Jack Grealish says Manchester City will feel “unstoppable” when they host Real Madrid in a finely balanced second leg of their Champions League semi-final next Wednesday.
Kevin de Bruyne’s second-half effort cancelled out Vinicius Jr’s opener for 14-time winners Real, to earn City a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu, on Tuesday.
Real scored twice in added time before dramatically triumphing against City in Spain at the same stage last term
“We’ve learned so much since last year,” Grealish told BT Sport.
“We have a new team this year, different players. It’s a year ago. We have the perfect balance of experience and world-class youngsters. I’ve never felt so confident going onto the pitch having the players around me.”
City were two goals ahead on aggregate going into the 90th minute of their second leg against Real last term but collapsed in remarkable fashion.
Rodrygo scored twice in added time and Karim Benzema then converted an extra-time penalty to see the Spanish side advance 6-5 on aggregate.
However, with this year’s tie set to be concluded on City’s home patch, where they have won 14 consecutive matches by a combined score of 49-7, the odds feel firmly stacked in favour of Pep Guardiola’s Treble-chasing side.
“At the Etihad, we feel unstoppable,” added City forward Grealish.
“We came here to try to win, but it shows our character to go a goal down in a place like this. In the end I think it was a fair result. They had their chances, we had a few.”
In the opposing camp, however, Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois says the defending champions cannot be discounted.
They have already convincingly beaten Liverpool and Chelsea away from home in this season’s competition.
“Next week will be like a final, and we are quite good at winning finals,” said the Belgian. “Hopefully we can mentalise it like that even though it is at City and it will be tough for us.”
City’s previous European knockout ties to end in 1-1 away draws in the first leg both saw them progress to the next round.
Meanwhile, Real have progressed from just two of their nine Champions League knockout stage ties when failing to win the first leg at home – both of these were against Manchester United (1999-00 and 2012-13).
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, former Marseille and England winger Chris Waddle said he was struggling to identify a clear favourite.
“It’s a positive result for Man City. But is it a great result? Will Real Madrid enjoy going to the Etihad with nothing to lose?” said Waddle.
“Manchester City controlled large parts of this game. I think they could have been a little bit more positive in the final third and I think they could have come away with a better result than this.
“Real Madrid know how to manage games and you’ve got to say some of their football was great on the eye at times.”
Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon added: “I think Pep Guardiola will be delighted with the result and the performance. Everyone expects City to win these games 2-0 and 3-0 but it’s just not reality because they are playing against a top top team.”
While the pundits expect a close encounter when Madrid travel to Manchester on Wednesday, 17 May (20:00 BST), the social reaction sways well towards the home side:
Paul: Man City didn’t have much excuse for not winning the Champions League even before tonight but now they’ve got a draw away to Real Madrid they have no excuse at all and should definitely win it. Surely they can’t bottle it this time…
Shamshad: Looks like its an advantage to City in Etihad. But don’t forget what happened last season in 10 minutes.
Amrul: How is this a good result for City when we there is no away goals? All Real Madrid have to do is play counter or hold on for a 0-0 and lottery of a penalty shootout.
Max: Manchester City have NEVER lost a European tie after drawing the first leg away (won 8 out of 8).