A year ago Manchester City suffered one of the most heartbreaking European defeats in their history against Real Madrid – but now they have the chance of revenge.
For the second season in a row City and Real have been drawn against each other in the Champions League semi-finals.
Last year City went into the final minute of the second leg at the Bernabeu just needing to not concede two goals.
Yet they conceded two goals in dramatic fashion.
Having won a thrilling first leg 4-3 at Etihad Stadium, Riyad Mahrez gave City a 5-3 aggregate lead.
But substitute Rodrygo netted in the 90th and 91st minutes, with Real’s first two shots on target.
Karim Benzema then scored an extra-time winner from the penalty spot to seal a stunning 6-5 aggregate triumph – and Carlo Ancelotti’s side went on to beat Liverpool in the final.
But is there is a real feeling things could be different this year after City’s 4-1 aggregate win over Bayern Munich to reach a third semi-final in a row – especially with 48-goal striker Erling Haaland in their ranks.
“I had a feeling we would see them,” said City boss Pep Guardiola, who once managed Real’s arch-rivals Barcelona.
“All clubs know if you want to win the Champions League you need to beat Real Madrid.”
Real have won 14 European Cups, twice as many as anybody else – including five of the past nine.
“Hopefully yes!” said City midfielder Bernardo Silva when asked about the chance of exacting revenge against the holders on 9 and 17 May, with the second leg at home.
“We will go for it definitely. We always go for it, but we feel the team is very, very confident at the minute. I think we are going through.”
Former City defender Nedum Onuoha was covering the game for BBC Radio 5 Live and thinks revenge will fuel their motivation.
“From a fan perspective they’re definitely thinking about that,” he added. “I think they know that going into that 90th minute last year they were going to the final again.
“If you are the team that beats Real Madrid in this competition you have to believe you can win it all.”
Joleon Lescott, also a former City defender, said on BT Sport: “Real Madrid are something special. Last year they weren’t great and in a 12-minute spell they took the tie away.
“I think Real Madrid have a belief in this competition they will produce. If they get seven chances, they will get five goals. “But this is a different City. We haven’t seen a Manchester City able to rely on the defensive side of the game as this one does.”
The winners of the last-four tie will face either AC Milan or Inter in the final, to be held in Istanbul on 10 June.
Former Bayern and City midfielder Owen Hargreaves added on BT Sport: “Credit Manchester City and Pep Guardiola, they are in a great place right now, definitely favourites to win the Champions League.”
Ex-England defender Rio Ferdinand said City “have got to win” and added: “The conversations in both of those changing rooms will be, if we win this lads, we will have no better opportunity to win the Champions League. If you win this, you win it, no disrespect to the other teams.”
Former Liverpool player Stephen Warnock said: “City are going to take some stopping. Real Madrid have the quality to stop them.
“Arsenal are looking over their shoulders [in the Premier League] and I still think that City will do it. I think they’ll win the league and the Champions League. I think they’re that good.”
City, second in the Premier League table and in the FA Cup semi-finals on the back of an unbeaten 15-match run, are chasing a trophy Treble.
And Silva said: “We struggled until February because we couldn’t get in that usual run we had before of winning 10-15 games in a row, but now we are very consistent, we feel we have a chance in every competition and we are going for them.
“We are at that point of the season where, if you drop your performance in one game you are out of a competition. It is going to be tough but we are going to work very hard to bring some titles home.”
Norwegian striker Haaland – who also sent a first-half penalty over the bar – netted his 48th goal of the season against Bayern to give them the lead on the night, before Joshua Kimmich’s penalty made it 1-1 and 4-1 to City on aggregate.
“Erling is a special player, a different player to what we had in the past,” added Portugal midfielder Silva.
“He doesn’t need many touches. He is like a shadow for 85 minutes and touches the ball once and it is a goal. When we have that special player in attack it makes us feel more comfortable at the back.”
Warnock said: “Bayern defender Dayot Upamecano was petrified tonight. There were times when he was 10 yards deeper than Matthijs de Ligt because he was so fearful of Haaland’s pace.
“You do get that fear when you are playing against a machine like Haaland. But when they play Real Madrid, Antonio Rudiger will go toe-to-toe with him.”