UCL: Erling Haaland magic meets Madrid’s method

Madrid, May 8

Two of the best attacking teams in Europe face off in the Champions League semifinals this week, with Manchester City’s record-seeking Erling Haaland going against Real Madrid’s red-hot trio of Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Karim Benzema.

It will be a rematch of last year’s semifinal, when Madrid got the better of a City team that didn’t have Haaland in the squad. City fell short of European success yet again, while Madrid went on to win a record-extending 14th title.

The addition of Haaland could be the difference-maker for Pep Guardiola’s team this time. The 22-year-old Norwegian scored 12 of City’s 26 goals in the Champions League this season. He is five short of Cristiano Ronaldo’s single-season record of 17 goals for Madrid in 2013-14.

Haaland added a new dimension to a City attack that played most of last season without a striker. Instead of focusing on always dominating possession, Guardiola has been happy to use Haaland as a weapon on the counterattack at times. The striker has a Premier League record 35 goals this season, and 51 in total in all competitions.

Madrid will stick to the formula that has worked well in recent years, with Vinicius, Benzema and Rodrygo taking turns to lead an attack that scored 25 goals this season — 15 of them coming from the trio. They scored eight of the team’s 10 goals in the knockout stage alone. — AP

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