City’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid takes centre stage in Blues-related media matters this morning.
“And why not?”, as esteemed film critic Barry Norman used to say. There are dramatic sub-plots a-plenty not only in this tie but also in the wider context of City’s progress to this point and in the club’s immediate future, many of which get a good going-over today.
Reuters wrap up City’s journey so far and what awaits by saying, "Until this season Manchester City's progression in the Champions League could be measured in baby steps but on Tuesday they can make a huge leap forward when they host Real Madrid in their first European semi-final for 45 years.
“In seeing off Paris St Germain, who have similar financial muscle, in the quarter-finals they delivered a powerful statement of intent to reach their first semi-final since a European Cup Winners' Cup defeat by Chelsea in 1971.
"They also kept alive the intriguing possibility of a Milan final against Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, whose manager Pep Guardiola will take over the Manchester City hot seat from former Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini next season.
"First, however, City's defence must find a way of keeping Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema quiet at their Etihad Stadium so as to arrive at their opponents' Santiago Bernabeu fortress with something tangible to hang on to."
Pete Oliver in the Independent echoes the theme of destiny calling: “Manuel Pellegrini believes Manchester City are destined to win the Champions League – whether he secures the trophy or not.
“It has been a sometimes tortuous journey to get this far with four previous failures, twice at the group stage and twice at the hands of Barcelona in the round of 16.
“But Pellegrini, whose three years as City manager will end this summer when he is replaced by Pep Guardiola, is confident the groundwork he has helped lay will pay off with the prize City’s owners – the Abu Dhabi United Group – cherish more than any other.”
The Manchester Evening News’ Anthony McGrath wonders if the City boss may have a point to prove against his ex-employers on Tuesday?
“With the prospect of a Manuel-Pep showdown a real possibility it’s been slightly overlooked that City’s boss might have a few personal scores to settle with his former employers in Madrid.
“Pellegrini was fired despite amassing Real 's highest-ever points tally. Famously mocked by his replacement, the dignified Chilean has kept his own counsel with regard to Jose Mourinho's current employment difficulties.
“If City do face Bayern in Milan they might well have to beat the Germans to secure Champions League football next season. After an 18-18 penalty shoot-out stalemate it'd be great, not to say excruciating, to see the two coaches forced to take spot-kicks against each other.”
Transfer speculation is thin on the ground though, what with all the Eurochat. The Telegraph claim that West Brom striker Jonathan Leko’s new contract with the Baggies is “a blow to Chelsea and City”, who are both said to be keen on the 17-year-old.
We’ll have more on Tuesday as we count down to the big one against Real – stay tuned!