MADRID – And here we are again wondering if Real Madrid can summon the energy and ward off the magic one last time. Carlo Ancelotti’s side looked beaten, even giddy, against Paris Saint-Germain. that was two months ago. He seemed defeated, exhausted, against Chelsea. It was four weeks ago. He is still standing. In the Champions League, at least, Real Madrid look like a team that has forgotten how to lose.
There is an element of self-fulfilling prophecy about Real Madrid in this competition. He wins because that’s what he does. He is imbued with a sense of purpose, an absolute belief, as soon as he hears this music, as soon as he glimpses this cup.
It is this, and this alone, that will make Manchester City think. Last week’s 4-3 win at the Etihad left Pep Guardiola and his players with two sensations. It was clear from the start that the Premier League champion was smoother and smoother and overall more consistent than Real Madrid, that he played more sophisticated and advanced football, that he had a vision clearer of what it is, of what it wants to be. It was an evening, in that light, that showed City are now where they spent a decade trying to go.
And yet, as the staff gathered the next morning, there was no small regret, surprise and general confusion that the semi-final was still in play, a feeling that Real Madrid are not a ordinary opponent, the one who finally bows to City. obvious superiority, but keeps coming, not wanting to wither, even though she knew how. It’s the effect of the spell that Real Madrid can cast: a vague feeling of unease, a gnawing feeling in the pit of the stomach that these things only end one way. Manchester City have the chance and the ability to expose this as a mistake tonight. But others have tried and failed, and here we are again.