Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola admitted it was a tough pill to swallow after his side fell victim to a miraculous comeback against Real Madrid.

City appeared all set to book their ticket to Paris for an all-English final against Premier League title rivals Liverpool when Riyad Mahrez gave them a 1-0 lead in the 73rd minute on Wednesday in Madrid, pulling them away 5-3 over the two legs.

Jack Grealish saw a shot blocked on the line and then another effort saved by Thibaut Courtois as City threatened to runaway with it, their place in a second straight Champions League finally seemingly secured.

But as Los Blancos threw numbers forward in desperation, they found a lifeline when Karim Benzema was able to find Rodrygo at the edge of the six-yard box, setting up a thrilling finish.

Incredibly, just 91 seconds later Rodrygo got on the end of another cross, flicked on by Marco Asensio, to head home and pull Madrid level on aggregate.

The Madrid forward nearly made it a hat-trick in the 93rd minute, forcing a save from Ederson to take things into extra-time, in which a Benzema penalty would send the Spanish giants, 13-time European champions, through at City's expense.

Speaking to BT Sport after the crushing result, Guardiola said it was a cruel feeling to come so close before ultimately falling short. Indeed, City did not face a single shot on target until Rodrygo netted Madrid's first in the 90th minute.

"Yeah, we were close. We were close – but in the end, we could not reach [the final]," he said.

"It's simple – in the first half, we didn't have game. We were not good enough, but we didn't suffer much. 

"After we scored the goal we were better, we found our tempo, our game, and the players were comfortable on the pitch.

"The last 10 minutes they attacked and attacked, and you suffer, it didn't happen. In that moment you can say okay, they were 10-15 minutes completely attacking, we would not survive – this was not the case. 

"They put a lot of players in the box – [Eder] Militao, with Rodrygo, with Vinicius Jr, with Benzema, with Asensio – all of them, and with crosses, they score two goals.

"We didn't suffer much – we didn't play our best – but these moments in finals, the players feel the pressure. We were close. Football is unpredictable, it's a game like this, and sometimes you have to accept it."

Guardiola acknowledged there were some heartbroken players after the result, but knows they will need to move on quickly and re-focus on the Premier League title race. With four games to go, City hold a one-point lead over quadruple-chasing Liverpool.

"Yes [the players are crushed), I mean, we were close to reaching the final of the Champions League," he added.

"We need some time to process that, then come back with our people at home for the last few games we have."

Guardiola has now suffered an exit at the semi-final stage of the Champions League on six separate occasions as a manager, tying him level with Jose Mourinho.

Carlo Ancelotti believes Real Madrid's history helped inspire their sensational Champions League semi-final comeback against Manchester City on Wednesday.

Los Blancos recovered from the brink of defeat to snatch a dramatic 3-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu and book their place in the final in Paris, where they will play Liverpool on May 28.

Ancelotti's side fell 5-3 behind on aggregate when Riyad Mahrez stuck for City in the 73rd minute, but Rodrygo struck twice in the space of 91 seconds to force extra-time.

And the hosts turned the tie on its head when Karim Benzema's penalty set up a showdown with Liverpool and a repeat of the 2018 final, which Madrid won 3-1 in Kyiv thanks to a stunning Gareth Bale cameo.

It was the third successive round in which the 13-time champions came from behind, having done the same against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the last 16 and quarter-finals respectively.

Ancelotti is set to become the first manager to oversee five Champions League finals, and the Italian was full of praise for the determination demonstrated by his players.

"I cannot say we are used to living this kind of life," he told reporters. "But what happened tonight, it happened against Chelsea and also against PSG. 

"If you have to say why, it is the history of this club that helps us to keep going when it seems that we are gone. It gives you the strength to follow, to continue, to believe.

"The match was very competitive, but the team has not lowered its arms. Much of the merit is of the players, and of the fans who push inside and outside the stadium - in the previous days as well.

"The game was close to finished, and we managed to find the last energy we had. We played a good game against a strong rival. When we are able to equalise, we had a psychological advantage in extra-time. 

"It was difficult as City had control of the game but at the last opportunity, we were able to go to extra-time."

Ancelotti joined Madrid at the end of last season for a second spell in charge, having led Los Blancos to 'La Decima' during his first stint.

He became the first coach to win all of Europe's big five leagues when Madrid wrapped up a 35th LaLiga title on Saturday, and now can look forward to a reunion with Liverpool, who this time last year would have been considered his biggest rivals while the 62-year-old was in charge of Everton.

Ancelotti led Everton to their first win in a Merseyside at Anfield since 1999 in February 2021, and he is relishing going up against Jurgen Klopp's team once more.

"The feeling is that I am very happy, to participate in another final against a great team, I played against them as a player and as a coach," said Ancelotti, who beat Liverpool in the 2007 final with Milan, but famously lost on penalties to the Reds two years earlier in Istanbul.

"I lived there [in Liverpool] for two years. For me, it's like a derby, I still support Everton."

Casemiro says only the silverware remains for Real Madrid after they eliminated Manchester City to progress to the Champions League final on Wednesday.

After losing the first leg of the semi-final 4-3 in Manchester, Madrid had a mountain to climb after Riyad Mahrez made it 1-0 on the night in the 73rd minute.

A Rodrygo double deep into stoppage time astonishingly restored parity on aggregate, before Karim Benzema scored from the penalty spot to make it 6-5 over the tie in extra-time and book Madrid's spot in Paris later this month.

Casemiro, who missed the first leg through injury, believes only the ultimate triumph will trump the sensation of their path to the final.

"Incredible, there is no better feeling," he told Movistar+ post-match. "It was difficult to get here, but we know that the most important thing is missing, the most beautiful thing.

"But we have to enjoy the moment. We have spent two years without an audience in the stands. We have to enjoy now, this is for them."

Real Madrid had to once again fight back from a losing position to go through, having also previously looked beaten by Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Madrid's latest escape came just four days after wrapping up a 35th LaLiga title, with Casemiro keen to credit the spirit within the dressing room and how that reflects the club's character.

"The great virtue of this team is never giving up, fighting until the end," Casemiro said. "We must congratulate everyone. This is what this club is.

"The key phrase is, 'until the end, let's go Real.' We have to be happy. We have beaten a great team with a great coach. This is for the people. We won the league two years ago and now we were able to celebrate with the fans [this week]."

Jack Grealish strode clear with Dani Carvajal in his dust in the 87th minute. The England star sauntered past Thibaut Courtois with a clever shimmy before passing the ball towards the empty Real Madrid goal.

Manchester City were going 2-0 up at the Santiago Bernabeu, 6-3 up on aggregate. They were going to Paris and a second successive Champions League final, with their season-defining rivalry with Liverpool heading into another engrossing chapter.

Only, that's not quite how it turned out.

Grealish didn't get his goal. Ferland Mendy's desperate lunge into his own net blocked the ball on the line – his clearance even failed to go in off the lurking Phil Foden, who was well-positioned to nudge home.

Of course, City were still going through with their lead on the night at 1-0, but Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid are like the White Walkers from Game of Thrones. You might think they're dead, but they just keep coming back.

For so long it looked as though Pep Guardiola had produced something of a masterclass.

Had you shown an unassuming observer the first halves of these two semi-final clashes, the idea that it was the same teams involved simply wouldn't have entered their mind.

Last week's first leg in Manchester went down as an instant Champions League classic, with City taking a 2-1 lead in the break – it was a thrill ride almost from start to finish thanks to attacking ingenuity and defensive mishaps.

It took a little while to get to that stage on Wednesday – in fact, for most of the evening it didn't look like were going to get there at all.

While the onus was undoubtedly on Madrid, there was more than a hint of tension in their performance as they struggled to retain possession and pass through City, who themselves appeared far more willing to play patiently.

And that was perhaps why Madrid simply couldn't find their rhythm. City attacked with purpose and pace last week, leaving spaces for Los Blancos to exploit on the break, but Guardiola didn't need his team to be quite so cavalier so long as they retained their aggregate lead.

A dreadful Vinicius miss just after the restart suggested Madrid's luck was out, though the greater directness that spawned the chance saw them ditch their first-half attempts of intricacy, which never worked against an intensely well-organised City.

That didn't quite usher in a period of Madrid domination, though. Riyad Mahrez slammed into the top-right corner to put City 5-3 up on aggregate with 73 minutes played, and that point City fans will have been loading up Sky Scanner, scouring for flights to Paris. The job was surely done.

Grealish then stepped up late on. Few would've worried that his inability to get that shot past Mendy was a precursor to more mayhem, but three minutes later – after Courtois had denied City's record signing with a long leg – Madrid had themselves a lifeline.

Rodrygo, who has enjoyed something of a coming-of-age tale at Madrid recently, brilliantly got in front of his marker and glanced Karim Benzema's pass beyond Ederson with the flick of his right foot.

Madrid's remarkable ability to turn defeats into victories has characterised a fine campaign for the Spanish champions. Both at home and in Europe, Ancelotti's team have defied the odds to dig themselves out of trouble on an incredibly routine basis.

Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, and to an extent City in the first leg of the semi-final, have all seen Madrid's character up close and personal, but surely this was going to be one uphill battle too far?

It wasn't. Ninety-one seconds after providing a little belief, Rodrygo produced a wonderful header that secured one of the unlikeliest of extra-time periods you're ever likely to see, and from there you felt destiny was only taking this one way.

As quiet as Benzema was – by his usual standards, anyway – he still managed to have the final say, stepping in front of Ruben Dias to win a penalty early on in extra-time. He didn't attempt another 'Panenka', but he was no less accurate.

Benzema has now scored 10 goals in the Champions League knockout stages for Madrid this season, the joint-most by a player in a single campaign along with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016-17 (also for Los Blancos).

It was only fitting that the 43-goal man who has been so crucial to virtually every major win of Madrid's this season was there to have the decisive say once again... And decisive it was. City's desperate late attacks fell flat against Los Blancos' flat-back 10.

When Grealish raced clear with three minutes of regulation time left, a Liverpool v Real Madrid final was inconceivable. City had qualification in the palm of their hands.

But Madrid make the inconceivable routine. Now they'll look to seal their 14th European title on May 28.

Guardiola, meanwhile, has now suffered elimination from six Champions League semi-finals (as many as Jose Mourinho) and has to rally his troops for a Premier League title race that is set to go to the wire.

Carlo Ancelotti will be the first coach to oversee a team in five Champions League finals after Real Madrid's remarkable comeback against Manchester City.

Ancelotti, who returned to Madrid for a second spell in charge at the end of last season, became the first coach to win all of Europe's top five leagues when Los Blancos wrapped up their 35th LaLiga title on Saturday.

But it appeared a shot at a double would be evading Madrid when Riyad Mahrez struck in the 73rd minute at the Santiago Bernabeu to put City 1-0 up on Wednesday and 5-3 up in the tie.

However, two goals in the space of 91 seconds from Rodrygo restored parity on aggregate to force extra-time and then up stepped Karim Benzema to score from the penalty spot and complete one of the most outrageous comebacks in the competition's history.

Indeed, Madrid were responsible for another one of those in the last 16, against Paris Saint-Germain, and they also fought back from the brink against Chelsea. Liverpool are up next.

That meeting with the Reds in Paris will be Ancelotti's history-making fifth Champions League final.

Stats Perform looks at how the other four played out.

2003 - Juventus 0-0 Milan (AET, 2-3 on penalties)

Ancelotti first reached the final of UEFA's elite club competition as a manager 19 years ago, when his Milan team took on fellow Italian giants Juventus at Old Trafford. An infamously dull affair, it ended as a goalless draw after 120 minutes, resulting in a penalty shoot-out. Andriy Shevchenko scored the winning spot-kick.

2005 - Milan 3-3 Liverpool (AET, 2-3 on penalties)

Milan and Ancelotti reached the final again two years later, and it proved a famous night in Istanbul. Milan led through Paolo Maldini and Hernan Crespo's brace, but Liverpool astonishingly hit back in the second half and then went on to triumph 3-2 in the shoot-out, with Jerzy Dudek – who made an outstanding stop in extra-time – the Reds' hero.

2007 - Milan 2-1 Liverpool 

The Rossoneri were back and out for revenge in 2007, and they got it in Athens. Filippo Inzaghi put Milan 2-0 up, with Durk Kuyt's late effort not enough to inspire another comeback.

2014 - Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid (AET)

Perhaps Ancelotti's most famous Champions League triumph to date came in 2014 when, in his first spell at Madrid, he led the club to 'La Decima'. They were trailing 1-0 to rivals Atletico Madrid until the 93rd minute, when Sergio Ramos struck. Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo wrapped up a runaway victory in extra-time.

Real Madrid will play Liverpool in the Champions League final after Karim Benzema's extra-time penalty completed a remarkable 3-1 comeback win over Manchester City.

Leading 4-3 from a pulsating first leg, Pep Guardiola's side appeared set for a second successive final appearance when Riyad Mahrez put them ahead in the 73rd minute at Santiago Bernabeu, but comeback kings Madrid sealed their place in Paris with a 6-5 aggregate triumph.

Substitute Rodrygo was their inspiration, as he became the first player to score twice in the 90th minute of a Champions League knockout match to force extra-time.

And Benzema wrapped up a magnificent turnaround for Carlo Ancelotti's LaLiga champions when, five minutes into extra-time.

City carried the greater threat in the first half, Thibaut Courtois making a brilliant stop from Bernardo Silva before denying Phil Foden just prior to the interval.

Madrid should have taken the lead early in the second half, yet Vinicius Junior was unable to convert Dani Carvajal's cross at the far post.

But City had shown more control and the lead was theirs when Mahrez arrowed a brilliant first-time finish beyond Courtois.

City's progression seemed secure, and Madrid appeared down and out when Jack Grealish burst through only to see a strike cleared off the line before Courtois then denied the £100million man moments later.

Yet Madrid do not know when they are beaten. Rodrygo stole in to turn home Benzema's square ball and, 91 seconds later, planted a wonderful header into the top-left corner.

The most remarkable of turnarounds was complete when Benzema calmly sent Ederson the wrong way from 12 yards after he was fouled by Ruben Dias in the box, with Fernandinho missing a glorious chance to prod in an equaliser as Madrid set up a meeting with Liverpool on May 28.

Andrew Robertson has described Liverpool team-mate Luis Diaz as "special" after the Colombian helped fire the Reds into the Champions League final.

Diaz arrived at Anfield in January after completing a move from Porto worth a reported initial fee of £37.5million (€45m), with a further £12.5m (€15m) in add-ons, and he has played a key role in Liverpool's pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple.

Despite holding a 2-0 advantage heading into the Champions League semi-final second leg against Villarreal, an out of sorts Liverpool found themselves 2-0 down and level for the tie at half-time in El Madrigal on Tuesday.

However, Diaz was introduced by Jurgen Klopp at the break and his presence immediately raised the levels of his team, who came back to win 3-2 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate, with the Colombian finding the net himself with a header.

Speaking to Liverpool's official website, Scotland captain Robertson was quick to praise the 25-year-old and the quick transition he has made to his new home.

"He has been special," the left-back said of Diaz.

"We have tried to help him as much as we can – all of the players. We know how difficult it is coming into the club in January. We've tried with the coaches and everyone else to get him up to speed.

"He is a special, special player. With the talent he has and the will to win, he just fits us perfectly."

Diaz has five goals and three assists from 21 appearances in all competitions for the Reds so far (13 starts), and he has averaged more dribbles attempted per 90 minutes (5.16) and has a higher successful dribble percentage (61.64) than any other Liverpool forward this season.

It was a game of two halves in Spain, with Liverpool managing just two shots in the first half prior to Diaz's introduction for Diogo Jota, before having 13 attempts in the second half as they turned things around.

"It was tough to take Jots off and I think he has been excellent this season, but Luis came on and made a big difference," Robertson added. "He played on the left, he started pushing them back, started taking the ball, dribbling and everything, it was a really good half from him.

"He has been special since the day he came in, it's a pleasure to play with him and hopefully he'll only get better as well with a full pre-season and things like that.

"I believe he will get better, which is scary, but what he is producing here and now is pretty special as well."

Liverpool's appearance in the final in Paris later this month will be their third in five years, and Robertson acknowledged how tough it is to reach the showpiece event of Europe's premier club competition, which the club has won on six occasions.

"Unbelievable," he said of the achievement. "An incredibly tough tie, it's never easy, but to be in a final is never, never easy no matter what competition you are in.

"To make it the third in the space of five years is incredible from this group of boys, for us as players and fans, and everyone alike, [we] should never ever take this for granted.

"We just enjoy getting to the final. It's so hard to get to Champions League finals, especially the amount of good teams in this competition. To get to the final is an incredible feeling. It's going to be a special occasion and we are looking forward to it.

"We've got a lot of games between now and the end of the season, but our season has been extended for the right reasons and we are so happy about it. We can't wait to try to go and compete and try to make it number seven."

Jamie Carragher believes Jurgen Klopp is "lying" about who he wants Liverpool to face in the Champions League final and extended an offer to Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James to join him in Paris.

The Reds overcame a scare to defeat Villarreal 3-2 on Tuesday, securing a 5-2 aggregate triumph and punching their ticket to a 10th showpiece in Europe's premier tournament.

Liverpool were trailing 2-0 at half-time before second-half goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane ensured they will meet Manchester City or Real Madrid in this month's final.

It means a remarkable quadruple is still on the cards, with Liverpool having already clinched the EFL Cup and still in the hunt for the Premier League title and FA Cup too.

Manager Klopp insisted he would have no preference over who he faced in the French capital, but former Reds defender Carragher reckons the German would secretly prefer to face newly crowned LaLiga champions Madrid.

"I think he's lying," Carragher said speaking as a pundit for CBS. "I am pretty certain he'd prefer Real Madrid."

Regardless of how many trophies Liverpool end up with this term, Klopp has cemented his status as a legend at Anfield and recently committed his future to the club until 2026.

Carragher thinks that was the right move and is not sure his coaching style would ever suit Barcelona or Madrid, clubs he has in the past been linked with.

He added: "There's lots of great clubs but not another one that suits Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool are not an underdog by any means, they are one of the biggest clubs out there but that thing of when he was at Dortmund and they were fighting against Bayern with no funds, and the same sort of thing against maybe Manchester United and Manchester City in the Premier League.

"I couldn't see him managing a Real Madrid or a Barcelona, I don't think it would suit his style of management.

"I think he needs the intensity of the crowd and that togetherness. He is already and, who knows what Liverpool will have won in four years' time, he is going to be remembered as one of the greatest managers in Liverpool's history and one of the greatest figures in Liverpool's history right up there with the great managers."

Plenty of Liverpool fans will flock to Paris for the final and one particularly famous supporter could be headed to France in the form of NBA great James, who owns a small stake in the club.

And Carragher had an invitation for the four-time NBA champion, who had Tweeted to say: "PARIS HERE WE COME!!!!!!!! @LFC!"

"LeBron, if you want to come to Paris you can join me, and the CBS team, and you can be my guest pitchside," he added.

"I want you next to us in Paris to give us the support that we need to win that seventh European Cup. Come and join us, big man!"

On the back of becoming the first manager to win a clean sweep of trophies in Europe's top five leagues, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti suggested his coaching career – at club level, at least – is nearing its end.

"After Real, yes, I'll probably stop," he told Amazon Prime in an interview released on Monday. "I'd like to be with my grandchildren, go on vacation with my wife – there are so many things to do that I have left out that I would like to do. The day I quit, I'll have all these things to do."

That did come with a caveat, though. "If the club keeps me here for 10 years, I'll train for 10 years," Ancelotti added, before leaving the door open for a move into international management ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

One month shy of his 63rd birthday, making him the oldest manager to win LaLiga, Ancelotti can be forgiven for thinking of retirement and life beyond football. He has won everything there is to win, after all, including a record-equalling three European Cups.

And yet, for all his success, which includes 20 major trophies across a 26-year managerial career spanning five countries, laid-back Ancelotti is arguably looked down upon when compared to fellow heavyweights such as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

The latter in particular has built a reputation – rightly – for being a philosophy-driven coach who is obsessed with the finer details. Sometimes a little too obsessed when it comes to Champions League football, some might say.

Ancelotti, on the other hand, is old-fashioned in a sense, a coach who learned his trade in the days that managers would regularly be seen puffing away on cigarettes in the dugout, rather than analysing opposition tactics on a tablet.

It was a cigar Ancelotti was seen enjoying last weekend as Madrid toasted LaLiga title glory in his first campaign back, showing there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to coaching philosophy.

The Serie A, Premier League, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and LaLiga-winning coach may yet add a record fourth Champions League to his glittering CV come the end of the month, though for that to happen Madrid must first overturn a 4-3 deficit in Wednesday's semi-final second leg with Guardiola's Manchester City.

The opening 90 minutes in Manchester last week produced the joint-highest scoring semi-final first leg in the competition's history, alongside Liverpool's 5-2 win over Roma four years ago, and also provided a snapshot into the two styles of not just Madrid and City but also their respective coaches.

City enjoyed 60 per cent of possession and completed 541 passes to Madrid's 336 – and an extra 248 in the opposition half – which is reflective of how both sides have played this season. 

The Citizens, much like Barcelona during Guardiola's trophy-laden four-year spell in charge, have become perfectly shaped to fit to the Catalan's own style. They have completed 31,385 passes across their 53 games this season, which is more than any other side from Europe's top five leagues.

Madrid also feature high on that list, down in fifth behind Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain. They also rank fifth among European clubs for goals scored this season with 108. Yet, when you think of an Ancelotti side, you might struggle to immediately describe the default style of play.

Resilient, perhaps? The resilience to score three goals in the space of 17 minutes en route to eliminating PSG with a 3-2 comeback win in the last 16; the resilience to pick themselves up when trailing Chelsea 4-3 on aggregate late on in the quarter-finals, only to advance 5-4.

Ancelotti's football may not have been revolutionary in the same way that Guardiola helped to transform Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City, yet the Italian has succeeded most places he has gone, not least this season with Madrid on course for their joint-highest LaLiga points haul since tallying 100 in 2011-12.

With a few simple tweaks, not least getting Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior working in tandem, Ancelotti has improved Madrid both in an attacking sense and defensively – even if they did ship four goals against City last week.

And so, while he may not be a perceived as a football 'philosopher' or someone who enjoys antagonising his counterparts, Ancelotti – in his 178th Champions League game in charge – has the chance to further prove he has stood the test of time when Guardiola's double-chasing City travel to the Spanish capital.

Should Los Blancos pull off another memorable comeback and go on and lift the trophy in Paris later this month, there would be no better way for Madrid's quiet leader to bring down the curtain on a legendary coaching career.

Giovani Lo Celso expressed pain at Villarreal's elimination in the Champions League semi-finals following their 3-2 defeat to Liverpool on Tuesday.

Faced with the huge task overturning a two-goal deficit after the first leg at Anfield, the Yellow Submarine drew level for the tie after a raucous 45 minutes at El Madrigal, via goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin.

Liverpool eventually settled after the interval, and the air effectively went out of the tie when Fabinho's shot crept through Geronimo Rulli's legs and in, with the Reds going on to win 3-2.

A January signing for Villarreal, Lo Celso believes the home crowd propelled them to such a fast start but their energy dissipated.

"The first impression is one of pain, and of sadness because we wanted to play that final," Lo Celso told Movistar+ post-match. "We had a very good first half, where we cut off all the circuits for them, we pressed, we created situations, we went 2-0 up.

"The support of the fans who pushed us from the first minute gave us a huge boost.

"In the second half, it was difficult for us to keep up with them, they began to find spaces and there they found the goals."

Luis Diaz's substitution for Diogo Jota at half-time was transformative, and Liverpool found a different gear to eventually win in the 90 minutes and restore their lead on aggregate.

Lo Celso believes Liverpool's class eventually showed, but was proud of his team-mates' achievement of making it this far in the Champions League.

"It was a bit difficult for us to keep up with the rhythm of the first half," he said. "They began to control the game a little more, find spaces and generate situations.

"In the second half, in ten minutes the match escaped us, but I am proud of my team-mates because reaching the semis is no small thing and even more so against such a high-class opponent."

Jurgen Klopp opened up on the half-time team talk that helped Liverpool fend off a Villarreal comeback to reach the Champions League final.

The Reds had arrived in Spain holding a 2-0 aggregate lead thanks to a dominant showing at Anfield but contrived to squander it during a chastening first half at El Madrigal.

However, a much-improved second-half showing punctuated by goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane helped secure passage to a third Champions League final appearance in just five seasons.

And, when asked how he had masterminded that change of fortunes, Klopp told BT Sport: "It feels like the first in 20 [years], it's outstanding, because we made it obviously pretty tricky for ourselves. 

"We knew before that these kinds of things can happen; it's all about in life all the time how you react when things don't go your way. 

"Getting the first goal after two-and-a-half, three minutes, that's obviously not what you wanted, momentum on their side.

"After the first half I told the boys, 'Yes, they have momentum but they don't own it! In one situation we can get it back.'

"We were calm because I accept it 100 per cent that if Villarreal plays the second half like they play the first and we played the second half like the first then they will be in the final.

"The perception was like this, everything looked more like they will score the 3-0 than we will score the 2-1 but we are still here so we could give it a try and that's what we did."

The German went on to reveal that his half-time rallying cry also featured elements of important tactical advice to his players.

He explained: "The problem with the half-time was that we knew what was wrong because it was obvious, but we didn't have the situations to show where we did it right.

"Respect to Villarreal, I have to say; stadium, team, coach, it's unbelievable what they set up, they put us under pressure. 

"[It was] man-v-man all over the whole pitch, we didn't play football at all, we didn't get momentum back.

"We have to play in the right spaces, we have to force ourselves in the game to start playing football. 

"[When] we broke the lines and we found Naby or Trent in the half-spaces and the front three were more flexible and not fixed in their positions, all of a sudden we were in the game, scored goals and made it happen. 

Liverpool's final opponents will be confirmed on Wednesday when Real Madrid and Manchester City do battle in the second leg of their semi-final tie.

Of his side's prospective opponents, Klopp added: "Yes, I will watch it! Whoever it will be, it will be massive. 

"Whoever wins tomorrow night will deserve the result and then we'll face each other in Paris."

Trent Alexander-Arnold offered a scathing assessment of Liverpool's first-half performance at Villarreal but is willing to accept an occasional bad 45 minutes as long as they recover as they did to reach the Champions League final.

Villarreal drew level on aggregate, going up 2-0 on the night, before goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane in the second half restored Liverpool's lead and progression to May's final in Paris.

It will be Liverpool's third Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp, following a defeat to Real Madrid in 2018 and triumph over Tottenham in 2019.

Speaking after a thrilling 3-2 win, Alexander-Arnold made reference to the tricky paths that led to those finals, asserting the volatile nature of Tuesday's victory was just a continuation of a theme.

"We never tend to make these Champions League semis easy for ourselves, thinking back to Roma away, Barca at home and now here – difficult, very difficult," Alexander-Arnold told BT Sport post-match.

"We never played football that first half. We never picked up any of the second balls at all, and they kind of played the game the way that they wanted to, and we allowed them to do that.

"Second half, we came out and played the way that we needed to play, and controlled the game a lot better. One bad half over two legs, we can concede that as long as we got the job done."

With the win, the Reds will face the winner of Wednesday's semi-final second leg between Real Madrid and Manchester City.

"It's always nice to get the job done on the Tuesday," he said. "We can watch the game tomorrow, knowing that we're going to be there, and who we're going to play.

"I'm sure it will be a good game. If it goes by anything last week, we'll be in for another amazing game. Either opponent kind of deserves to get to the final, so we'll see who we'll get."

Given the stakes involved, Champions League semi-finals don't tend to be fertile ground for managers to learn lessons about their teams.

But for Jurgen Klopp, Tuesday's win over Villarreal provided more than just a ticket to the showpiece fixture of Europe's premier cup competition in Paris later this month.

It also handed the German several important insights into his squad that may prove key to a quadruple bid that was extended by victory in Spain.

Klopp probably did not appreciate the start of that learning process – an unexpectedly poor first-half performance he would prefer to forget.

In possession of 'the most dangerous lead in football', it was key that the visitors did not concede an early goal that would boost the home crowd's belief. 

And yet they conspired to do exactly that, twice failing to prevent crosses before Boulaye Dia poked home to ignite El Madrigal.

That early goal set the tone for a first half that saw Liverpool harried (65.5 per cent passing accuracy) and bullied (45.6 per cent duels won) out of the game for large periods.

And so they could have no complaints over going in at half-time level on aggregate fearing that Villarreal would become only the second team to overcome a two-goal deficit in a Champions League semi-final.

Liverpool were, of course, the ones who pulled off that previous comeback, overturning Barcelona's three-goal advantage en route to winning the 2018-19 edition of the competition.

Yet, with their first-half attempts to prevent history repeating itself having failed, it seemed inevitable that changes were coming at the break.

Perhaps the only surprise was that Klopp limited himself to just one alteration, introducing Luis Diaz in place of Diogo Jota but leaving his starting midfield trio alone.

However, it was hard to argue with the results of that minor tweak: a consummate second-half performance that turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win.

That outcome is good news for Diaz, whose match-high four shots and well-taken goal underlined the brilliance of another sparkling outing.

But it might not be for Jota, who won just two of six duels and completed six of nine passes before getting the half-time hook.

There were also contrasting fortunes in midfield, where Naby Keita provided the most notable recovery from a midfield three that looked lost in the opening 45 minutes.

With Jordan Henderson going through a vigorous warm-up just after half-time, it did not look like the Guinean would last much longer.

But, as was the case with his colleagues in the engine room, he went up a level en route to posting 21 passes in the opposition half, three tackles, and 11 possession regains (more than any other player on the pitch) by full-time.

With the big games coming thick and fast in the weeks ahead, the consequences of these performances are likely to stretch beyond simply securing Liverpool's third Champions League final appearance under Klopp.

As he guides an unlikely quadruple bid towards a dramatic conclusion, the manager now has an even clearer idea of which players he can rely on to deliver on the biggest of stages.

 

Rafael Nadal requested that his opening match at the Madrid Open does not clash with his beloved Real Madrid's Champions League semi-final against Manchester City, according to tournament director Feliciano Lopez.

Nadal, who has won the Madrid Open on five occasions, will face Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic in the round of 32 on Wednesday, the same day Los Blancos bid to overturn a 4-3 first-leg deficit against Pep Guardiola's team at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 21-time grand slam winner is known to be an avid supporter of Madrid and was invited to take an "honorary kick-off" before Carlo Ancelotti's team wrapped up their 35th league title with a 4-0 win over Espanyol at the weekend.

Lopez confirmed Nadal's request to Spanish radio network Cadena SER on Tuesday.

"Nadal asked us that when Madrid played the Champions League semi-finals that we not play him," Lopez said.

"He likes to play during the day, so that the ball bounces higher. There are [Spanish] tennis players who are not from Madrid. David Ferrer is not from Madrid. Tommy Robredo and Marc Lopez are from Barcelona, Sergi Bruguera is very much from Barcelona… it's very hard to be an anti-Madridista!"

Real Madrid have been eliminated from each of their previous five Champions League semi-finals when losing the first leg – however, Los Blancos have progressed from two of their last three knockout ties when losing the opening match (the 2015-16 quarter-final against Wolfsburg and this season's last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain).

Madrid have won the European Cup/Champions League on a record 13 occasions, also finishing as runners-up three times, and Nadal will hope to have a good view if Los Blancos seal a 17th final appearance on Wednesday.

 

Kevin De Bruyne says winning the Champions League would "change the perspective" through which people view Manchester City, as Pep Guardiola's team prepare to face Real Madrid in the second leg of their semi-final tie.

De Bruyne opened the scoring in City's thrilling 4-3 first-leg win over Carlo Ancelotti's team at the Etihad Stadium last week, but Karim Benzema's double means the encounter remains in the balance.

The Belgium international has won 10 domestic trophies since joining the club in 2015, though European success has so far evaded Guardiola's men, who lost last season's final to 1-0 to Chelsea.

Before travelling to the Santiago Bernabeu for Wednesday's second leg, the in-form playmaker, who has contributed 15 goals and 12 assists in all competitions this term, acknowledged a European title would alter the way the club is viewed.

"It would change the perspective," De Bruyne, who went off injured in last year's final, said at a pre-match news conference. "As a player, you want to win trophies, and we want this one.

"We have fought for it for numerous years and been to the latter stages, and we have been doing well.

"Obviously, it’s a cup competition and the quality is really high, so it's very difficult to win it and there are different circumstances, but if you look at how we have performed in the last seven years, we've done really well. If we win it, it would change the narrative."

However, De Bruyne refuted claims that the team needed to win the competition, highlighting the quality of City's competitors and saying he was happy with his own accomplishments.

"For myself. It doesn't change how I look at myself as a player. I know what I have done: good and bad in my career. I'm pretty happy with what I have done," he added.

"Obviously, I want to win every trophy but that's a hard task. I would obviously love to win the Champions League."

De Bruyne has registered 18 Champions League assists since making his first City appearance in the competition in September 2015, a tally that is only bettered by Neymar (25) and Kylian Mbappe (20) during that time.

Meanwhile, City's first-leg success over Los Blancos was only the second semi-final first leg in Champions League history to see seven goals scored (along with Liverpool 5-2 Roma in 2017-18), but the midfielder said his team would need to be at their best to make their advantage count.

"I think if we play the way we played last week, we have the potential to be one of the best teams, but we have to show that," he added. "If we play below that, Madrid can win because they are also one of the best teams, and the quality they have is amazing.

"But I back my team to perform at the high level needed to win the game. I think we are in a very good way. The fact we have not won it yet is the only criticism we can get. The rest, we have been there loads of times, fighting to win it.

"I remember when we played [against Madrid in the 2015-16 semi-finals] it wasn't the greatest end to the season. Madrid was a powerhouse at that time. We are in better shape now. I think we are a better team with a better set-up, we play better, and we have more experience. Hopefully, we are better prepared.

"It's two attacking teams who like to play football. We played a very good game [last week] but that's in the past. We have a different game ahead of us tomorrow and it starts back to 0-0 so we need our A-game to win."

City have won their last three Champions League matches against Los Blancos – only two sides have ever won four in a row against them in European competitions, with Ajax doing so between 1973 and 1995 and Bayern Munich replicating that achievement between 2000 and 2002.

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