On the back of becoming the first manager to win a clean sweep of trophies in Europe's top five leagues, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti suggested his coaching career – at club level, at least – is nearing its end.

"After Real, yes, I'll probably stop," he told Amazon Prime in an interview released on Monday. "I'd like to be with my grandchildren, go on vacation with my wife – there are so many things to do that I have left out that I would like to do. The day I quit, I'll have all these things to do."

That did come with a caveat, though. "If the club keeps me here for 10 years, I'll train for 10 years," Ancelotti added, before leaving the door open for a move into international management ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

One month shy of his 63rd birthday, making him the oldest manager to win LaLiga, Ancelotti can be forgiven for thinking of retirement and life beyond football. He has won everything there is to win, after all, including a record-equalling three European Cups.

And yet, for all his success, which includes 20 major trophies across a 26-year managerial career spanning five countries, laid-back Ancelotti is arguably looked down upon when compared to fellow heavyweights such as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

The latter in particular has built a reputation – rightly – for being a philosophy-driven coach who is obsessed with the finer details. Sometimes a little too obsessed when it comes to Champions League football, some might say.

Ancelotti, on the other hand, is old-fashioned in a sense, a coach who learned his trade in the days that managers would regularly be seen puffing away on cigarettes in the dugout, rather than analysing opposition tactics on a tablet.

It was a cigar Ancelotti was seen enjoying last weekend as Madrid toasted LaLiga title glory in his first campaign back, showing there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to coaching philosophy.

The Serie A, Premier League, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and LaLiga-winning coach may yet add a record fourth Champions League to his glittering CV come the end of the month, though for that to happen Madrid must first overturn a 4-3 deficit in Wednesday's semi-final second leg with Guardiola's Manchester City.

The opening 90 minutes in Manchester last week produced the joint-highest scoring semi-final first leg in the competition's history, alongside Liverpool's 5-2 win over Roma four years ago, and also provided a snapshot into the two styles of not just Madrid and City but also their respective coaches.

City enjoyed 60 per cent of possession and completed 541 passes to Madrid's 336 – and an extra 248 in the opposition half – which is reflective of how both sides have played this season. 

The Citizens, much like Barcelona during Guardiola's trophy-laden four-year spell in charge, have become perfectly shaped to fit to the Catalan's own style. They have completed 31,385 passes across their 53 games this season, which is more than any other side from Europe's top five leagues.

Madrid also feature high on that list, down in fifth behind Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain. They also rank fifth among European clubs for goals scored this season with 108. Yet, when you think of an Ancelotti side, you might struggle to immediately describe the default style of play.

Resilient, perhaps? The resilience to score three goals in the space of 17 minutes en route to eliminating PSG with a 3-2 comeback win in the last 16; the resilience to pick themselves up when trailing Chelsea 4-3 on aggregate late on in the quarter-finals, only to advance 5-4.

Ancelotti's football may not have been revolutionary in the same way that Guardiola helped to transform Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City, yet the Italian has succeeded most places he has gone, not least this season with Madrid on course for their joint-highest LaLiga points haul since tallying 100 in 2011-12.

With a few simple tweaks, not least getting Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior working in tandem, Ancelotti has improved Madrid both in an attacking sense and defensively – even if they did ship four goals against City last week.

And so, while he may not be a perceived as a football 'philosopher' or someone who enjoys antagonising his counterparts, Ancelotti – in his 178th Champions League game in charge – has the chance to further prove he has stood the test of time when Guardiola's double-chasing City travel to the Spanish capital.

Should Los Blancos pull off another memorable comeback and go on and lift the trophy in Paris later this month, there would be no better way for Madrid's quiet leader to bring down the curtain on a legendary coaching career.

Giovani Lo Celso expressed pain at Villarreal's elimination in the Champions League semi-finals following their 3-2 defeat to Liverpool on Tuesday.

Faced with the huge task overturning a two-goal deficit after the first leg at Anfield, the Yellow Submarine drew level for the tie after a raucous 45 minutes at El Madrigal, via goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin.

Liverpool eventually settled after the interval, and the air effectively went out of the tie when Fabinho's shot crept through Geronimo Rulli's legs and in, with the Reds going on to win 3-2.

A January signing for Villarreal, Lo Celso believes the home crowd propelled them to such a fast start but their energy dissipated.

"The first impression is one of pain, and of sadness because we wanted to play that final," Lo Celso told Movistar+ post-match. "We had a very good first half, where we cut off all the circuits for them, we pressed, we created situations, we went 2-0 up.

"The support of the fans who pushed us from the first minute gave us a huge boost.

"In the second half, it was difficult for us to keep up with them, they began to find spaces and there they found the goals."

Luis Diaz's substitution for Diogo Jota at half-time was transformative, and Liverpool found a different gear to eventually win in the 90 minutes and restore their lead on aggregate.

Lo Celso believes Liverpool's class eventually showed, but was proud of his team-mates' achievement of making it this far in the Champions League.

"It was a bit difficult for us to keep up with the rhythm of the first half," he said. "They began to control the game a little more, find spaces and generate situations.

"In the second half, in ten minutes the match escaped us, but I am proud of my team-mates because reaching the semis is no small thing and even more so against such a high-class opponent."

Jurgen Klopp opened up on the half-time team talk that helped Liverpool fend off a Villarreal comeback to reach the Champions League final.

The Reds had arrived in Spain holding a 2-0 aggregate lead thanks to a dominant showing at Anfield but contrived to squander it during a chastening first half at El Madrigal.

However, a much-improved second-half showing punctuated by goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane helped secure passage to a third Champions League final appearance in just five seasons.

And, when asked how he had masterminded that change of fortunes, Klopp told BT Sport: "It feels like the first in 20 [years], it's outstanding, because we made it obviously pretty tricky for ourselves. 

"We knew before that these kinds of things can happen; it's all about in life all the time how you react when things don't go your way. 

"Getting the first goal after two-and-a-half, three minutes, that's obviously not what you wanted, momentum on their side.

"After the first half I told the boys, 'Yes, they have momentum but they don't own it! In one situation we can get it back.'

"We were calm because I accept it 100 per cent that if Villarreal plays the second half like they play the first and we played the second half like the first then they will be in the final.

"The perception was like this, everything looked more like they will score the 3-0 than we will score the 2-1 but we are still here so we could give it a try and that's what we did."

The German went on to reveal that his half-time rallying cry also featured elements of important tactical advice to his players.

He explained: "The problem with the half-time was that we knew what was wrong because it was obvious, but we didn't have the situations to show where we did it right.

"Respect to Villarreal, I have to say; stadium, team, coach, it's unbelievable what they set up, they put us under pressure. 

"[It was] man-v-man all over the whole pitch, we didn't play football at all, we didn't get momentum back.

"We have to play in the right spaces, we have to force ourselves in the game to start playing football. 

"[When] we broke the lines and we found Naby or Trent in the half-spaces and the front three were more flexible and not fixed in their positions, all of a sudden we were in the game, scored goals and made it happen. 

Liverpool's final opponents will be confirmed on Wednesday when Real Madrid and Manchester City do battle in the second leg of their semi-final tie.

Of his side's prospective opponents, Klopp added: "Yes, I will watch it! Whoever it will be, it will be massive. 

"Whoever wins tomorrow night will deserve the result and then we'll face each other in Paris."

Trent Alexander-Arnold offered a scathing assessment of Liverpool's first-half performance at Villarreal but is willing to accept an occasional bad 45 minutes as long as they recover as they did to reach the Champions League final.

Villarreal drew level on aggregate, going up 2-0 on the night, before goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane in the second half restored Liverpool's lead and progression to May's final in Paris.

It will be Liverpool's third Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp, following a defeat to Real Madrid in 2018 and triumph over Tottenham in 2019.

Speaking after a thrilling 3-2 win, Alexander-Arnold made reference to the tricky paths that led to those finals, asserting the volatile nature of Tuesday's victory was just a continuation of a theme.

"We never tend to make these Champions League semis easy for ourselves, thinking back to Roma away, Barca at home and now here – difficult, very difficult," Alexander-Arnold told BT Sport post-match.

"We never played football that first half. We never picked up any of the second balls at all, and they kind of played the game the way that they wanted to, and we allowed them to do that.

"Second half, we came out and played the way that we needed to play, and controlled the game a lot better. One bad half over two legs, we can concede that as long as we got the job done."

With the win, the Reds will face the winner of Wednesday's semi-final second leg between Real Madrid and Manchester City.

"It's always nice to get the job done on the Tuesday," he said. "We can watch the game tomorrow, knowing that we're going to be there, and who we're going to play.

"I'm sure it will be a good game. If it goes by anything last week, we'll be in for another amazing game. Either opponent kind of deserves to get to the final, so we'll see who we'll get."

Given the stakes involved, Champions League semi-finals don't tend to be fertile ground for managers to learn lessons about their teams.

But for Jurgen Klopp, Tuesday's win over Villarreal provided more than just a ticket to the showpiece fixture of Europe's premier cup competition in Paris later this month.

It also handed the German several important insights into his squad that may prove key to a quadruple bid that was extended by victory in Spain.

Klopp probably did not appreciate the start of that learning process – an unexpectedly poor first-half performance he would prefer to forget.

In possession of 'the most dangerous lead in football', it was key that the visitors did not concede an early goal that would boost the home crowd's belief. 

And yet they conspired to do exactly that, twice failing to prevent crosses before Boulaye Dia poked home to ignite El Madrigal.

That early goal set the tone for a first half that saw Liverpool harried (65.5 per cent passing accuracy) and bullied (45.6 per cent duels won) out of the game for large periods.

And so they could have no complaints over going in at half-time level on aggregate fearing that Villarreal would become only the second team to overcome a two-goal deficit in a Champions League semi-final.

Liverpool were, of course, the ones who pulled off that previous comeback, overturning Barcelona's three-goal advantage en route to winning the 2018-19 edition of the competition.

Yet, with their first-half attempts to prevent history repeating itself having failed, it seemed inevitable that changes were coming at the break.

Perhaps the only surprise was that Klopp limited himself to just one alteration, introducing Luis Diaz in place of Diogo Jota but leaving his starting midfield trio alone.

However, it was hard to argue with the results of that minor tweak: a consummate second-half performance that turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win.

That outcome is good news for Diaz, whose match-high four shots and well-taken goal underlined the brilliance of another sparkling outing.

But it might not be for Jota, who won just two of six duels and completed six of nine passes before getting the half-time hook.

There were also contrasting fortunes in midfield, where Naby Keita provided the most notable recovery from a midfield three that looked lost in the opening 45 minutes.

With Jordan Henderson going through a vigorous warm-up just after half-time, it did not look like the Guinean would last much longer.

But, as was the case with his colleagues in the engine room, he went up a level en route to posting 21 passes in the opposition half, three tackles, and 11 possession regains (more than any other player on the pitch) by full-time.

With the big games coming thick and fast in the weeks ahead, the consequences of these performances are likely to stretch beyond simply securing Liverpool's third Champions League final appearance under Klopp.

As he guides an unlikely quadruple bid towards a dramatic conclusion, the manager now has an even clearer idea of which players he can rely on to deliver on the biggest of stages.

 

Rafael Nadal requested that his opening match at the Madrid Open does not clash with his beloved Real Madrid's Champions League semi-final against Manchester City, according to tournament director Feliciano Lopez.

Nadal, who has won the Madrid Open on five occasions, will face Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic in the round of 32 on Wednesday, the same day Los Blancos bid to overturn a 4-3 first-leg deficit against Pep Guardiola's team at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 21-time grand slam winner is known to be an avid supporter of Madrid and was invited to take an "honorary kick-off" before Carlo Ancelotti's team wrapped up their 35th league title with a 4-0 win over Espanyol at the weekend.

Lopez confirmed Nadal's request to Spanish radio network Cadena SER on Tuesday.

"Nadal asked us that when Madrid played the Champions League semi-finals that we not play him," Lopez said.

"He likes to play during the day, so that the ball bounces higher. There are [Spanish] tennis players who are not from Madrid. David Ferrer is not from Madrid. Tommy Robredo and Marc Lopez are from Barcelona, Sergi Bruguera is very much from Barcelona… it's very hard to be an anti-Madridista!"

Real Madrid have been eliminated from each of their previous five Champions League semi-finals when losing the first leg – however, Los Blancos have progressed from two of their last three knockout ties when losing the opening match (the 2015-16 quarter-final against Wolfsburg and this season's last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain).

Madrid have won the European Cup/Champions League on a record 13 occasions, also finishing as runners-up three times, and Nadal will hope to have a good view if Los Blancos seal a 17th final appearance on Wednesday.

 

Kevin De Bruyne says winning the Champions League would "change the perspective" through which people view Manchester City, as Pep Guardiola's team prepare to face Real Madrid in the second leg of their semi-final tie.

De Bruyne opened the scoring in City's thrilling 4-3 first-leg win over Carlo Ancelotti's team at the Etihad Stadium last week, but Karim Benzema's double means the encounter remains in the balance.

The Belgium international has won 10 domestic trophies since joining the club in 2015, though European success has so far evaded Guardiola's men, who lost last season's final to 1-0 to Chelsea.

Before travelling to the Santiago Bernabeu for Wednesday's second leg, the in-form playmaker, who has contributed 15 goals and 12 assists in all competitions this term, acknowledged a European title would alter the way the club is viewed.

"It would change the perspective," De Bruyne, who went off injured in last year's final, said at a pre-match news conference. "As a player, you want to win trophies, and we want this one.

"We have fought for it for numerous years and been to the latter stages, and we have been doing well.

"Obviously, it’s a cup competition and the quality is really high, so it's very difficult to win it and there are different circumstances, but if you look at how we have performed in the last seven years, we've done really well. If we win it, it would change the narrative."

However, De Bruyne refuted claims that the team needed to win the competition, highlighting the quality of City's competitors and saying he was happy with his own accomplishments.

"For myself. It doesn't change how I look at myself as a player. I know what I have done: good and bad in my career. I'm pretty happy with what I have done," he added.

"Obviously, I want to win every trophy but that's a hard task. I would obviously love to win the Champions League."

De Bruyne has registered 18 Champions League assists since making his first City appearance in the competition in September 2015, a tally that is only bettered by Neymar (25) and Kylian Mbappe (20) during that time.

Meanwhile, City's first-leg success over Los Blancos was only the second semi-final first leg in Champions League history to see seven goals scored (along with Liverpool 5-2 Roma in 2017-18), but the midfielder said his team would need to be at their best to make their advantage count.

"I think if we play the way we played last week, we have the potential to be one of the best teams, but we have to show that," he added. "If we play below that, Madrid can win because they are also one of the best teams, and the quality they have is amazing.

"But I back my team to perform at the high level needed to win the game. I think we are in a very good way. The fact we have not won it yet is the only criticism we can get. The rest, we have been there loads of times, fighting to win it.

"I remember when we played [against Madrid in the 2015-16 semi-finals] it wasn't the greatest end to the season. Madrid was a powerhouse at that time. We are in better shape now. I think we are a better team with a better set-up, we play better, and we have more experience. Hopefully, we are better prepared.

"It's two attacking teams who like to play football. We played a very good game [last week] but that's in the past. We have a different game ahead of us tomorrow and it starts back to 0-0 so we need our A-game to win."

City have won their last three Champions League matches against Los Blancos – only two sides have ever won four in a row against them in European competitions, with Ajax doing so between 1973 and 1995 and Bayern Munich replicating that achievement between 2000 and 2002.

Kevin De Bruyne now considers Phil Foden simply "one of the guys" at Manchester City and hopes the 21-year-old can play a decisive role against Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Foden was long seen as the most promising young prospect at City but had to wait for his opportunity to feature regularly in Pep Guardiola's first team.

Although the midfielder made his senior debut in the 2017-18 season, he was kept on the fringes for his first two years.

Even in 2019-20, when making 38 appearances, scoring eight goals and assisting nine, Foden was restricted to just 18 starts.

Since then, though, the England international has gone from strength to strength, following up 26 goal involvements last term (16 goals, 10 assists) with another 24 this time out (13 goals, 11 assists).

Foden netted against Madrid at the Etihad Stadium in a 4-3 first-leg win in City's Champions League semi-final, and De Bruyne believes his team-mate can make another important contribution in the return leg.

"He's been amazing," De Bruyne said. "I've seen him from a little boy who had massive potential.

"Whenever you come up to a first team, you are a little bit shy, and it takes time and more playing time to get comfortable in that situation.

"But the last two years he has been in a very comfortable situation, and you see the difference in the way that he plays. He's not a young talent any more, he's one of the guys.

"It's a big step to make, but now everybody looks at him to make a difference because he can. He's proven that lots of times, and he probably will do much, much more for this club in the future.

"I'm hoping he does the same that he's been doing. If you're playing constantly very well, that is all you can do. He doesn't play with ups and downs, he just does what he needs to do for the team."

De Bruyne has had to rediscover that consistency himself after enduring a tough start to the season following an ankle injury that he initially tried to play through.

The Belgium midfielder did not look his usual self as he scored only three goals and provided a single assist in his first 17 club matches of the campaign.

However, since then, De Bruyne has 12 goals and 11 assists in 23 outings, including the opening goal in the first leg against Madrid.

"The first months [of the season] were really hard," he added. "I've never experienced the pain I had.

"I was trying to come back, but it wasn't something I enjoyed. Mentally, it was hard to overcome.

"Once the pain was gone, I started to feel more confident in myself, in my body, to get back to where I belong. Now, playing all these games, I feel back to the level I was before.

"I try to be as consistent as I can, and this year I've done that."

Pep Guardiola acknowledged Manchester City have to improve defensively if they are to overcome Real Madrid and reach the Champions League final for the second successive year.

City take a 4-3 lead into Wednesday's semi-final second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu following a thrilling contest in Manchester last week.

Premier League leaders City held a two-goal lead on three separate occasions but, inspired by Karim Benzema, Madrid ensured the tie remains firmly alive.

City will be boosted at the back for the return fixture, however, as Joao Cancelo returns from suspension and Kyle Walker is expected to be fit to feature.

The England international has not played since injuring his ankle against Atletico Madrid last month, but he was back in training on Tuesday and is part of City's squad.

And Guardiola, who confirmed John Stones is injured, accepts that City must be stronger at the back if they are to see out the job.

"Probably, we have to be better but we can play much worse than we played and we can win," he told a news conference.

"Sometimes you get what you don't deserve, sometimes you don't get what you deserve. We have to perform incredibly well and win the game.

"Last week's game is in the past. The tie is 180 minutes. We try to do better than what we have done. We go there for that and everyone is ready to try to do it."

Pushed on whether he expects Walker to be ready to start, Guardiola added: "He trained, he'll travel and we decide tomorrow. I'm happy he's back."

City had registered clean sheets in their previous four knockout matches, keeping Sporting CP and Atletico quiet in the last 16 and quarter-finals respectively.

The 26 shutouts City have kept across 53 games this season is the third-most of any side from Europe's top five leagues, behind Chelsea (27) and Liverpool (31).

Reflecting on last week's tie, the joint-highest scoring first leg in Champions League semi-final history, Guardiola said: "It was a lovely open game.

"The fact the teams scored seven goals between them. We were happy, we could have maybe got a better result but also a lot worse. 

"You look at it, recover the next day, analyse it in the cold light of day. For better or worse we always knew this would be over two games. 

"The Etihad and the Bernabeu. To knock Madrid out you have to perform well over two games."

Guardiola has won four Champions League matches against Madrid – only Ottmar Hitzfeld has won more (seven) – with two of those wins for the Catalan coming at the Bernabeu.

In the opposite dugout is Carlo Ancelotti, who last week celebrated becoming the first manager to win each of Europe's top five leagues.

Guardiola praised Ancelotti for his achievement but insisted Madrid's players will not have lost focus.

"Congratulations to him for winning the Spanish league," said Guardiola, who won three LaLiga titles with Barcelona. "I did it, he did it last week. 

"I admire him. He's been all over the world, big football countries and fantastic teams. It's always incredibly tough, the football is really good. 

"Part of that is he's an exceptional person. Every time with him he's calm, controls his emotions perfectly."

Should City complete the job, they will become the fourth English side to reach consecutive European Cup or Champions League finals.

But Guardiola conceded the experience of competing regularly in the latter stages of the competition does not guarantee lessons have been learned.

"Experience... the question is what to learn from the experience," he said. "You could make the same mistakes. It's completely different, it's difficult to compare to last season. 

"How will the guys wake up tomorrow? The fact we've been there quite often in the last years, we've been here and done well and know how to handle the situation. 

"But it's not a guarantee to play good. They know we have to perform well and our best to reach the final."

Carlo Ancelotti knows Real Madrid must produce a "complete" performance against Manchester City to reach the Champions League final, as he confirmed David Alaba is out of the second leg.

Madrid were beaten 4-3 by Premier League leaders City in a thrilling first leg at the Etihad Stadium last week.

Los Blancos responded to that defeat by thrashing Espanyol 4-0 on Saturday to win their 35th LaLiga title in style.

Ancelotti, who is the first coach to have triumphed across all of Europe's big five leagues and has stated that Madrid will be the last club he coaches, believes his side have a great chance to overturn a deficit when they face Pep Guardiola's side at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday if they are their very best.

The wily Madrid boss told reports on the eve of the match: "The game has to be complete. The low block has to be better than the first leg, the pressure has to be well done to avoid passes between lines and transitions. 

"We are not going to propose a game with a low block, that's for sure, but at some moments of the game it will be. The game has to be complete."

According to Ancelotti, Madrid will be without Alaba due to a hamstring injury, despite the Austria defender having been named in the squad. However, he has faith in Nacho Fernandez to perform.

He said: "Alaba can't play. I don't have doubts, it will possibly be a long game too but it's not so important who starts as it is who finishes it.

"The defence system is the same. Alaba is an important player but Nacho's played very well this season. He's experienced and I'm sure he'll put on a good performance tomorrow."

Another player who will start is Casemiro and Ancelotti expects the fit-again Brazil midfielder to make Los Blancos much more difficult to break down.

The Italian said: "His return is going to help us, it reinforces the defensive aspect, in which we have to improve, also in collective commitment, moving better as a block, being more compact 

"We have worked on the defensive aspect. I think we will see improvement."

Madrid have been crowned European champions a record 13 times, but Ancelotti believes that will count for nothing when they attempt to reach yet another final.

"History won't have an impact tomorrow," he said: "It will be different, each game has its own history. They have an edge and we are aware of it.

"We have to do our best. It will be a tough game but we've got an incredible opportunity to play another Champions League final and we've already won the league, so the atmosphere will be good and it's something we can pull off."

Real Madrid have to demonstrate that they are "the best team in the world" when they take on Manchester City for a place in the Champions League final, so says Luka Modric.

The meeting between the sides in Manchester last week was only the second semi-final first leg in Champions League history to see seven goals scored, after Liverpool beat Roma 5-2 in 2017-18.

Premier League leaders City hold a slender, 4-3 advantage heading to the Santiago Bernabeu and have progressed in nine of the previous 10 Champions League two-legged knockout ties when they have won the first leg.

Madrid have been eliminated in all five previous semi-finals in the competition when they have lost the first leg, but Los Blancos have progressed from two of their last three knockout ties when losing the first leg, including their remarkable comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in March.

Modric played a key role in that victory and in their quarter-final revival against Chelsea, and the mercurial 36-year-old was in bullish mood in Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"The atmosphere in the locker room is very good. We are really looking forward to it. We know what we have to do, it is the most important game of the season," said Modric, who celebrated winning a third LaLiga title of his career on Saturday when Madrid beat Espanyol to clinch their 35th domestic crown.

"We are very confident that we will come back. We know that in the first leg we did not play our best game, but we still scored three goals. We have to do better, and I am sure of it."

 

Modric believes that Madrid's prestigious history can play its part in pushing Carlo Ancelotti's team on to reaching the final for the first time since 2018.

He said: "What do we have? Quality, a lot of character. The history of this club also plays a part. The club, which is the one with the most titles in the Champions League [13].

"All this influences a lot. We never give up. The club has taught us this since we got here. We have to show that we are Real Madrid, the best team in the world."

Modric played a pivotal role in Madrid winning three successive Champions League titles between 2015-16 and 2017-18, while he also helped win 'La Decima' during Ancelotti's first spell in 2013-14.

"I'm sure it's important. It's nice to remember that we've already won four Champions Leagues, some with a chance of reaching our fifth final," Modric said when asked if that experience was crucial against City, who have only reached one final, losing last season to Chelsea, before scoffing at the suggestion Madrid had been lucky in the past.

"To be here and win this many Champions Leagues, it's not just luck. It makes us laugh a little, although everyone can say what they want.

"We are focused on what we do and we don't care what they say outside. To get to this point year after year, beating great rivals and winning titles, you have to have more than luck: character, personality, faith. This is what makes us win."

Liverpool fans are a creative bunch, particularly when it comes to making up songs for their idols.

The latest favourite of the Kop is a little ditty about Jurgen Klopp to the tune of 'I feel fine' by The Beatles, though it has also been re-worked to be about the Reds' manager's wife Ulla after her husband revealed the part she played in convincing him to sign a new deal at Anfield.

While Klopp appreciates the sentiment, he has always said he prefers to hear songs about his players, and there are plenty of those too.

You have to be quite a special player to get your song before you have even signed for the club, though, and it was testament to the excitement around the arrival of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich in 2020 that not only did he already have a song by the time he was signed, but he even whistled it in his own announcement video.

It is a fairly simple number, as most of the best football songs are, where fans just sing "Thiago, Thiago Alcantara!" to the tune of 'Cuba' by the Gibson Brothers.

Arguably the best part about it, though, was the accompanying video that found its way onto social media, which showed Thiago's head superimposed over a woman walking by, while three men, made up to be Klopp, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, danced in the background.

Reds fans certainly feel like dancing right now, seeing their team still in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple in early May, with the EFL Cup already in the bag, and Thiago is very much at the centre of the march on the remaining three fronts in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

The 31-year-old had a tricky first season in England, having to contest with playing in stadiums with no fans, then picking up an injury that kept him out for several months, before returning to a team whose season had fallen apart after practically the entire defence had also been wiped out by injury.

Thiago showed his class by the end of the campaign to help Liverpool qualify for the Champions League, and although some still cast doubt on his suitability for Klopp's team, he has certainly proven his importance this year as the Merseysiders look to cement their legacy as one of the best teams of all time.

He has continued to suffer from injury issues, and has so far only managed to start in 15 of Liverpool's 34 Premier League games, but it is clear to see the difference he makes when he is available.

In those 15 games, Liverpool have won 14 (93 per cent) and drawn one, which was the recent 2-2 at title rivals Manchester City. When Thiago has not been in the starting XI, the Reds have won 11 of those 19 outings (58 per cent), drawing six and losing two.

They have conceded just four times in the 15 games he has started, compared to 18 in the games without, while averaging 2.9 goals for per game when he starts opposed to 2.3 when he does not.

It is only really of late that the player has been getting recognition for his impact, which is not entirely surprising as he has certainly stepped things up in recent games.

It is not the first time he has done so towards the business end. In 2019-20, his final season at Bayern, he came through to play a crucial role in the German giants' run to the Champions League final, starring in the 1-0 win against Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon as the Bavarians went on to win a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble.

Thiago has finally been able to put a run of games together at Liverpool without being interrupted by injury, and Klopp's team are very much reaping the benefits.

He is not a player you particularly want to measure by numbers alone, such is the beauty with which he plays the game when in top form, but it is equally hard to ignore the increase in his figures of late.

Having not even attempted 100 passes in a game this season beforehand, in his last three starts, Thiago attempted 113 against Manchester United, completing 108, attempted 121 against Everton, completing 119, and attempted 103 against Villarreal, completing 99, as Liverpool went on to win all three with relative ease, not conceding any goals.

Speaking of which, it is not just his passing that makes him one of the best midfielders in the game. He has also shown the best of his defensive ability, particularly in the Champions League.

Of midfielders to have attempted at least 10 tackles in the competition this season, only Villarreal's Giovani Lo Celso (86.67) and Thiago's Liverpool team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (83.33) have better tackle success percentage than his 81.82.

As well as increasing his already impressive medal haul, one other inspiration for producing such fine form could be Thiago wanting to give Spain boss Luis Enrique something to think about ahead of the World Cup later this year.

La Roja will be among the favourites in Qatar, though such are the riches in midfield they can boast, Thiago has found himself largely out of the squad since last year's rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament, where he only played 66 minutes as Spain reached the semi-finals.

During the tournament when questions were raised as to why the former Bayern and Barcelona man was not featuring more, Luis Enrique said: "Thiago is a very good player. You know and everybody knows about his quality, but we are a strong team and I try to give them minutes.

"He's helping the squad a lot because he's an experienced player and we are very happy to have him in the squad.

"After that, I have to decide and my decision speaks much better than me."

It could be that the Spain head coach is trying to leave space for young prospects such as Pedri and Gavi to come through, but at a major tournament like the World Cup, you would imagine those two and others could only prosper from sharing a squad with someone like Thiago.

The player's club boss certainly thinks so, with Klopp telling reporters at a news conference ahead of Liverpool's Champions League semi-final second leg in Villarreal: "When Thiago is in the shape he's in now, he would play for any team in the world and that is Spain as well.

"They are an incredibly talented team but the shape he's in, he'd play for every national team. Thiago needs to be fit and gain rhythm and he can show his best form."

Thiago will take to the field in Spain on Tuesday to try and guide himself and his team to another Champions League final, with Liverpool leading the Yellow Submarine 2-0 from the first leg.

As he has proven in recent weeks, Thiago's best form is quite a thing to witness, and whether it is in the red of Liverpool or the red of Spain, it is well worth singing about.

Real Madrid and Villarreal have it all to do when they host Manchester City and Liverpool respectively in the second legs of their Champions League semi-final ties in midweek.

Fresh off the back of winning a second LaLiga title in three seasons, Madrid are aiming to overturn a 4-3 deficit against City following last week's thrilling first leg in Manchester.

That was the joint-highest scoring semi-final first leg in the competition's history, along with Liverpool 5-2 Roma in 2017-18, and more drama awaits in the Spanish capital.

Villarreal face an even bigger task, meanwhile, as they trail Liverpool 2-0 through an unfortunate Pervis Estupinan own goal and a Sadio Mane strike at Anfield.

However, only once before have the Reds won both legs of a knockout stage tie against Spanish opposition in the Champions League or its former guise as the European Cup.

So will it be an all-English final in Paris on May 28, or can the LaLiga pair turn things around on home turf?

Ahead of the second legs, Stats Perform digs into some of the best Opta numbers around the two semi-final ties.


Villarreal v Liverpool

To put the size of Villarreal's task into some perspective, only once before – Liverpool versus Barcelona in 2019 – has a team overturned a two-goal first-leg deficit at this stage of the Champions League.

Villarreal are unbeaten at home in Champions League knockout ties, albeit having won just two of their seven such games. The bad news, though, is that across those seven matches, neither side has managed to score more than once on any occasion.

If they are to have any hope of advancing then Unai Emery's men need to display far more attacking impetus than was on show last week, having attempted only one shot and failed to hit the target at Anfield. The last team to fail to record a shot on target across two legs of a Champions League semi-final was Deportivo de La Coruna in 2003-04, against Jose Mourinho's Porto.

Should Liverpool see the job through, they will become only the fourth side to reach the final of the European Cup/ Champions League on 10 or more occasions after Real Madrid (16), Bayern Munich and Milan (both 11), with their current tally of nine the most of any English side.

Jurgen Klopp's side have been formidable on the road in Europe this season, scoring 15 goals and conceding five across their five away Champions League matches, all of which have ended in victory. Should they win on Tuesday, they will boast the longest 100 per cent away record by any team in a single European Cup or Champions League campaign.

After netting in the first leg it is likely that Mane will again be selected in Liverpool's star-studded front three. The Senegal international has scored 14 knockout-stage goals for the Reds in the Champions League, leaving him one short of Chelsea legend Frank Lampard's record for the most for an English club.

 


Real Madrid v Manchester City

The omens are good for City as they have progressed from nine of their previous 10 knockout ties in the Champions League after winning the first leg, the only exception being against Monaco at the last-16 stage in 2016-17 after squandering a 5-3 advantage to lose 6-6 on away goals.

Madrid have been eliminated from all five previous Champions League semi-finals in which they have lost the first leg, meanwhile, though they have advanced from two of their past three knockout ties when losing the first leg – against Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 quarter-finals and versus Paris Saint-Germain in this season's last 16.

Los Blancos, the competition's most successful side, have lost their past two Champions League games, though only once before have they lost three on the spin. Head coach Carlo Ancelotti, incidentally, has never lost three in a row with this his 178th match.

A draw would be enough to see City through, but they have won their last three matches against Madrid in the Champions League and could become the third side to win four in a row against them in UEFA's showpiece competition, the only previous sides to have done so being Ajax (between 1973 and 1995) and Bayern Munich (between 2000 and 2002).

City boss Pep Guardiola has had his fair share of battles with Madrid down the years, not least in the Champions League. The Catalan coach has won four matches against Los Blancos in the competition – only Ottmar Hitzfeld (seven) has won more – with half of those wins coming at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Karim Benzema has rescued Madrid a number of times in Europe this season, the Frenchman having netted nine times in the knockout stage alone. Only former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo (10) has ever scored more in a single season, while Benzema could become the fourth player to score in both legs of the quarter-finals and semi-finals in a single season after Fernando Morientes (2003-04), Neymar (2014-15) and Edin Dzeko (2017-18). 

While Benzema has rightly received plenty of plaudits, strike partner Vinicius Junior has himself played a huge part in Madrid's charge for a record-extending 14th European Cup. The 28 open-play chances created by the Brazil international is the most of any player in the Champions League since Dusan Tadic (36) in 2018-19.

Trent Alexander-Arnold knows Liverpool must not be complacent when they start the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Villarreal on Tuesday with a "dangerous" 2-0 lead.

Jurgen Klopp's side are strong favourites to face Manchester City or Real Madrid in the final at the Stade de France after a Pervis Estupinan own goal and Sadio Mane's strike at Anfield last week put them in command

Liverpool are the only side to reach the final after losing the first leg of a semi-final by two goals or more, overturning a 3-0 deficit with a sensational 4-0 victory over Barcelona three years ago.

The Reds are unbeaten in 12 matches and make the trip to El Madrigal on a five-game winning streak - keeping clean sheets in their past four victories.

Alexander-Arnold says they will not arrive in Spain thinking it is already job done as they prepare to face a side that dumped Juventus and Bayern Munich out.

The full-back said: "Anything can happen in football, they're a top-quality side who can beat world-class teams.

"We've seen that with Juve and Bayern. They play up to the underdog so we cannot get complacent. An old cliche, only half-time. Next goal is vital in this tie."

Real Madrid defender David Alaba did not train with the squad on Monday, casting doubt over his participation against Manchester City.

Alaba, who has added a LaLiga title to his 10 Bundesliga crowns after Madrid sealed their domestic triumph on Saturday, trained inside away from the rest of the squad, according to an update on the club's official website.

The versatile defender, signed on a free transfer last season following the expiration of his Bayern Munich contract, has played a key role in Carlo Ancelotti's defence this term and has made 45 appearances across all competitions, all of them starts.

However, Alaba was taken off in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against City last week, which finished 4-3 in the Premier League leaders' favour, with a hamstring issue, and it is unclear if he will return in time to play against Pep Guardiola's team in Wednesday's second leg. He did not play against Espanyol on Saturday.

Madrid are vying for a place in the final, which will take place on May 28 in Paris. Liverpool lead Villarreal 2-0 on aggregate in the other semi-final.

Gareth Bale did also not take part in full training, while Eden Hazard continues his recovery from a fibula fracture.

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