Pep Guardiola offered a solution as Jurgen Klopp bemoaned Liverpool's hectic schedule, suggesting that issue would disappear if he took up a job in the Maldives.

Manchester City are in action against Leeds United on Sunday after Liverpool have visited Newcastle United in Saturday's early kick-off.

The timing of that fixture has been the source of some frustration to Klopp, whose Reds side played in the Champions League against Villarreal on Wednesday.

But City manager Guardiola insisted it is a problem top coaches simply have to come to terms with, accepting they have little say in how the calendar is set.

The alternative, Guardiola suggested, would be leaving the Premier League for a quieter life beneath the coconut trees in "the Maldives league".

"Always I sympathise about the concerns of Liverpool," Guardiola said with a smile of Klopp's complaint.

"How many times have we discussed about what's happened to us and I've said I don't want to talk about that? Nothing is going to change.

"It's not going to change because the broadcasters are thinking about what they have to do to get more viewers. It's not about what the players need or what the teams need.

"Of course I understand it, but what can I say? We are not going to solve the problem, I've said many times. Sir Alex Ferguson was the most important icon in the history of English football and he was complaining when he was a teenager.

"Nothing is going to change, so don't ask me. With these questions, stop asking the managers. Go to the Premier League, the broadcasters, and ask the reason why. As a manager, we want the best for our players.

"We are focused on the players, concerned about the players and their recovery to make three or four competitions. Don't ask me again these questions because it wastes time. Nothing is going to change.

"We played in Madrid against Atletico, and three days later we played at Wembley in an FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool.

"Chelsea played Tuesday and could have played on Saturday but played on Sunday. Do you think they think about that? No, because the next Tuesday, Liverpool play against United.

"Everyone has their own business to defend. We adapt. If they say play Saturday, we play Saturday. If they say play Tuesday, we play Tuesday. Thursday? We are going to play Thursday. Whatever they want, no problem.

"If I'm not satisfied, I go home and don't be manager of Man City. I go to another league in the Maldives, the Maldives league, and play one game a week and I'm so comfortable under the coconuts and it would be so perfect.

"But it's not the case. You are playing at 12.30pm, I'm sorry, Liverpool, but I'm not involved with that."

Jack Grealish has been left out of Manchester City's biggest matches in recent weeks purely due to tactical reasons, Pep Guardiola has explained.

Grealish, signed for a record-breaking £100million last off-season, has started just three of City's eight games so far in April.

The Premier League leaders bookend what has been a hectic month with a trip to Leeds United on Saturday, and may well start the match at Elland Road in second place, should Liverpool get a result against in-form Newcastle United.

Grealish featured from the off in last week's 5-1 rout of Watford, but did not play against Real Madrid in Tuesday's thrilling Champions League encounter as City won the first leg of their semi-final 4-3.

The 26-year-old also started against Burnley at the start of April and in the FA Cup semi-final to Liverpool, scoring City's first goal in a 3-2 defeat at Wembley. However, he was a substitute against the Reds in the 2-2 league draw on April 10, and only featured from the bench in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie with Atletico Madrid. He also did not appear against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Only Bruno Fernandes (77) created more chances from open play in the Premier League than Grealish (70) last season, with the England international managing to craft 42 goalscoring chances from open play for City across 22 top-flight appearances this term. 

That is still the third-best figure in City's squad, behind Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva (both 52), and Guardiola has insisted the playmaker's recent omissions were purely tactical and not down to a disappointment in Grealish's level of performance.

"He can play," Guardiola replied when asked in a news conference why Grealish had been left out of the biggest matches.

"Nothing changes. In that position, in important games Riyad [Mahrez] gives something unique, special and Phil [Foden] is so determined, his will and his impact on the game is huge as well. Just for that reason.

"Raheem [Sterling], everybody knows how important he is for me. Always have the feeling with Phil and Riyad that the goal is there, they have the sense to score the goal. 

"Sometimes you need more control, maybe Jack. Most of the time it is a tactical decision, not because I'm unsatisfied or that they're not playing good."

While Grealish could be in line to play against Leeds, Kyle Walker remains sidelined through injury, with Guardiola unsure if the full-back will return before the end of the season. John Stones will also be absent in West Yorkshire.

City did not beat Leeds in either match last season, drawing at Elland Road before losing to 10 men at the Etihad Stadium. Indeed, the Whites have lost just two of their last nine home league games against City (W6 D1), doing so in consecutive meetings in December 1995 (0-1) and September 2000 (1-2).

But City did win the reverse fixture 7-0 this season and are looking to complete their first league double over Leeds since 1981-82. Guardiola, though, knows Jesse Marsch's team, who are five points clear of the relegation zone after a five-game unbeaten run that has included three victories, stand in the way of what could be a crucial win.

"Last season we dropped five points against Marcelo [Bielsa]," he said. "Jesse Marsch did an incredible job in Salzburg, [RB] Leipzig wasn't the perfect place maybe, but many teams in England play that way, I have a lot of respect.

"This is the most important game that we have for the position we will be in between the Champions League games, after Madrid we have just four games all in the league. We accept the challenge, know exactly what we have to do and we will try to do it."

Pep Guardiola sees no reason why Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool contract extension should play a factor in whether to prolong his own stay at rivals Manchester City.

Klopp confirmed on Thursday he had signed fresh terms with the Reds to keep him at Anfield until at least 2026, with his previous deal set to have expired in 2024.

Guardiola will soon enter the final 12 months of his own contract, though most neutrals will hope he stays on to continue a fascinating rivalry that has been established between City and Liverpool over the past few seasons.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss, though, said his immediate focus is on Saturday's Premier League clash with Leeds United, a match in which they could find themselves starting two points behind title rivals Liverpool, who play Newcastle United in the early kick-off.

"I don't know, Leeds is the focus. I congratulate Jurgen and Liverpool, I think it's really good for the Premier League, and I wish him all the best in the future," Guardiola said.

"My future is Leeds, our future is Leeds and the end of the season. Why should it make an impact [on my future]? 

"Everyone has their situation. If we decide to stay longer it won't be because Jurgen extended his contract or not, I don't see this relation, honestly.

"All my career as a manager always I've had rivals. I think it's really good for the Premier League that he decided to extend the contract, because he and the club decided to stick together, there's nothing to add."

Guardiola added no further talks are in the pipeline with City, though he acknowledged the club is the ideal place for him to work at this stage of his career.

He added: "No, no. I'm so concerned about the last three weeks, one month of the season. One year is a long time, six seasons together, many years. I am enjoying this part of the season, after we have time. 

"I have an incredible relationship with the club. You know my opinion, I'm incredibly happy, I could not be in a better place in my life right now to work than here, I could not visualise a better place, but it's not just about me. We are going to take the decision."

While Guardiola was complimentary of Klopp's work at Liverpool, he appeared a little more terse when asked about the fact Mohamed Salah had won the Football Writers' Association Men's Footballer of the Year for 2021-2022, an award his own star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne would have held legitimate claims to win.

"Congratulations to Salah," he said, before adding: "I was not in contention, I played good! 

"[De Bruyne] won already. Congratulations to Salah. Jurgen said that they have the best goalkeeper, the best second keeper, in the world, the best central defender, the best holding midfielder, the best striker. 

"So, it's normal they [Liverpool] win all the awards."

Few would be surprised if Manchester City and Liverpool, the Premier League's two dominant teams, each won their five remaining matches this season.

Liverpool have 12 victories in 13 games, with their sole aberration a 2-2 draw against City.

Yet that run will not be enough to take the title should City themselves continue to win, maintaining a tiny one-point gap that represents a chasm in this rivalry.

Perhaps the distraction of huge Champions League tasks could instead encourage one side or the other to take their eyes off the prize – or maybe a Premier League rival can provide an upset.

Liverpool must still tackle two of the other three opponents to have taken points off City this term (Tottenham and Southampton) but first face a team transformed since they were swatted aside by both the Reds and the champions back in December.

As back then, Newcastle United take on Liverpool and City in consecutive matches. The top two also each have Wolves and Aston Villa to play, yet it is Eddie Howe's men who look primed to be kingmakers.

After all, in this calendar year, Newcastle represent the best of the rest. Only Liverpool (2.7) and City (2.3) have earned more points per game than Newcastle (2.1), who are actually ahead of City (30) in terms of a 2022 total (32).

So, heading into a daunting double-header comfortably in midtable after 150 days in the relegation zone this season, could Newcastle shake things up?

Fortress St James'

The last time Newcastle beat Liverpool, Georginio Wijnaldum scored one goal and created the other. He has since been relegated with Newcastle, joined Liverpool, won the Champions League and the Premier League and moved on again.

The Reds are 10 without defeat against Newcastle, including a four-match unbeaten run on Tyneside – albeit two of those clashes were behind closed doors. Newcastle have failed to win in five successive home league games against Liverpool only once previously, back in the 1960s.

Liverpool did come out on top the last time they played in front of fans at St James' Park in 2019 but only courtesy of a controversial late winner. The hosts were clear of relegation trouble with little to play for after a strong second half to the season, while the visitors briefly set aside a Champions League semi-final in their pursuit of City.

That sounds familiar, and the home crowd are likely to be up for it again, with Jurgen Klopp remarking last time: "Is there any history between Newcastle and Liverpool that I don't know about? The atmosphere was like something happened in the past."

Howe's side have their own streak to extend this weekend, meanwhile, having won six Premier League games in a row at home for the first time in 18 years.

In fact, only three times previously in the competition have Newcastle enjoyed a longer such stretch at home, even if their 1995-96 record run of 14 wins remains a long way out of reach.

City at least have the benefit of playing Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium, although the Magpies' four away wins this season have all come since the turn of the year.

For the first time since 1996-97, Newcastle have won three games in a row on three separate occasions, including an ongoing run of four straight victories in which they have conceded only once...

Built from the back

Newcastle's development into a solid defensive outfit was far from expected. They ended 2021 having conceded a record 80 Premier League goals for the calendar year, while Howe's Bournemouth team shipped at least 61 in each of their five seasons in the competition.

A 3-3 draw at home to Brentford in his first match in charge hinted at the continuation of a campaign of chaos, and Newcastle were still conceding 2.3 goals per game – on course for more than 86 for the season – when City won 4-0 at St James' Park in December.

However, Howe – widely considered an attacking coach – spent time at Atletico Madrid in his spell out of the game, and Newcastle have since represented something akin to Diego Simeone's side.

They have conceded more than once in only a single game since the City defeat, an uncharacteristic 5-1 collapse at Tottenham that included four home goals in just over 20 minutes either side of half-time.

Again, only Liverpool's Alisson (10) and City's Ederson (seven) can top Martin Dubravka's six league clean sheets for Newcastle in 2022, when he has let in 13 goals in 15 games – or a hugely impressive eight in 14 outside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Dubravka has played a key role in keeping Newcastle up in previous seasons, but this time the players in front of him are doing the bulk of the work.

Newcastle have allowed their 2022 opponents chances worth 1.0 expected goals per game, third behind City (0.6) and Liverpool (0.9). Their defence is sixth in terms of shots faced over this period (10.8 per game) and fourth for shots on target faced (3.1 per game).

The Magpies will back themselves to frustrate either Liverpool or City, yet the top two have won 10 of the 17 games this season in which they have scored no more than a single goal, so Howe's men will have to threaten at the other end, too.

Brilliant Bruno Guimaraes

Outsiders have attributed much of Newcastle's upturn to their January investment in new players, yet that ignores the improvement of previously failing individuals like Joelinton and Emil Krafth – key men in a side missing England internationals Callum Wilson since December and Kieran Trippier since February.

Howe is therefore yet to come close to naming his strongest Newcastle team, but that XI will undoubtedly have his most expensive signing, Bruno Guimaraes, at the heart of it.

With Trippier likely still out, Guimaraes is perhaps the one Newcastle player who would not look out of place in either the Liverpool or City line-ups.

The Brazil midfielder has been as outstanding as expected both in and out of possession, showing the quality that helped Lyon to knock City out of the 2019-20 Champions League.

Guimaraes has completed 85.8 per cent of his passes in the Premier League, the highest rate of any Newcastle player to play 500 or more minutes since their promotion in 2017, while also averaging a tackle every 24 minutes – third behind Arthur Masuaku and Liverpool's Naby Keita this season.

What was not anticipated was the goal threat Guimaraes has also brought. After scoring three times in 56 Ligue 1 games with Lyon, the 24-year-old has four in 13 – including just seven starts – at Newcastle.

Since first breaking into the Newcastle XI, only Cristiano Ronaldo (eight), Son Heung-min (six) and Gabriel Jesus (five) have found the net on as many occasions in the Premier League.

"Goals aren't the strongest part of my game," Guimaraes insisted when he arrived in England, but he poses as big a danger to Liverpool and City as anyone, looking to extend his streak of goal involvements in three straight matches.

Guimaraes spoke in that same interview of winning the Champions League during his time at Newcastle, while his agent this week suggested the club would be targeting qualification as soon as next season.

These next two fixtures present Guimaraes and Newcastle with the opportunity to test themselves against the best Europe can offer – and potentially decide the Premier League title race in the process.

The Premier League has rearranged games involving Manchester City and Liverpool to set the final schedule for what promises to be an exciting title race.

Pep Guardiola's side are one point ahead of Jurgen Klopp's Reds at the top of the table with five league games remaining for both.

City's trip to face Wolves at Molineux, which was originally supposed to be played on the weekend of their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool, will take place on Wednesday, May 11.

Meanwhile, with Liverpool's involvement in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday, May 14, their away game at Southampton has now been set for Tuesday, May 17.

That means Jurgen Klopp's men will have to play two games in the final week of the campaign, with the last matchday scheduled for Sunday, May 22.

Reigning champions City still have to play Leeds United (a), Newcastle United (h), Wolves (a), West Ham (a) and Aston Villa (h).

Meanwhile, Liverpool's remaining games are against Newcastle (a), Tottenham (h), Aston Villa (a), Southampton (a) and Wolves (h).

WIth both teams also involved in the Champions League semi-finals, it promises to be an intense end to the season, especially for Liverpool, who can still win what would be an unprecedented quadruple.

Vinicius Junior says "there are no words" to describe Karim Benzema's form as he backed his Real Madrid team-mate to win this year's Ballon d'Or.

Benzema, on his 600th appearance for Madrid, scored twice in Tuesday's 4-3 loss to Manchester City in their Champions League semi-final first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

The France international's first was a difficult twisting finish to drag Madrid back in the game at 2-0 down and the second a calm Panenka penalty late on to leave the tie well poised.

He now has 41 goals in as many games for Los Blancos this season, a tally bettered only by Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (48 in 43) across Europe's top five leagues.

The 34-year-old is the fifth Madrid player to score over 40 goals in a single season, after Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez.

Benzema also leads the scoring charts in the Champions League this term with 14, one more than Lewandowski, whose Bayern side were eliminated by Villarreal at the quarter-final stage.

Having finished behind Lionel Messi, Lewandowski and Jorginho in last year's Ballon d'Or, Vinicius insists Benzema should land the 2022 award.

"There are no words that can describe how Benzema is playing," Vinicius said. "He deserves the Ballon d'Or.

"I hope my brother Benzema ends up winning LaLiga, the Champions League and Ballon d'Or."

Benzema scored a hat-trick in the second leg of the last-16 win over Paris Saint-Germain and another treble in the first leg of the quarter-final victory against Chelsea.

His nine goals in the knockout stages has been bettered only once in a single Champions League campaign – Ronaldo scoring 10 in the 2016-17 edition.

Vinicius is not alone in backing Benzema to win the Ballon d'Or, with former team-mate Mesut Ozil tweeting on Tuesday: "Give my boy Benzi the Ballon D'Or."

Ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand agreed with that assessment, quoting the tweet and adding the word "Facts".

That post by Ferdinand was liked by Benzema, whose prospects of being crowned the world's best player could be bolstered by helping France to World Cup glory in December.

Rather than bask in his glorious form, however, the prolific striker accepts his side have a lot of work to do if they are to advance any further in this season's competition.

"A defeat is never good, but we are excited about this Champions League and the important thing is we never give up," he told Movistar+. 

"Now we have to go to the Bernabeu and we need the fans like never before to do something magical, which is to win.

"We entered the game without confidence, and that's what happens with an opponent like Manchester City. In this game a little bit of everything was missing."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says anything less than a focused 90 minutes from his side will not see them through to the Champions League final following their 4-3 win over Real Madrid.

City got off to a fast start in Tuesday's semi-final first leg, with goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus putting them 2-0 up within 11 minutes.

There was a sense it could have been more but whenever Guardiola's side threatened to break the tie open, Madrid pulled a goal back.

With Casemiro likely to return for Madrid, Guardiola asserted City will have to be at their best to progress to May's final in Paris.

"Regardless of the result, if it was 2-0 or 3-0 we would still have to go to the Bernabeu and play well. If we play like we did in the second half, we won't be able to win," Guardiola said.

"If we play like we did at other periods, we will. We want to be there to put on a good show, this is what I want to tell my players to do – don't think of anything else.

"When I became a footballer and a manager, when you go to the Bernabeu you have to perform as yourself or there is no option to win. You have to come through these situations to win the Champions League."

City were similarly vulnerable in the quarter-final second leg, holding onto a one-goal lead in the tie against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano.

They still could have put the game and arguably the tie against Los Blancos to bed. One instance where an enraged Guardiola berated Riyad Mahrez for not squaring to Phil Foden in the first half highlighted what was at stake and the fine margins at play.

The 51-year-old took some solace in the fact City managed to get into those positions, but conceded they need to realise those kinds of opportunities at the Bernabeu.

"We miss them but we create them," he said. "We were there all the time. No complaints about the result, the performance, anything. I am so proud of the way we perform in front of the world.

"We did everything to win and with courage – with the ball, without the ball.

"Football is football, the result is the result, but how we perform is exceptional. Nobody can say the performance was not good. We know we have to maybe raise the level to reach the final but this competition demands that. At the end maybe the chances we create we have to convert."

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti all but confirmed Casemiro will play in his side's Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester City.

The 30-year-old was sorely missed at the base of midfield for Los Blancos as they lost Tuesday's first leg 4-3, lacking both defensive solidity and flexible positioning off the ball in possession with Toni Kroos in his place.

The Brazilian was an unused substitute after missing their 3-1 win over Osasuna last Thursday, due to muscular problems. Meanwhile, David Alaba was also forced off at half-time, making way for Nacho in the centre of defence.

Ancelotti believes the midfield lynchpin will play in the return leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, though he is less certain on Alaba.

"Casemiro [will play], for sure," he said. "We will have to evaluate Alaba. He felt the discomfort of recent times and to avoid problems I have stopped him. I think they will both be ready for the second leg."

City were largely the better team on Tuesday and got off to a flying start with two goals within the opening 11 minutes.

Through a Karim Benzema brace and a particularly timely solo goal from Vinicius to make it 3-2, Real Madrid managed to stay in the tie and limit the damage.

According to Ancelotti, a place in May's final is still there for the taking but only if they do not throw it away first.

"It is difficult for us to see a game like today's in the second leg again," he said. "City have an advantage, we have to take it into account but knowing that it is not a great advantage. We are going to fight for another magical night.

"We started very badly, too soft. We have conceded two goals and from then on, we have shown in recent times, a great capacity for reaction.

"We were in the game until the end, we competed. We have to defend better and with the ball we did well, with many opportunities. For the second leg, we have to defend better it is too important."

Carlo Ancelotti appeared to feign ignorance when asked about reports that Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is set to sign for Real Madrid. 

Thomas Tuchel revealed at the weekend that Rudiger had informed him of his desire to leave Stamford Bridge when his contract expires at the end of the season. 

The Germany international will reportedly finalise a deal to join Madrid this week. 

Asked about Rudiger by beIN SPORTS after Madrid's 4-3 Champions League semi-final defeat to Manchester City on Tuesday, Ancelotti replied with a smile: "Toni? Who is this? 

"He's a Chelsea player until... He's still a Chelsea player and I cannot say anything about this." 

Ancelotti highlighted Madrid's defending as a key factor in their loss to City. 

Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus found the back of the net inside 11 minutes at the Etihad Stadium – the earliest Madrid have conceded twice in a single Champions League game. 

Karim Benzema pulled one back on his 600th appearance for the club and Vinicius Junior found the back of the net after Phil Foden nodded in a cross from Fernandinho in the second half. 

Bernardo Silva restored City's two-goal cushion before Benzema gave Madrid a sliver of additional hope with an audacious Panenka following a handball in the box by Aymeric Laporte. 

"You cannot cover a position with four defenders, You have to help with a midfielder," said Ancelotti. 

"There were losses in individual duels, so we have to be more attentive. With the ball, we had opportunities. We suffered a bit without it, though. But we have to have confidence. 

"We came out of the first leg with a result that isn't good, because we've conceded four goals and not defended well. 

"We hurt City with the ball, but what we have to do is defend better. The result can change in the second leg. They're a very strong team – they showed it tonight – but we competed. Defending better is the key to reaching the final." 

Madrid will be crowned LaLiga champions if they get a point at Espanyol on Saturday, but Ancelotti has no intention of denying the players a chance to celebrate ahead of Wednesday's return game against City at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

"If we are able to win the league, of course we'll celebrate. And it will help us for Wednesday's game," he added. 

Karim Benzema believes Real Madrid need another special night at the Santiago Bernabeu to progress to the Champions League final following their 4-3 loss to Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's side were 2-0 up inside 11 minutes at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday as a thrilling semi-final first leg got off to a flying start. 

Benzema's double – only his Panenka in the 82nd minute matching the degree of difficulty from a finish around body in the 33rd – ultimately helped Real Madrid limit the damage.

The 34-year-old called upon his club's fans to help them get to May's final in Paris.

"There are 90 minutes at the Bernabeu for the fans to make a difference again," Benzema told Movistar+. "We leave here with our heads held high to play a good game in the return leg. The fans leave proud.

"We have to keep our heads calm and see what we have to do to improve, a little of everything and especially at the beginning of games."

Benzema's brace against the Premier League leaders made him the fifth player in the Madrid's history to score over 40 goals in a single season, after Cristian Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez.

City were dominant against a Madrid side who badly missed Casemiro at the base of midfield, however, with Toni Kroos' defensive vulnerability a key factor in three of City's goals.

As has been the case during the knockout stage this season, in a game certainly not short on drama, Carlo Ancelotti's side managed to simply find a way to stay alive with a result that defied logic.

"A defeat is never good, but we are excited about this Champions League and the important thing is we never give up," Benzema said. "Now we have to go to the Bernabeu and we need the fans like never before to do something magical, which is to win.

"We entered the game without confidence, and that's what happens with an opponent like Manchester City. In this game a little bit of everything was missing."

Phil Foden has warned Manchester City they must "take more chances" following their epic Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid.

The England international was on target during a thrilling showdown at the Etihad Stadium, in which Pep Guardiola's side established a narrow 4-3 advantage.

City travel to Madrid for next week's second leg knowing they will progress to a second successive final if they maintain that slight edge, having lost 1-0 to Chelsea in last year's showpiece.

The margin of victory could have been greater but for wasteful finishing. Indeed, the hosts registered 16 shots on goal, with only six hitting the target.

And Foden knows he and his team-mates must demonstrate more of a clinical edge on the big occasions.

"For the fans watching, it was obviously a great game of football," he told BT Sport.

"We are playing a side that have won the Champions League many times and if we give the ball away, they are going to punish us. 

"It is something we need to work on in the second leg. The tie is still on.

"It was a great game; end to end. We started really well and could have killed them off. In these games, we need to take more chances."

Despite only holding a single-goal advantage, Guardiola was delighted with the performance of his side and is confident they can finish the job at Santiago Bernabeu.

"We played a fantastic game against an incredible team," the head coach added.

"All around the world and for Manchester City, we are so proud. But it is about reaching the final and sometimes, football happens. 

"We go to Madrid to try to win the game. Both teams want to attack and have the quality to play. 

"Congratulations to Carlo and his team as they are so good. At the same time, we saw ourselves that we can be there."

On April 26, 2016, Manchester City and Real Madrid played out a tepid 0-0 draw in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final at the Etihad Stadium. 

Back at the same ground, in the same round of the same competition six years later, they produced a spectacle that had the contrast cranked up to the maximum.

It was the joint-highest scoring semi-final in the competition's history, and it was a story that twisted and turned from the first minute until the last.

But the opening chapter reached its conclusion with City holding a 4-3 advantage after an enthralling 90 minutes.

A start for the history books 

City pressed Madrid high from the off and it was shortly after regaining possession in the final third that Kevin De Bruyne made a phenomenal dart into the box to head home Riyad Mahrez's pinpoint delivery. 

There were just 95 seconds on the clock, making it the quickest goal in Champions League semi-final history. The previous mark was 2 minutes 44 seconds, which was set by Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich against Madrid in May 2018. 

It did not stop there, though. De Bruyne picked out Gabriel Jesus, who, after a somewhat fortuitous first touch, guided a cool finish beyond Thibaut Courtois to make it 2-0. 

Madrid had never before conceded twice in the first 11 minutes of a Champions League match and it looked like they could be seriously up against it with Mahrez, Phil Foden and Oleksandr Zinchenko all going close. 

Benzema brings it back 

It has already been the best season of Karim Benzema's career and he showed just how important he has become to Madrid in his 600th appearance for the club – the most by a non-Spanish player. 

He got in front of Zinchenko to steer home a brilliant volley from the edge of the box in the 33rd minute for his 40th goal of the season. The Frenchman now belongs to an exclusive club of just five players to hit that mark in a single campaign for Los Blancos, joining Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez. 

No let-up 

Madrid lost their best defender in David Alaba at half-time and the momentum they had built before the break quickly dissipated. 

Los Blancos concede an average of five more shots per game when Alaba does not feature and City had already had four efforts on goal – two of which came when Mahrez hit the post and Foden saw his goal-bound follow-up blocked by Dani Carvajal – before restoring their two-goal cushion through Foden in the 53rd minute. 

Makeshift right-back Fernandinho, who replaced the injured John Stones in the first half, set up Foden with an excellent cross but his defending belied his years of experience just two minutes later. Vinicius Junior got the better of his fellow Brazilian with a clever dummy by the halfway line, and no one could catch him before he tucked the ball into the bottom-right corner. 

It was the first time two players aged 21 or younger had scored in the same Champions League semi-final match.  

Don't look away

The drama was far from over, though. Bernardo Silva capitalised when referee Istvan Kovacs wisely played the advantage following Toni Kroos' challenge on Zinchenko by slamming the ball into the top-left corner in the 74th minute.

City consequently became the first English side to score four against Madrid in the Champions League since Liverpool in March 2009. It would have been five had Mahrez been able to add a finish to his coruscating run.

But Aymeric Laporte inexplicably handling a cross enabled Benzema to score his ninth goal of the knockout stages – a Panenka from the penalty spot moving him one adrift of Ronaldo's record (10) from Madrid's triumphant 2016-17 campaign. The Portugal captain (13) is also the only player to have scored more Champions League semi-final goals than Benzema's seven.

Madrid were unable to stop Pep Guardiola claiming a 12th win in his 20 meetings with them across his entire coaching career, though. The Catalan's record in the semi-final has been met with a lot of questions, but he has never been eliminated after winning a first leg at this stage.

He will hope to get the job done at the Santiago Bernabeu and get a chance at redemption after last season's final defeat to Chelsea.

Manchester City have the advantage in the Champions League semi-finals after edging out Real Madrid 4-3 in a thrilling first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola's side made a stunning start, striking twice in the opening 11 minutes through Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus.

The recently crowned LaLiga champions responded with Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior sandwiching Phil Foden's header.

The hosts hit back through Bernardo Silva's stellar strike, but Benzema's nonchalant late penalty cut the gap to a single goal ahead of the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday.

City made a flying start and took the lead courtesy of the quickest goal scored in a Champions League semi-final.

Indeed, just 94 seconds were on the clock when De Bruyne – the hero against Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals – headed home from Riyad Mahrez's delicious cross.

De Bruyne turned provider as the hosts doubled their advantage nine minutes later; his cross ricocheting kindly for Jesus to tuck away.

Mahrez and Phil Foden squandered chances to widen the margin before Madrid pulled one back as Benzema brilliantly volleyed home from Ferland Mendy's centre.

City regained their two-goal buffer within eight minutes of the restart, Foden ghosting in to head home Fernandinho's cross.

Madrid responded almost immediately as Vinicius raced down the left flank from inside his own half, before slotting past Ederson.

City regained control in the 73rd minute. Referee Istvan Kovacs played a brilliant advantage after Oleksandr Zinchenko was felled by Toni Kroos, enabling Silva to fire past a perplexed Thibaut Courtois.

But Los Blancos had the final word courtesy of Benzema's Panenka-style penalty after Aymeric Laporte handled in the box.

Kevin De Bruyne scored the fastest goal in Champions League semi-final history to give Manchester City a phenomenal start against Real Madrid. 

Belgium international De Bruyne headed in a brilliant delivery from Riyad Mahrez after just 95 seconds of the first leg at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday. It was also the fastest goal scored in the Champions League this season. 

The City midfielder's effort beat the previous record set by Joshua Kimmich, who scored in the third minute of Bayern Munich's May 2018 meeting with Real Madrid. 

Nine of De Bruyne's 12 Champions League goals (75%) have come in the knockout stages, which is the highest share among players to find the net at least 10 times in the competition. 

Erling Haaland should head to Arsenal if he is to make a Premier League move this summer, joked Norway team-mate Martin Odegaard.

The Borussia Dortmund striker is expected to bring the curtain down on his stay in the Bundesliga and move to new pastures in the off-season.

Having commanded interest from a host of European heavyweights, it is widely expected that the Leeds-born attacker will choose Manchester City as his next club.

But speaking to Stadium Astro, Odegaard – who skippers the attacker at international level and plays his club football for the Gunners – quipped he should move to the Emirates Stadium instead.

"He is a funny guy," Odegaard said. "He's a good friend of mine and a great player as well. We will see what he will do. I don't know.

"But, if he is coming to England, he needs to come to us of course! No, I don't know what he will do, but he is a great guy.

"To be honest we haven't talked too much about it. I know he has so many people trying to ask him and to tell him what to do, and I don't want to do that. So, we will have to wait and see."

 

Having signed for Dortmund in December 2019, Haaland looks set to end a two-and-a-half-year spell that has seen him establish himself as one of world football's great talents.

The DFB-Pokal winner has endured fitness problems at times this season, managing only 21 games in the Bundesliga.

However, Odegaard has backed him to adapt to life in the Premier League if he comes, adding: "He’s a beast. He is strong, he is fast, and I think he has everything. So, I think he can play in every league, in every country to be honest."

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