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Manchester City vs. Real Madrid, Champions League 2016 Preview: Making History

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Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Welcome to Manchester City history. Never before have the Citizens reached an Champions League semifinal, and what a way to accomplish that feat this season: facing a murderer's row in the group stage, difficult opponents in the knockouts and then arriving in the Final Four having to play against the most successful club in European Cup history.

There is no such thing as disappointment from now on, and anything Man City is able to do in the semifinal will be a historical achievement, because of the opponents and the magnitude of the occasion. But make no mistake about it: Manchester City is not here just to take part, but to take over.

Opponent: Real Madrid (For more coverage on Real's side, visit Managing Madrid)

Coach: Manuel Pellegrini

League position: 3rd (64 points, Premier League)

Probable starting lineup: Hart; Clichy, Mangala, Kompany, Sagna; Fernando, Fernandinho; Silva, De Bruyne, Navas; Agüero

Potential game-changers off the bench: Raheem Sterling, Kelechi Iheanacho

How they got here: Manchester City started their best ever Champions League campaign arguably with the toughest draw in the entire group stage, along with last season's runner-up Juventus, Europa League champions Sevilla and a dangerous Borussia Mönchengladbach side. Despite the difficulty of the opponents, the Citizens finished first in Group D with a relatively comfortable campaign of four wins and two losses, finishing the initial phase with 12 points and the chance of an easier adversary in the knockouts.

And the Sky Blues were indeed lucky, facing one of the easiest Round of 16 opponents in Dynamo Kiev. Thanks to a great 3-1 first leg win in Ukraine, City played it safe in the return match and qualified to the quarterfinals with a 3-1 aggregate result. Then, it was the Billion Dollar Derby against Paris Saint-Germain to decide which of the two would be in the Final Four. The first leg was exciting and full of emotion, and the Citizens escaped with a 2-2 draw. In the second leg at Etihad Stadium, City once again looked to protect their advantage and stopped PSG with a 1-0 victory, with Kevin De Bruyne scoring a beautiful goal to send City into the semifinal.

You’ll know things are going well for Manchester City if this is happening: Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva unbalancing the Madrid defense with runs all over the attacking half and key passes, Marcelo struggling to defend City's wingers, and Agüero getting in good position to score.

Manchester City might be in trouble if you see a lot of this: Toni Kroos and Luka Modric with plenty of space to pass and create chances, Gareth Bale running on the wings, and Cristiano Ronaldo anywhere near the ball.

This is the reason Manchester City will advance to the Champions League final: Sergio Agüero and Kevin De Bruyne are in their best form all season, Madrid haven't been great on the road this season and City have all the tools to shock the world. If they get a great result in the first leg, get ready to see the Citizens invade Milan.