Manchester City are poised to make history by becoming the first English club to complete a historic treble, but a formidable obstacle stands in their way.
On Wednesday night, Real Madrid visit the Etihad Stadium for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final with the reigning champions aiming to progress to the final and defend their crown.
City need just three points from their remaining three Premier League games to clinch their fifth title in six years under Pep Guardiola.
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They also face local rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final on June 3. However, Madrid pose the biggest threat to City’s ambitions of conquering Europe for the first time.
The Spanish giants produced a stunning comeback in last year’s semi-final to knock City out after trailing by two goals going into stoppage time in the second leg. This time, though, City have home advantage and the chance to join Inter Milan in the Istanbul final.
The City faithful have gradually warmed to the Champions League, and the Etihad has become an impregnable fortress in Europe.
City are unbeaten at home in the competition for five years, winning 23 of 25 games. They have won all 14 home fixtures this season across competitions.
“It’s 1-1, and we’re at the Etihad where we’ve been confident in the Champions League to get a result,” said defender Kyle Walker. “Hopefully, we do that again.”
In contrast to City’s quest for European glory, Madrid have reserved their best performances this season for the Champions League.
Domestically, they have won just three La Liga titles in 11 years, with Barcelona already champions this season. However, Madrid’s star-studded squad has collected five Champions League titles over the past decade.
“We always feel comfortable in these games,” said midfielder Luka Modric. “We know that in the Champions League, we always perform well because it is a competition we love. We feel at home playing these matches, which is why we have won so many Champions Leagues. We believe in ourselves and our quality.”
Real Madrid Threatens Manchester City’s Treble Dreams
Madrid has already knocked out two Premier League teams in Liverpool and Chelsea. City will be their toughest test yet, although striker Erling Haaland was muted in the first leg. “Madrid and City are the best teams in Europe right now,” said Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti.
The stakes seem higher than usual for a semi-final, with the winner likely to become champions of Europe when they face Inter Milan in the final next month.
While Inter ended a 13-year wait to reach the showpiece, they sit 17 points behind Serie A winners Napoli and lack City or Madrid’s star power.
The ultimate challenge awaits City in their quest for an unprecedented treble. They must overcome the kings of Europe to fulfill their destiny.