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Sky Blue News: Pep Presser, Aké Out, City Praise, and More...

Headlines ahead of the biggest match so far.

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Manchester City FC Training Session And Press Conference Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Manchester City are 90 minutes from returning to the UEFA Champions League final. All they have to do is defeat 14-time competition winners Real Madrid at the Etihad. Should be easy, that. Sky Blue News has all the latest to get you ready for the biggest UCL Night yet.

Kyle Walker and Kevin De Bruyne close in on major landmarks – Stat Preview: Manchester City vs Real Madrid (Champions League Semi-Final Second-Leg) - Fareed Mahdavi Jovainy - City Xtra

On their quest towards a second Champions League final in two years, Manchester City must overcome Carlo Ancelotti’s ever-impressive fourteen-time winners, Real Madrid with Italian giants Inter awaiting in a meeting in Istanbul.

In the first portion of 90 minutes, Brazilian superstar Vinicius Junior gave Carlo Ancelotti’s side the lead in the 36th minute with a wonderful strike from outside the box. That lead lasted until the 67th minute, when Kevin de Bruyne unleashed a fierce effort past Thibaut Courtois.

The Spanish side have struggled for La Liga form at times this season, as shown by Barcelona’s triumph in the last few days. That league form has not transferred to the Champions League as they have been imperious at times in this competition.

This puts Pep Guardiola’s team in a favourable position having avoided defeat in Spain and now having the home fans behind them as they look to dispatch of the Spanish giants on their own territory.

Pep Talk: “We play 11 versus 11 and our game will dictate what you have to do to reach the final.” - Saul Garcia - Bitter and Blue

Pep Guardiola is ready for the huge match vs Real Madrid. A huge match and Pep really talked about it all, from injuries, matchups, over thinking and much more.

Let’s dive right in-

Pep on players/injuries

“Except Nathan, everyone is fit,”

“I know they’ll be close to us because they know what this team has done over the last years,” he added. “They will not leave us alone, I’m pretty sure.

“In the bad moments they will be with us and in the good they will put us first.

“The way to put the pressure on our opponents is on our game. We play 11 versus 11 and our game will dictate what you have to do to reach the final.

“But of course in the bad moments they are there and will be there.”

Man City’s four-centre-back setup has made Guardiola’s side more solid, and dangerous, than ever - Julien Laurens - ESPN

Guardiola is the greatest coach of his generation, among the greatest ever, and he continues to think, to tweak, to experiment. Now, the latest stage in his quest for control is what we have been seeing since March: a back four made up entirely of centre-backs, primarily Ruben Dias, John Stones, Manuel Akanji and Nathan Ake.

In terms of full-backs in the City squad, Oleksandr Zinchenko joined Arsenal last summer, Cancelo went to Bayern Munich on loan in January, Rico Lewis played a bit after the turn of the year but is now mostly on the bench, and Kyle Walker had a few games as a sub before returning to the XI but much more in a centre-back role than a full-back one. His job is more to defend than to attack.

At the heart of this innovation is a desire to defend better. Centre-backs are pure defenders; they don’t have the defensive compromises of full-backs, who are often converted wingers. If your centre-backs have the technical quality and some decent pace, they are perfect for what Guardiola is putting together. Fielding four of them means more balance, more solidity and more stability. City don’t risk getting exposed because none of that quartet is tempted to go forward too much. And this setup enables Guardiola to use Stones in midfield, bringing an extra body to the part of the pitch where the game very often is decided.

Manchester City’s Nathan Ake to miss Real Madrid Champions League tie - Oliver Thomas - Sports Mole

The Dutchman sustained a hamstring problem against Leeds United earlier this month and has since missed the last two matches in all competitions, including the 1-1 first-leg draw with Los Blancos last week.

Pep Guardiola revealed prior to Man City’s 3-0 Premier League victory at Everton on Sunday that Ake was feeling “much better”, providing Citizens supporters with hope that the 28-year-old could recover in time for the home encounter with Real Marid.

However, the Catalan boss has confirmed that Wednesday’s second leg will come too soon for Ake, who is City’s only player in the treatment room at present.

Asked for an update on the fitness of his squad at a pre-match press conference on Tuesday, Guardiola replied: “Except Nathan, everyone is fit.”

Guardiola has also confirmed that Kevin De Bruyne is fully fit to play in the second leg after watching on as an unused substitute in Sunday’s win over Everton, a result that helped City move four points clear at the top of the Premier League and on the cusp of retaining the title.

De Bruyne has stepped up for the big occasions several times for the Citizens and the Belgian scored a stunning equaliser to help rescue a 1-1 first-leg draw at the Santiago Bernabeu last week.

Man City’s top 10 away and third kits of all time - ranked - Richard Martin - Goal

As City get ready to release their new kits for the 2023-24 season, GOAL looks back on some of their classic looks from down the years

Manchester City’s home kits are instantly recognisable for being synonymous with sky blue, but they have had all sorts of colours and designs when it comes to their away and third shirts. And over the last decade, their kits have accompanied them on so many glorious journeys, with Pep Guardiola’s side often getting even better results on their travels than at the Etihad Stadium.

As excitement builds over the release of City’s kits for the 2023-24 season, GOAL casts an eye over their most iconic, and most unusual, away and third kits...

Significant Praise is Due for Pep & City - Dr. Gary James - Gary James’ Football Archive

These are incredibly special times and City fans are truly grateful. The Blues have a Champions League semi final 2nd leg on Wednesday; the prospect of a League title on Sunday and also have the FA Cup final to look forward to. If that’s anything like City’s first trip to the new Wembley in 2011 that will be a special day. No City fan I know are complacent or take anything for granted though and that’s important. As fans it’s important to act like the players and retain an hunger for further glory. City’s brilliant 1960s/70s coach Malcolm Allison once told me to ‘celebrate every success as if it’s your first’ because it’s important to retain the drive and determination.

It’s worth pausing at this stage in the season to reflect on the last decade or so to fully appreciate what the club has achieved. I’ve been doing a few decade comparisons recently, looking at dominant clubs each decade and the competitive nature of English football. I’ve taken each decade (starting with the first complete season, such as 1960-61 through to 1969-70), and looked at the successful teams of that era.

During season 2010-11 through to the end of 2019-20 City managed to win an incredible total of 11 major trophies – a phenomenal figure, especially when compared with the nearest rivals Chelsea who won seven major trophies during that time. No doubt critics will say ‘ah, but there’s less competition’ but that’s absolutely not true, certainly not in terms of our major domestic competitions. It keeps being drummed into us that there’s less competition but that’s really downplaying the achievements of those teams that have challenged.

Between 2010-11 and 2019-20 there were five different Premier League winners. That’s more top flight champions than in each of the previous three decades and the same as in the period 1970-71 to 1979-80 when many people talk of a relatively open title race. How many times do we hear people say ‘back in the 70s and 80s anyone could win the title.’ Well, that may have appeared true at the time but the truth is that only a small group of clubs actually did win it. Even in the 1930s there were only four different champions (Arsenal, Everton, Sunderland & City), although that was only nine complete seasons due to war.

And finally... Awards season is here and City players are being recognized at all levels.


Oscar Bobb, Carlos Borges and Dire Mebude have all been nominated for the 2022/23 Premier League 2 Player of the Season prize.

All three were instrumental in another memorable campaign for Brian Barry-Murphy’s side, as we secured a record third PL2 title in a row.

And their significant contributions to that success have been recognised in the eight-player shortlist for the award, drawn up by the Premier League’s Football Development Panel, who will also determine the winner.

There you have it. Stay with Bitter and Boue throughout the day as we build toward the match against Madrid here at Bitter and Blue. Sky Blue News returns tomorrow with more headlines.