 44 seconds, which was set by Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich against Madrid in May 2018. 

It did not stop there, though. De Bruyne picked out Gabriel Jesus, who, after a somewhat fortuitous first touch, guided a cool finish beyond Thibaut Courtois to make it 2-0. 

Madrid had never before conceded twice in the first 11 minutes of a Champions League match and it looked like they could be seriously up against it with Mahrez, Phil Foden and Oleksandr Zinchenko all going close. 

Benzema brings it back 

It has already been the best season of Karim Benzema's career and he showed just how important he has become to Madrid in his 600th appearance for the club – the most by a non-Spanish player. 

He got in front of Zinchenko to steer home a brilliant volley from the edge of the box in the 33rd minute for his 40th goal of the season. The Frenchman now belongs to an exclusive club of just five players to hit that mark in a single campaign for Los Blancos, joining Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez. 

No let-up 

Madrid lost their best defender in David Alaba at half-time and the momentum they had built before the break quickly dissipated. 

Los Blancos concede an average of five more shots per game when Alaba does not feature and City had already had four efforts on goal – two of which came when Mahrez hit the post and Foden saw his goal-bound follow-up blocked by Dani Carvajal – before restoring their two-goal cushion through Foden in the 53rd minute. 

Makeshift right-back Fernandinho, who replaced the injured John Stones in the first half, set up Foden with an excellent cross but his defending belied his years of experience just two minutes later. Vinicius Junior got the better of his fellow Brazilian with a clever dummy by the halfway line, and no one could catch him before he tucked the ball into the bottom-right corner. 

It was the first time two players aged 21 or younger had scored in the same Champions League semi-final match.  

Don't look away

The drama was far from over, though. Bernardo Silva capitalised when referee Istvan Kovacs wisely played the advantage following Toni Kroos' challenge on Zinchenko by slamming the ball into the top-left corner in the 74th minute.

City consequently became the first English side to score four against Madrid in the Champions League since Liverpool in March 2009. It would have been five had Mahrez been able to add a finish to his coruscating run.

But Aymeric Laporte inexplicably handling a cross enabled Benzema to score his ninth goal of the knockout stages – a Panenka from the penalty spot moving him one adrift of Ronaldo's record (10) from Madrid's triumphant 2016-17 campaign. The Portugal captain (13) is also the only player to have scored more Champions League semi-final goals than Benzema's seven.

Madrid were unable to stop Pep Guardiola claiming a 12th win in his 20 meetings with them across his entire coaching career, though. The Catalan's record in the semi-final has been met with a lot of questions, but he has never been eliminated after winning a first leg at this stage.

He will hope to get the job done at the Santiago Bernabeu and get a chance at redemption after last season's final defeat to Chelsea.

Manchester City have the advantage in the Champions League semi-finals after edging out Real Madrid 4-3 in a thrilling first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola's side made a stunning start, striking twice in the opening 11 minutes through Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus.

The recently crowned LaLiga champions responded with Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior sandwiching Phil Foden's header.

The hosts hit back through Bernardo Silva's stellar strike, but Benzema's nonchalant late penalty cut the gap to a single goal ahead of the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday.

City made a flying start and took the lead courtesy of the quickest goal scored in a Champions League semi-final.

Indeed, just 94 seconds were on the clock when De Bruyne – the hero against Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals – headed home from Riyad Mahrez's delicious cross.

De Bruyne turned provider as the hosts doubled their advantage nine minutes later; his cross ricocheting kindly for Jesus to tuck away.

Mahrez and Phil Foden squandered chances to widen the margin before Madrid pulled one back as Benzema brilliantly volleyed home from Ferland Mendy's centre.

City regained their two-goal buffer within eight minutes of the restart, Foden ghosting in to head home Fernandinho's cross.

Madrid responded almost immediately as Vinicius raced down the left flank from inside his own half, before slotting past Ederson.

City regained control in the 73rd minute. Referee Istvan Kovacs played a brilliant advantage after Oleksandr Zinchenko was felled by Toni Kroos, enabling Silva to fire past a perplexed Thibaut Courtois.

But Los Blancos had the final word courtesy of Benzema's Panenka-style penalty after Aymeric Laporte handled in the box.

Kevin De Bruyne scored the fastest goal in Champions League semi-final history to give Manchester City a phenomenal start against Real Madrid. 

Belgium international De Bruyne headed in a brilliant delivery from Riyad Mahrez after just 95 seconds of the first leg at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday. It was also the fastest goal scored in the Champions League this season. 

The City midfielder's effort beat the previous record set by Joshua Kimmich, who scored in the third minute of Bayern Munich's May 2018 meeting with Real Madrid. 

Nine of De Bruyne's 12 Champions League goals (75%) have come in the knockout stages, which is the highest share among players to find the net at least 10 times in the competition. 

Erling Haaland should head to Arsenal if he is to make a Premier League move this summer, joked Norway team-mate Martin Odegaard.

The Borussia Dortmund striker is expected to bring the curtain down on his stay in the Bundesliga and move to new pastures in the off-season.

Having commanded interest from a host of European heavyweights, it is widely expected that the Leeds-born attacker will choose Manchester City as his next club.

But speaking to Stadium Astro, Odegaard – who skippers the attacker at international level and plays his club football for the Gunners – quipped he should move to the Emirates Stadium instead.

"He is a funny guy," Odegaard said. "He's a good friend of mine and a great player as well. We will see what he will do. I don't know.

"But, if he is coming to England, he needs to come to us of course! No, I don't know what he will do, but he is a great guy.

"To be honest we haven't talked too much about it. I know he has so many people trying to ask him and to tell him what to do, and I don't want to do that. So, we will have to wait and see."

 

Having signed for Dortmund in December 2019, Haaland looks set to end a two-and-a-half-year spell that has seen him establish himself as one of world football's great talents.

The DFB-Pokal winner has endured fitness problems at times this season, managing only 21 games in the Bundesliga.

However, Odegaard has backed him to adapt to life in the Premier League if he comes, adding: "He’s a beast. He is strong, he is fast, and I think he has everything. So, I think he can play in every league, in every country to be honest."

It seems bizarre to suggest that in a contest between a club that has never won the European Cup or Champions League and another that has won 13 of them, it is the latter who will go into it as the underdog.

That is the case this week, though, with Manchester City and Real Madrid set to go head-to-head for a place in this season's Champions League final.

There is obviously reasoning behind this, with Pep Guardiola's side winning every other trophy available to them in recent years and breezing through their European campaign up to this point, a few scars from their quarter-final with Atletico Madrid aside.

Carlo Ancelotti's men have had a tougher road to get here, having to get past newly crowned French champions Paris Saint-Germain and reigning European champions Chelsea so far in the knockout stages.

They had to produce stirring comebacks in both ties, but City are an altogether different prospect, having finished above PSG in the group stage and beaten Chelsea home and away in the Premier League this season.

The English side have very few obvious weaknesses, but perhaps there is one area where Ancelotti can focus ahead of the first leg in Manchester.

Guardiola has recently been slightly overstating his lack of options, saying before the game with Watford at the weekend that City were suffering an injury crisis, before using 14 players that cost approximately £695million (€825m) (according to Transfermarkt.co.uk) to beat the Hornets 5-1.

However, one of his star performers this season has undoubtedly been Joao Cancelo, and the Portuguese full-back is suspended for the first clash with Madrid, while Kyle Walker remains a doubt with an ankle injury.

"They are doubts," the City manager said at a news conference on Monday when asked about Walker and John Stones. "They didn't train for the last week, 10 days... We will see how they feel and take a decision tomorrow."

This could lead to Guardiola having to get a bit creative at right-back, with Oleksandr Zinchenko presumably getting the nod on the left.

Most eyes will be on the likes of Karim Benzema and Luka Modric to lead the visitors, with both producing their usual big-game performances to make the difference against PSG and Chelsea, but the key at the Etihad Stadium may be another slightly unsung hero.

It's not that Vinicius Junior is not highly rated. This season he has exploded into one of the most potent attackers in world football, but this could be the perfect time for him to cement his name as a star of Real Madrid's present and future.

The Brazilian has always been considered a talent but could never quite put together the consistent run of form expected of regular starters in the famous all-white kit, until this season.

Vinicius has registered 31 goal involvements (17 goals, 14 assists) in 45 games in all competitions (42 starts), and has created 94 chances from open play.

Compare this to last season and you can see his significant improvement, managing just 10 goal involvements (six goals, four assists) in 49 appearances (31 starts) in 2020-21, with just 43 chances created from open play.

His numbers are now up there with the best in Europe. In terms of chances created from open play in the top five European leagues this season, only Bruno Fernandes (101) and Thomas Muller (100) have created more than his 94.

No-one has attempted more than his 303 dribbles this season, while only Adama Traore, Kylian Mbappe (both 137) and Allan Saint-Maximin (136) have completed more dribbles than his 127.

Vinicius is well established as a standout performer in LaLiga this season as well, with only Benzema (25), Enes Unal and Raul de Tomas (both 15) having scored more than his 14, while only Benzema (36) has more goal involvements than his 22.

Speaking of Benzema, his partnership with the 34-year-old marksman is developing into one of the most potent in the game, with the duo having provided the most goals for each other in the Champions League this season (six), ahead of Ajax's Antony and Sebastian Haller, and Bayern Munich's Leroy Sane and Muller (both four).

Vinicius is always a threat, as shown against Chelsea at the Santiago Bernabeu in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final. Blues right-back Reece James had been doing a good job of containing him, until one switch off in extra time allowed the 21-year-old down the left, and he played a perfect cross in for Benzema to score what proved to be the winning goal in the tie.

There is another Brazilian winger for City to potentially watch out for, though, in Rodrygo, who also played a crucial role in dumping out Chelsea by scoring moments after coming off the bench in the second leg.

While he has certainly not emerged like Vinicius just yet, the former Santos player has been making himself a more integral part of Ancelotti's squad, with 41 appearances in all competitions so far this season (19 starts), which is already more than the 33 (13 starts) he managed in 2020-21.

He has 12 goal involvements (four goals, eight assists) this season, up from nine last year (two goals, seven assists), and the youngster recently told Real Madrid's official website that he is looking forward to the test of City.

"They'll be tough opponents," he said. "We know the way they play and how good they are. If they've made it to the Champions League semi-finals, it means they're good, and it's down to the way City like to play, with a lot of possession.

"We're expecting a tough match and we have to make sure we keep playing like we have been and try to make it through."

Rodrygo might be under more pressure to perform given recent rumours that he may be one of the players who will have to make way for Mbappe should the club finally land the PSG star at the end of the season.

That being said, arguably Mbappe's best position is where Vinicius is currently doing his damage, which leads you to wonder if he too might be playing for his long-term future.

Of course, the Frenchman can play through the middle but there's another significant obstacle in the way there too in the form of his compatriot Benzema.

If Vinicius and Rodrygo want to make a case for maintaining their roles at the club, they have the perfect opportunity to do so by taking Madrid to a first Champions League final since 2018, and we will see just how ready for the challenge they are at the Etihad.

Riyad Mahrez could reportedly be sold by Manchester City in the upcoming transfer window, and some of the world's biggest clubs are said to be targeting the Algerian.

Mahrez, 31, has won the Premier League on three occasions, including once with Leicester City, and will make it four this season if Pep Guardiola's team can hold on.

After 38 Premier League goals for Mahrez over four campaigns with City, he could be facing a new challenge next season.


TOP STORY – MAHREZ MOVE TO MAKE WAY FOR HAALAND

Fichajes.net is reporting that Mahrez is one of the players City could part ways with to help fund the purchase of Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

The report names Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus as the three most likely landing spots.

Mahrez has scored 23 goals and dished out eight assists in 42 appearances across all club competitions this season.


ROUND-UP

Real Madrid are said to be closing in on a deal to sign Chelsea centre-back Antonio Rudiger on a free transfer. The Guardian is reporting his contract will be worth at least £200,000 per week.

– The Telegraph is reporting Manchester City are interested in making a move for West Ham's Declan Rice.

– According to Marca, Real Madrid remain favourites to land Kylian Mbappe when he is expected to leave Paris Saint-Germain in the next transfer window, but he will not make an official announcement until after the last game of his Ligue 1 season on May 21.

– Sky Sports News is reporting that Lionel Messi will remain at Paris Saint-Germain for at least one more season but that the French giants could consider letting Neymar move on.

– Barcelona would be willing to sell Frenkie de Jong for £58million, with Manchester United reportedly interested in bringing in the Dutch midfielder, according to El Chiringuito.

Real Madrid will relish the pressure that comes with their Champions League pedigree as they prepare to take on Manchester City in the first leg of their semi-final tie.

Los Blancos have had a tough route to the final four in Europe's premier competition, having to come from behind to beat both Paris Saint-Germain and last year's winners Chelsea.

Speaking at a news conference, Carlo Ancelotti was asked about comments from City boss Pep Guardiola that his team would be playing against history on Tuesday at the Etihad Stadium, with Madrid having won 13 European Cups or Champions League titles, six more than any other club.

"The history that Real Madrid has in this competition means a lot to us, more than to our rivals," Ancelotti said.

"This story, which has grown over all these years, helps players feel the weight of this shirt. It is positive, not negative.

"The pressure is similar, there is a lot of pressure. For Madrid, it is not usually a success to reach the semi-final, we want to reach the final, which is a success. It is the goal. If it arrives, Real Madrid usually have more options to win it because of our history."

Ancelotti was also asked about the defensive approach Atletico Madrid took against City in the quarter-finals and whether he intends to do similar, replying: "If you don't have a compact team against City you will lose, so you have to be compact. Defence will play a very important part in tomorrow's game."

The 62-year-old, who saw his Everton team get beat 5-0 on his last visit to the Etihad Stadium at the end of last season, will have to make a decision on the fitness of some players after training, with David Alaba and Casemiro possible absentees in Manchester.

"From what we saw in training yesterday. [Ferland] Mendy is fine. We have some doubts with Alaba and, above all, Casemiro," he added.

"We have much more confidence with Alaba than with Casemiro. If Casemiro doesn't play, he will be available for the [second leg]."

Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde also spoke to the media, and like Ancelotti, was asked about the weight of the shirt, with the Uruguay international saying: "When you put on the Real Madrid shirt you want to fight for everything until the last minute. It is part of the history of Madrid. You are always the favourite to win it all."

Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus said he is a "big fan" of compatriot Vinicius Junior ahead of facing the Real Madrid winger in Tuesday's Champions League semi-final first leg.

Jesus, who became the first Brazilian to score four goals in a Premier League match during City's 5-1 demolition of struggling Watford on Saturday, is aiming to help Pep Guardiola's men to a first Champions League title after losing last season's final to Chelsea.

Jesus' international team-mate Vinicius has recorded 31 goal involvements for Real Madrid in all competitions this season (17 goals, 14 assists), as Carlo Ancelotti's men bid for a 14th European title.

Recalling City's last Champions League tie with Madrid in the 2019-20 last 16, in which he netted in both legs of a 4-2 aggregate triumph, Jesus said the emergence of players like Vinicius meant Tuesday's encounter represented a different prospect.

"It was very difficult and tense, as always when you play at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid," Jesus told Marca of City's trip to Madrid in March 2020. "We won, but they could have. I was happy to help my team, but now it will be different, with other players. 

"Vinicius will be playing, who was playing then but is now much more mature. He is the same player, but is now more mature. 

"I am a big fan of his, I hope he can continue to get better and better in the future. I wish him good luck, but not against me!

"It is difficult because you arrive as a young player at a club of Real Madrid's size, you play, you have opportunities, and it doesn't go well because of a lack of experience, of maturity. 

"Criticism comes and goes. I am happy for him, because of the quality he has. Everyone knew that he was as good as this. Football is like that, with highs and low. I hope that he keeps this level up to be happy in his football."

Vinicius has made the most 10-yard progressive carries of any player in the Champions League this season (62), and no player in the competition has been generated a shot following a carry (moving five or more metres with the ball) more often than the 21-year-old (21 – 10 shots, 11 chances created).

 

City are undefeated in their last three home Champions League matches against Los Blancos, winning one and drawing two, and City boss Guardiola could become the first manager to eliminate the Spanish giants from three separate Champions League knockout ties.

Jesus, meanwhile, has been linked with a move away from the Premier League leaders after making just 17 league starts for Guardiola's men this season. However, the striker says he will not make any decisions on his future until the season is over, stressing the "need" for City to win a first European crown.

"I have been here for five years and a bit. When I arrived I was very young, only 19, and both the club and the players have won many trophies," he added. 

"We need to win the Champions League, as we were so close last year and this year we are in the semi-finals. 

"I am focused on the rest of the season, on these games, which are all decisive. Then we will see what happens in terms of renewing my contract or ending a cycle."

Manchester City have full focus on winning a maiden Champions League title, Raheem Sterling explained ahead of Tuesday's meeting with Real Madrid.

City were beaten by Chelsea in last season's final, but remain in contention to end their European drought after overcoming Atletico Madrid in a tense quarter-final tie earlier this month.

Next up for the Premier League leaders is a semi-final clash with Los Blancos, against whom Pep Guardiola's side are unbeaten in their last three home Champions League meetings (one win, two draws).

Among City players, only Riyad Mahrez (six goals, one assist) has bettered Sterling's five Champions League goal contributions this season (three goals, two assists), and the England winger is highly motivated to make up for past failures in Europe.

"Every season we are a club looking to challenge for all the big trophies," Sterling told a media conference on Monday.

"The Champions League is the one we haven't got our hands on and is the one we are focused on.

"It's a special competition, it's a competition every young player wants to be in, and it was no different [for me] growing up. The music and atmosphere on the night is always special."

This will be the seventh meeting between the two teams in European competition, with each of the previous six coming in the Champions League. After failing to win the first four, City defeated Madrid home and away in a last-16 tie in 2019-20, albeit the second leg was played behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sterling, however, insisted those past meetings will count for nothing as Guardiola looks to become the first manager to eliminate Madrid in three separate Champions League knockout ties.

"We know – not just from this season but from previous seasons and history – how good they are in this competition," Sterling said.

"They have scored late goals but we have players who have been in high-pressure games and we know how to deal with it. I think come tomorrow, we will be fine. 

"What's happened previously doesn't really matter. All that's in the past. All we can control is making sure we are prepared right. It's a game over two legs, we can't focus on their previous games, we focus on tomorrow at the Etihad."

Sterling has netted 24 goals for City in the Champions League. Among English players, only Wayne Rooney (30) has scored more times in the competition's history.

It is a record Sterling has an eye on.

"When you make your debut, then it's the next thing: score your first goal, and you always look to be better and improve," he added.

"As a forward, to be scoring and making assists is a massive thing. It's where you get your confidence from. That's what I am out there for.

"It's a team full of competition. It's the competition that makes you thrive. When you are performing you want to keep scoring and making assists. Sometimes you have to understand there's a lot of great players in the team. 

"I'm playing and contributing a lot more [compared to last season]. I am in a good mood, good spirits. The team is in the semi-finals of the Champions League and fighting for the title. I couldn't ask for much more. I am in good spirits.

"If I can get the English record, that's what I will do."

Sterling has recorded 20 goal contributions for City in all competitions this season (14 goals, six assists).

Manchester City will relish the "incredible test" of facing Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals as Pep Guardiola reminded his players they require two "exceptional" performances to reach the final.

Having eliminated Madrid from the Champions League in the 2010-11 semi-finals as Barcelona boss and in a 2019-20 last-16 tie with City, Guardiola could become the first coach to have knocked Los Blancos out of the competition three times.

City have also remained undefeated in their previous three home Champions League matches against Real Madrid (one win, two draws) ahead of Tuesday's crucial first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

However, while City are still awaiting their first European title after falling at the final hurdle against Chelsea last season, Madrid are aiming to be crowned kings of Europe for a 14th time this term, but Guardiola says his team will relish the "incredible test" of facing the Spanish champions-elect.

"If we had to compete with their history, we wouldn't have any chance – they are better," he said. "Their history speaks for itself. We have the desire to compete against them. For us, playing against them is an incredible test and we want to try it. We'll have to suffer, stick together, and try to do as best as possible.

"It would be the same against Bayern or Barcelona. They are a team many times in this position [the latter stages]. In the last decade we were almost never here, and now we are, which is good.

"The history's there, we cannot change it, but tomorrow we play 11 against 11, with one ball moving, and the players will decide. Of course, we'll play against players that have been in this position many times, even beyond, reaching finals and winning.

"We can imagine or plan what is going to happen but it's a game of 11 against 11. The players will make the difference, I don't think Carlo [Ancelotti] or myself will win this semi-final."

This will be the seventh meeting between City and Real Madrid in European competition, with each of the previous six coming in the Champions League since 2012-13. After failing to win the first four (two draws, two losses), the Premier League champions won both legs in the last-16 against them in this competition in 2019-20.

Guardiola, however, said City's most recent encounter with Madrid will count for nothing, highlighting the "tight" nature of that tie and cautioning that City need two "exceptional" performances to progress.

However, the 51-year-old also said competing with Madrid in the final four was an "honour" and praised his team for making it this far, telling them to enjoy the moment.

"When we went through against Real Madrid, it was tight, two tight games. We went out in the quarter-finals in other seasons when it was tight too," Guardiola added. "I always had the feeling, with Barcelona, with Bayern Munich and then here, of how nice it is being there in the latter stages with the best teams in the world.

"Now we have to try to be ourselves. We'll need two exceptional games to reach the final, and hopefully we can do it. It's not necessary to say how much we respect Real Madrid and how good they are. It's an honour.

"We want to reach the final and win the final, but I could never underestimate what we have [already] done and the fact that we are here.

"Two times in a row being in the semi-finals is so good. Many teams are not here, good ones. One day we will not be here because it is so demanding, and you have to be so precise. So I told the players to enjoy this moment, I don't know what's going to happen, you never know if we will ever be back in this position."

Guardiola has faced Ancelotti on six previous occasions, winning four and losing two. However, all four of his victories came when Ancelotti was at Everton, with the Italian winning their two Champions League meetings, both in the 2013-14 semi-finals (Real Madrid's 5-0 aggregate win over Bayern Munich).

Manchester City and Liverpool will put their epic Premier League title race on hold for a few days, as they have the small matter of the Champions League semi-finals to think about.

City are hoping to go one better than last year after losing in the final to Chelsea. Standing in their way in the last four are Real Madrid, who eliminated the holders in the quarter-finals and boast a striker in Karim Benzema who has 12 goals in nine Champions League appearances this season.

Also facing LaLiga opposition are Liverpool, though Villarreal are unlikely to be a team they expected to meet at this stage of the competition.

Led by a knockout football specialist in Unai Emery, Villarreal cannot be taken lightly by the Reds, even with Emery's men historically struggling in games in England.

Ahead of the first legs, Stats Perform digs into some of the best Opta numbers around the two semi-final ties.

Manchester City v Real Madrid

Madrid might just be beginning to feel it is their year after progressing from remarkable knockout ties against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

However, the omens are against them ahead of their first leg with City. Los Blancos haven't won on any of their previous three trips to face Manchester City in European competition (two draws, one defeat), with the most recent two coming in the knockout stages of the Champions League – a 0-0 draw in the 2015-16 semi-final first leg and a 2-1 loss in the 2019-20 last-16 second leg.

Pep Guardiola won't need any additional motivation as he looks to finally end his wait for a Champions League triumph with City, and the Barcelona legend can complete a historic hat-trick by overseeing an elimination of Madrid.

Indeed, Guardiola has eliminated Madrid from the knockout stages of the Champions League on two previous occasions, beating them 3-1 on aggregate in the 2010-11 semi-finals with Barcelona and 4-2 on aggregate in the 2019-20 last-16 with City. He is looking to become the first manager to eliminate Madrid from the competition on three occasions.

Madrid won away from home in the first leg at Chelsea in the quarter-finals, their only victory in their last six away games against English teams in the Champions League. No team has ever beaten two different English sides away from home in the knockout stages in a single Champions League campaign.

Champions League history between the two managers, however, is with Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti. He and Guardiola have faced each other six times, with the City boss claiming four wins to Ancelotti's two.

However, all four of Guardiola's wins came with City against Ancelotti's Everton, while the Italian saw his Madrid side beat Guardiola's Bayern Munich in both legs of the 2013-14 Champions League semi-finals, claiming a 5-0 aggregate triumph. Such a one-sided tie is unlikely this time around.

Liverpool v Villarreal

Villarreal are arguably the story of the 2021-22 Champions League, having sensationally knocked out Juventus and Bayern Munich to reach this stage.

However, games in England have historically been a problem for the Yellow Submarine. Since a 2-1 victory over Everton back in August 2005, Villarreal haven't managed to win any of their last eight away games in England in all competitions (three draws, five defeats), tasting defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford in the group stages earlier this season.

Despite Villarreal's well-organised defensive set-up, a high-scoring game could well be in the offing. During his managerial career, Villarreal boss Emery has faced Liverpool five times (once with Sevilla and four times with Arsenal), with those matches producing 26 goals (5.2 per game on average), and both teams netting in each.

Liverpool will be the clear favourites to do the majority of that goalscoring. Of the 12 sides to have reached the semi-finals of the European Cup/Champions League on at least five occasions, only Benfica (seven wins from eight) and Milan (10/12) have a higher ratio of progressing to the final than Liverpool (82%), who have managed to reach the final on nine of their previous 11 semi-final appearances.

Although Liverpool possess serious depth in attack with Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz playing significant roles, Mohamed Salah is still the obvious candidate to be their talisman.

Only in 2017-18 (10) has Salah scored more Champions League goals in a single campaign than the eight he has scored this season, moving his tally for the club onto 33. The Egyptian is just three behind both Didier Drogba (Chelsea) and Sergio Aguero (Man City) for the most goals netted in the competition for an English side (both 36).

Yet Emery's track record in Europe should have Liverpool fans nervous that he could be the man to dash their quadruple dreams.

The only European meeting between Emery and Liverpool was the 2016 Europa League final, in which Emery's Sevilla side beat Klopp's Reds 3-1. On top of that, since the start of the 2009-10 season, the year of the inaugural UEFA Europa League campaign, Emery has progressed from 84 per cent of his Europa League/Champions League knockout ties (31/37).

That is second-best ratio of any manager to have taken charge of at least 10 ties, after only Zinedine Zidane (14/16 – 88%).

Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus wants to solely focus on this season amid ongoing speculation surrounding his future and the possible arrival of Erling Haaland.

Jesus' contract does not expire until June 2023, but there are suggestions he could make way for the in-demand Haaland to sign from Borussia Dortmund.

Pep Guardiola's reigning Premier League champions have repeatedly been linked with Norway striker Haaland, with a €75million release clause reportedly coming into play at the end of the season.

While talk persists around the future of Jesus, who is said to be a target of Arsenal, the 25-year-old delivered on the pitch against Watford, finding the net four times and assisting the other in a 5-1 rout on Saturday.

That made him the fifth Brazilian hat-trick scorer in the Premier League, after Afonso Alves, Robinho, Roberto Firmino and Lucas Moura, but the first of those to score four times in a single match.

Jesus was also just the second City player to be directly involved in five goals in a single Premier League game, after Sergio Aguero netted five against Newcastle United in October 2015.

However, the former Palmeiras attacker refused to commit his future to City amid questions of whether he will stay and fight for his place should Haaland be brought in.

"It's not time to think about this," he told reporters. "You expect me to say this, but it's true.

"This is no time to think about this. Now is the best moment of the season. I want to enjoy, to keep focused on my team, with my team-mates, to fight for the Premier League. I won it with my team-mates three times.

"And I know how that feels, and I want to have that feeling again. And then of course we also have the tough game on Tuesday against Real Madrid [in the Champions League] and that is my focus."

City's wealth of attacking riches has them in contention for the Premier League, leading Liverpool by a point with five games to play, and the Champions League, where they face Madrid in the semi-finals.

But that plethora of creative and goalscoring talent is often what has kept Jesus on the sidelines, with Guardiola preferring to utilise the likes of Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne as forwards after missing out on Harry Kane before the 2021-22 season.

Indeed, out of City's attacking group – which also includes Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez – only the Algeria international has played fewer minutes (1,332) in the Premier League than Jesus this season (1,545).

"It's not just me, it's [all] the players. If you ask, everyone's going to say 'I want to play' and the season that I arrived here I played a lot, I think," Jesus responded when asked if he would like more regular chances.

"I know what I expect of course, but I know we have very good players who can play every game as well.

"Sometimes it's not just me, it's Riyad, sometimes Raz [Sterling], and Grealish arrives this season and sees how it is here. We have a lot of good strikers, wingers and forwards."

After becoming the third player to score four goals in a Premier League match for City – after Edin Dzeko and Aguero, who did so on three occasions – Jesus will hope to get the opportunity to deliver again at home to Madrid on Tuesday.

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