MADRID (AP)Real Madrid is hoping to produce one last magical Champions League night at the Santiago Bernabeu this season.
After coming from behind at home to get by Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 and defending champion Chelsea in the quarterfinals, Madrid needs to rally past Manchester City to return to the final for the first time since it won its record 13th European Cup title in 2018.
Madrid lost 4-3 in the first leg in England, when it trailed by two goals three different times.
”It’s going to be difficult, but it’s a great opportunity for us after winning the league title,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. ”There’s a really good vibe within the squad and we are capable of doing it.”
The match against Man City comes only four days after Madrid celebrated winning the Spanish league title at the famed stadium. The club hadn’t clinched a title at the Bernabeu in 15 years. The 2020 league trophy was secured at an empty Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium at the team’s training center because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The most significant celebrations at the Bernabeu this season came during the team’s run to the Champions League semifinals.
The first was against PSG, when Madrid looked beaten after losing the first leg 1-0 and conceding early in the return game in the Spanish capital. The hosts rallied, however, with a second-half hat trick by Karim Benzema.
With another hat trick by Benzema, Madrid won the first leg against Chelsea 3-1 in England, but went down 3-0 at the Bernabeu before a stunning comeback in extra time allowed it to make the Champions League semifinals for the 10th time in 12 seasons.
Madrid advanced 5-4 on aggregate despite that 3-2 loss, which was only its third at the Bernabeu in 22 home matches in all competitions this season. The others were a 2-1 setback against Moldovan club Sheriff in the group stage of the Champions League, and a demoralizing 4-0 loss to Barcelona in the Spanish league in March.
Madrid this season has 15 wins, four draws and three losses at the stadium, which remains under renovation but welcomed the return of fans after the team played last season at the smaller Di Stefano.
Madrid has to reverse the first-leg loss to Man City but scoring goals hasn’t been a problem for the Spanish club. The team’s Benzema-led attack has scored 22 goals in its last eight games in all competitions. The last time Madrid went scoreless was in the 4-0 home loss to Barcelona in the Spanish league in March.
”We’ve done well in attack,” Ancelotti said. ”We’ve been able to score a lot. We had three goals against PSG, five against Chelsea and three against Manchester City. Sometimes you have to take more risks, and we have the quality to do it.”
Ancelotti will not be able to count on defender David Alaba on Wednesday because of a muscle injury sustained in the first half of the match in Manchester. Nacho Fernandez is expected to replace him and play along side Eder Militao. Nacho and Militao didn’t play in the league match on Saturday because of suspensions.
Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale also are not expected to make it to Wednesday’s match, but Ancelotti otherwise will have a full-strength squad available. The only doubt remaining is whether he will play with Rodrygo or Federico Valverde.
Rodrygo, who scored twice in the title-winning game on Saturday, would make the team more dangerous offensively, while Valverde would help more in the midfield.
Man City is trying to make it to its second consecutive Champions League final after losing the title decider to Chelsea last season.
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