Real Madrid: 5 burning questions before the Champions League semifinal vs. Manchester City

Real Madrid, Fede Valverde (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Fede Valverde (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /
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Fede Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga of Real Madrid
Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde of Real Madrid (Photo by Alvaro Medranda/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images) /

3. Four midfielders? Three forwards? How will Real Madrid line up against Manchester City?

In both the legs against Chelsea, Carletto opted for the usual Toni Kroos-Casemiro-Luka Modrić midfield. Vinícius Júnior started on the left wing, as usual, accompanied by Karim Benzema in the No. 9 role.

However, it was Fede Valverde’s inclusion as the right winger ahead of the first leg that came as a major surprise. A central midfielder, Fede’s inclusion over the more natural options in Rodrygo and Marco Asensio was a big tactical gamble – and one that paid off handsomely.

Rodrygo’s love affair with the UEFA Champions League could mean that he gets the nod ahead of Valverde in that right wing spot. But that doesn’t mean that the Uruguayan should be left on the bench. In my opinion, Kroos should drop to the bench and Valverde should start in midfield alongside Casemiro and Modrić. Maybe even Eduardo Camavinga could slot in there, given how shaky and inconsistent Casemiro has been in recent weeks.

Camavinga has played brilliantly in the last three Champions League knockout games (the two legs against Chelsea, and the second leg of the Round of 16 against PSG). But he came off the bench and provided exuberance during the second half.

Ancelotti admitted that Camavinga does have the quality to start these big games, but that he is more impactful from the bench for now.

Carlo Ancelotti will have to get his starting XI absolutely spot-on. City are a dangerous team, probably the best in the world at the moment, and Real Madrid will have to do a lot of things correctly – one of them being getting the combinations perfectly – if they are to progress to their first Champions League Final since 2018.