Welcome back...

Welcome to our latest digital matchday programme as we strive to keep game days as normal as possible – which obviously isn’t easy.

We will host Real Madrid on Friday evening, bidding to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the fourth time and qualify for the one-off mini-tournament in Portugal later this month when the great and the good of European football will compete to be crowned champions of Europe.

It’s a thrilling prospect, but Real Madrid present a formidable hurdle.

And what a game for David Silva to sign off his Etihad Stadium career;.

Of course, we are all desperate for him to be able to play three more games beyond this match because that would mean City had reached the final of this competition for the first time.

But if you asked David how he’d have liked to have played his last home game, chances are a match of this magnitude would have been pretty high on his wish-list.

We have a career stat for El Mago included in this edition, plus a Kevin De Bruyne versus Eden Hazard head-to-head focus and as you can imagine with these two gifted playmakers, there isn’t much in it.

As always, we have Pep Guardiola’s manager notes and Club Ambassador Mike Summerbee gives his opinion on the game and pays a glowing tribute to David Silva.

We’ve also got Paul Simpson – former City favourite and now England Under-20 boss – sharing his Dream XI, and it’s fair to say you’ll find a few names in there who may not appear in any other fantasy City team!

All this plus our regular columnists Marc Riley and Kevin Cummins and – of course – a closer look at Real Madrid in our away team focus.

So, on with the show!

manager Notes

Pep's pre-match thoughts...

Hello everyone.

This evening we continue our UEFA Champions League round of 16 challenge five months after our first leg match in Madrid.

I extend a warm welcome to Zinedine Zidane and his staff to the Etihad Stadium.

We have been building towards this evening for a few weeks now and we have arrived in the best possible shape after 12 games since the restart and two weeks of good training at the CFA.

Our 2-1 win in Spain at the end of February was a tremendous performance at a stadium which is always difficult to win at.

But we know the job is only half done and we know we face an incredibly tough test against a Madrid side packed full of experience and confident after landing the La Liga title.

We most recently signed off the Premier League campaign by reaching 100 goals for the season with a 5-0 win over Norwich City – congratulations to Ederson and Kevin De Bruyne on their golden glove and assist trophies respectively -  and since then it has all been about preparing the best we can for Real Madrid and concentrating on what lies ahead in these 90+ minutes.

None of us have gone about our jobs thinking about the first leg result. That would be counterproductive. We know that Real can score two or three goals in this tie and they know that we can do that, too.

It is all about being well prepared to perform at the highest level possible. What we need to do above all other things is be ourselves. We must show our personality and our intensity and desire. We must try to impose ourselves on a very talented Madrid side.

I would not like to finish the game and think we were not like we usually are. I do not want to have any regrets at the end of the game, and I do not want the players to have any either - no matter whether we progress or not.

It is, of course, a shame that our fans cannot be here to share this occasion with us and help push us over the line and into the next stage of the tournament in Lisbon later this month, but we know they are here in spirit, willing us to success.

Wherever you are watching the game I hope you enjoy it.

Rise Up, Keep Up Challenge

PUMA

THE BUZZword

Club Ambassador Mike Summerbee looks ahead to the game...

It’s such a long time since we played the first leg against Real Madrid, but it was a game where I thought we played superbly.

To go to the Bernabeu and beat Real Madrid on their own turf was fantastic and tactically, I think Pep got it spot-on and playing without a recognised centre-forward worked perfectly.

They are a top side and it won’t be easy, but they will be facing a top side in City and I’ve got a great belief in the way Pep organises his side and gets his team to play - and we have the players to get through this tie.

We have the advantage of being 2-1 up, but you can be certain we won’t be resting on our laurels and will no doubt be taking the game to them.

I believe we deserve something this season – I know we have the Community Shield and Carabao Cup – but we’ve played really well and had a good season and with a bit better luck with injuries, it could have been ever better, and still might be.

Of course, this will be David Silva’s last game at the Etihad Stadium and I’d like to pay my own tribute to this most fantastic footballer.

Coming from Valencia it wasn’t easy to adapt to the demands of the Premier League because of the intensity, speed and there are very few breaks – the seasons can be long and hard.

But he did it and I can honestly say I have never seen a player like him.

He is such a wonderful footballer who has looked after himself and stayed fit and he is the best I’ve ever seen in the position he plays.

We’re not talking about a Colin Bell type of player – Kevin De Bruyne is more like Colin – but we are talking about a creative talent who can make something out of nothing, keep the ball and find pockets of space that few others can.

You very rarely see him get caught in possession and he had just been a pleasure to watch over this past 10 years.

I’ve been lucky enough to be around the team and travel abroad with them and I can honestly say David is one of the nicest guys I’ve met in football – there is no edge to him, he is humble and he has the respect of everyone.

He’ll be sadly missed, but the terrible thing about footballers is we grow old and I think David has done the right thing ending at the very top of his game.

He’s a wonderful person and one of the best players I’ve ever seen.

Lastly, I’d just like to pay my respects to Granada Reports presenter Tony Morris who sadly died recently.

I had the privilege of meeting him once at a Town Hall reception and he was a lovely man. I’d like to pass my condolences and those of the football club and to his daughters at this very sad time.

REAL MADRID: the season so far...

How Los Blancos have fared this campaign...

La Liga 2019/20

Having finished 19 points behind Barcelona in 2018/19, Real Madrid had to make a huge improvement for the 2019/20 campaign and bringing back Zinedine Zidane a couple of months before the end of last season would prove a masterstroke.

Luka Jović was signed from Eintracht Frankfurt and a few days later Eden Hazard joined from Chelsea with Ferland Mendy also arriving from Lyon as Los Blancos strengthened the squad for a fresh assault on the La Liga title.

Madrid began with a 3-1 win at Celta Vigo, but the first eight games would see dropped points against Valladolid, Villarreal, and Atletico before a surprise 1-0 defeat to Mallorca in mid-October raised questions as to whether Zidane could guide the team to the title.

But any doubts about Real’s credentials were dispelled with a 15-match unbeaten run that followed, with nine wins and five draws meaning just one loss in the opening 24 La Liga games.

However, mid-February to early-March would be more problematic for Real, who suffered something of a minor blip. A 2-2 draw at home to Celta Vigo was followed by two losses in three games with unexpected defeats against Real Betis and Levante.

The loss of Eden Hazard with an ankle injury hardly helped, either.

Vitally, sandwiched in-between was a 2-0 win over Barcelona with late goals from Vinicius and Mariano putting Los Blancos in pole position for the title run-in.

With the La Liga season suspended just before the Champions League second leg against City, Real would not play again until June, but the break had not done Zidane’s side any harm at all, with 10 wins out of 10 – the last being a 2-1 title-securing win over Villarreal at the Bernabeu.

That victory, with one game remaining, secure a 34th La Liga title for the Spanish giants, who ended their campaign with a 2-2 draw against Leganes.

What may concern Zidane ahead of this tie is that Karim Benzema, with 26 goals, is one of just two players to have reached double figures this season in all competitions with the other – Sergio Ramos – suspended for this game.

Champions League form

Real Madrid would finish second in the group stages of the Champions League, some five points adrift of winners Paris St Germain.

The opening fixture in Paris ended 3-0 to the Ligue 1 champions and a shock 2-2 draw with Club Brugge at the Bernabeu – having been two goals down at half-time – cast further doubt over Los Blancos’ chances of progression.

But back-to-back wins over Galatasaray – 1-0 in Turkey and 6-0 in Spain – put a different complexion on the group standings and a 2-2 draw with PSG at the Bernabeu gave Zidane’s men eight points from five games and a guaranteed second place in the group.

Madrid completed their group stage fixtures with a 3-1 win over Brugge to end with 11 points from a possible 18 with Galatasary and Brugge both failing to win any of their games.

The 2-1 defeat to City in the Round of 16 first leg means that Real Madrid have won just three of their seven Champions League fixtures this season, while City have so far won five and drawn two of the seven matches played.

City v real madrid: a brief history

The clashes between these two sides have been few and far between, but of the games that have been played, every one has mattered.

The first competitive meeting almost ended with an historic victory for Roberto Mancini’s side in what was only City’s second season in the Champions League.

Edin Dzeko gave City a 69th-minute lead at the Bernabeu, only for Marcelo to level seven minutes later.

But the travelling fans from Manchester were soon in raptures as, with just five minutes to go, Aleksandar Kolarov restored City’s lead.

Surely Mancini’s men could see out the final few minutes to secure a famous win in the Spanish capital? But Real came back strongly, perhaps sensing City’s anxiety and just two minutes passed before Karim Benzema had restored parity.

Even a draw would have been a superb result, but again some frantic defending ended with a goal for the hosts as Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a 90th-minute winner and hand City a harsh lesson.

The return at the Etihad would see another close game, with Benzema giving Real a 10th-minute lead before Sergio Aguero finally levelled from the spot on 74 minutes.

In a group of death that included Ajax and Borussia Dortmund, City ended with no wins from the six games played.

The next match-up was for a place in the 2015/16 Champions League final, but Los Blancos’ greater experience in such situations would eventually triumph.

The first leg at the Etihad was something of a tactical battle, with Real Madrid happy enough to take a 0-0 draw back to the Bernabeu.

The scoreline was not a disaster for City, having prevented an away goal, but Manuel Pellegrini’s men almost certainly needed to find the net in Spain.

But an unfortunate Fernando Reges own goal on 20 minutes would prove decisive, with Real Madrid triumphing 1-0 on aggregate and City were left to contemplate whether what might have happened had we gone for broke in the last 20 minutes or so

There was an International Champions Cup clash in Los Angeles in 2017, when City beat a full strength Real 4-1 with Nicolas Otamendi, Raheem Sterling, John Stones and Brahim Diaz all on target and a 17-year-old Phil Foden shining.

The teams wouldn’t meet again until last March, when City recorded a superb 2-1 victory at the Bernabeu, responding to Isco’s opening strike with late goals from Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne.

Now, City go into the second leg with a slender but priceless advantage over the team who has won the competition more times than any other club.

let's add to skip's euro glory

Renowned photographer and lifelong City fan Kevin Cummins recalls trips to Spain and a photo-shoot with a very special man...

I love visiting Madrid and I’ve been to many games there.

Not just at the Bernabeu but also at Atleti, Getafe, Leganes and Rayo Vallecano.

When I went to the first leg of this tie, I spent the afternoon on the day after the game at the La Almudena Cemetery, to pay my respects to a Real Madrid great who is buried there: Alfredo Di Stefano.

Talking of great players from the past, here’s a session I did with Tony Book. ‘Skip' is still the only City captain to lift a European trophy, which he did on a rainy night in Vienna in 1970 - half a century ago - after winning the European Cup Winners' Cup.

Let’s hope this record is broken soon - this 50th anniversary year would be a good time to do it.

Come on City and hopefully see you in Lisbon (or on TV)!

Dream XI:
Paul Simpson

Former City winger Paul Simpson, now boss of England’s talented Under-20 squad, takes a unique view of the Dream XI as he recalls the players who influenced him the most during his City career…

Take it away, Paul…

“This is a bit different. It’s not necessarily an all-time City XI, more players who had an influence on my career while I was with the Club.

“Some names you might think ‘ah, yeah’ while others you might never have come across, but they all have a meaning for me.

“So, I’ll start with my defence where Joe Corrigan is my keeper, with Tony Book at right-back and Glyn Pardoe at left-back.

“Booky and Glyn were my youth team coaches and they were fantastic as coaches and as blokes.

“My centre-half pairing would be Tommy Caton and Mick McCarthy – with big Mick as the skipper.

Mick was a real leader and a top guy, while Tommy was one of the reasons I came to City because I thought that youngsters got a chance which was huge in my decision-making.

“In the middle, I’d have David White on the right, myself on the left – why not?! – and Asa Hartford and Paul Lake in the middle.

“Asa was so helpful to me when I first arrived and was a consummate professional and another top, top fella. Lakey was a class act and Dave White had pace to burn.

“Up front, I’d go with Paul Stewart and David Cross – again, maybe names you wouldn’t expect, but Crossy was another top professional who had a lot of time for me and I remember setting him up for the winner against Coventry on my debut. A great bloke.

“On the bench, I’d choose Alex Williams, Clive Wilson, John Ryan, Dave Phillips, Andy Hinchcliffe, Jamie Hoyland – a good mate who I was really close with at City – and finally Nicky Reid who was a local lad who lived his life to be a top professional.

“I’d have to go with Billy McNeill as the manager as he gave me my chance and my first run in the first team, along with his assistant Jimmy Frizzell.”

The life of riley

The world seen through the blue-tinted glasses of BBC 6 Music DJ Marc Riley

We are all too painfully aware of the fact that the opportunity to venture forth and actually watch a football match in-situ at the moment is a dream beyond dreams.

So - our return leg against Real Madrid will see an empty stadium witness what I am hoping will be a huge night for City. 

There’s no doubt that the Champions League is not only a fantastic competition to regularly feature in, but for lots of supporters it was also a chance to take a well earned city-break! What better than to be able to flit across to the European mainland, take in a great cosmopolitan city but also a football match riddled with some of the great names in world football. Perfect! 

Though be warned - it can be fraught with untold danger.

For instance, like the time Trace and I took a break to watch our lot play Barcelona at the Camp Nou back in 2014. 

I won’t go into the painful detail - but yes  - we lost.  Albeit at the hands of one of the greatest teams in footballing history. We could  live with that…just. But what followed was not what we we signed up for.

Trace and I were booked a hotel on La Rambla. Right in the thick of it. Right in the middle of an array of open-air cafes, flowers stalls and a vibrant bustle. So pre-match we set off. 

It was a bit of a hike to and from the stadium, but we knew once back to La Rambla we’d be met by everything one of the greatest cities in the world had to offer… followed a good night's sleep.

WRONG MARC.

We got back to our room about midnight in a great frame of mind despite the disappointing result.

The first thing we were greeted by in the room was a distant ghostly voice singing aloud from below the hotel. At first we thought “well we could well do without that!” but we quickly deciphered the ‘foreign language’ and discovered said wail was in fact MANCUNIAN!!  You will have all heard this particular accent. It’s an accent which is to be heard in all quarters of our home city. North, South, East and West. It’s the accent brought on not by location but by 15 pints of ice-cold lager. 

The exact words being sung were in truth unidentifiable , but the tune was very very close to our hearts. 

AH BLESS! HE’ES ONE OF US! 

And the song he was ‘singing’? You will remember… its goes to the classic (ironically southern) tune of ‘MY OLD MAN'S A DUSTMAN’.

And  it goes something like this!!

“OOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHH…

PABLO  ZABALETA - HE  IS THE FLIPPING* MAN,

(* paraphrasing here)

HE COMES FROM ARGENTINA.

HE’S HARDER THAN JAAP  STAM,

HE  PLAYS  IN BLUE AND WHITE,

FOR  PELLEGRINI’S MEN,

AND WHEN  WE WIN  THE LEAGUE,

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’LL…SING THIS SONG AGAIN …

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHH…”

We joined in and laughed aloud once we’d translated this alien slurred tongue. We joined in less enthusiastically the second time round. And a bit less by the third.

The most pertinent part of the lyrics in question was this bit …

“WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’LL…SING THIS SONG AGAIN ….”….and  AGAIN…and AGAIN…and AGAIN!

Come the arrival of 50th rendition in non-stop succession the gloss had worn off a bit. A  lot actually. 

The conversation went from “Aww bless”… to “He’ll go back to his hotel in any minute -  I know it…” to “I WISH HE’D FLIPPING * (again- paraphrasing) WRAP UP..” …to a 4am cry of “I’M GOING TO GO  DOWN THERE TO FLIPPING (*) THROTTLE HIM!”

I think he conked out about 4.30am. Funnily enough, so did we.

We laugh about it now. We didn't at 4am.

Due the likely event of us going through against our noble opponents (fingers crossed and everything else) , I’ve taken the necessary steps and had some singing lessons… and crucially warned my (City-supporting) neighbours of the possible aural assault to come following the final whistle.

NOISY NEIGHBOUR INDEED.

UP THE  BLUES!