Man City vs Inter CL final and City will win the title: Mark Seagraves

The second legs of this season’s UEFA Champions League semi-finals are now around the corner. While the first tie between Manchester City and Real Madrid is balanced on a knife’s edge, the Milan derby is heavily in favour of Inter Milan after their 2-0 win vs AC Milan in the first leg.
Inter haven’t played the Champions League final since 2010, when they won the title. Before that their last final appearance was in 1972. Now they are on the verge of this season’s final.
But the marquee clash continues to be the City vs Real toss-up. Pep Guardiola’s men will be playing the second leg at home this time, unlike last season when they played Real at the Bernabeu at exactly this stage of the competition. Real beat City in the second leg at the Bernabeu 3-1 and 6-5 on aggregate and eventually went on to win the title, beating Liverpool 1-0 in the final. Carlo Ancelotti’s men however will be a tough nut to crack, even though they haven’t won a match in their last 4 visits to the Etihad Stadium.

(AFP Photo)
Ahead of the semi-final second legs, TimesofIndia.com spoke to former Manchester City, Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers player, and now football pundit, Mark Seagraves about what the fans can expect in the two second leg matches.
Excerpts….
The second leg of the City vs Real semi-final will be played in Manchester, unlike last season when they played the second leg at the Bernabeu. Do you think that gives City the advantage? They will be the happier of the two sides with the 1-1 scoreline in what was the away match for them…
Yes, Guardiola said he wants the crowd to get behind his team. I think, if you look at what happened last year (Real beat City in the second leg at the Bernabeu 3-1 and 6-5 on aggregate), that’s not going to happen again this year. That’s one thing that Guardiola will be telling the players and the players should know anyway, that that’s never going to happen again. They have got themselves into a brilliant position. A goal away at the Bernabeu and getting a draw in the first leg is exactly what they wanted. Forget about winning it, they would have wanted to win it but, this was a great result, especially coming from behind and so they will take that to Manchester and obviously they will play their own game. They are not going to change their shape for Real. They will play the way they play. They will play a back 4 – 2-3-1. Going forward they will put Stones into midfield, so that they can have a back 3 if you like in Stones and Rodri and Gundogan will be able to go forward. I have seen Manchester City a lot this year and I think they have changed the way they go about playing the game. Even though they still have a lot of possession they are not as possession based as they were. They have an opportunity now to get in behind teams, with passes behind the backs of defenders or getting it wide and getting into the box. They have Haaland and that’s been a bonus for them this year. But having said all of that, it will be the one who makes a mistake and it won’t be a huge mistake. It might be a little slide pass that gets cut out or half a yard out of position or whatever it is and that’s going to turn this game. There are far too many match winners, far too many world class players on the pitch – if you look at the quality – it’s mouth-watering. If you look at the stats – Man City had 6 shots on target and Real only had 3 at home. Now, that’s probably going to change. Man City are going to be tight, because they don’t want to concede early and obviously the same with Real Madrid. That’s what the game will need – a goal early on and it will really take off. We know Real Madrid can come back from adversity. We have seen that in so many games last year and we know that they have the quality to hurt teams and similarly if you look at the way Man City have been playing in the Premier League – wow, it’s going to be a big night.

Real haven’t won at the Etihad in their last 4 visits there. One of City’s big focus areas is ball possession and pressing runs. But Ancelotti’s defense seems good enough to keep them out. Rudiger as expected came in for the suspended Militao. There was no goal for Haaland, which is really an anomaly these days, isn’t it? Going into the second leg, how do you see the Manchester City pressing runs against the Real defense?
You know what – if the pressure was on in the first leg it will be magnified 10 times in the second leg. Both managers are vastly experienced. Both have won the Champions League. Ancelotti has won it more than anybody else. He knows the time of day, Guardiola knows the time of day. He (Ancelotti) has a team of 11 players who he believes in and they are all real quality players. They will negate each other out. Whether it’s Militao in defense or Rudiger keeps his place. What both sides showed – John Stones, he has revolutionised himself. Both teams have quality players. I used to be a centre-half and we would win 1-0 and the centre-forward who had done nothing in the game and then the ball hit him on the side of the head and went in. I would be clearing off the line with my head, getting my nose bashed in and it’s the centre-forward who gets all the glory. Both the keepers are also top class keepers – we saw Courtois in the final last year as well. I think it’s going to be a bit of a war of attrition. They are that good that they will cancel each other out. The players will play with freedom, but with that heavy thing around their necks of – ‘let’s not get beat’. Man City was done in by Real last year, but that will not happen again. As you said – they came back and weathered the storm and that shows a lot of character. You know that all the players on the pitch are going to play at a certain standard – which is a 8 or a 9 or a 10 out of 10. They are not going to be below that. Hopefully he (Ancelotti) plays Camavinga left back again and we can see that pairing of him and Vinicus Jr. and the experience of (Kyle) Walker. This should have been the final, as you said, but it isn’t. It’s the semi-final, Manchester City have got themselves into a great position. They are at home. They have all the memories of last year and I think that should be the edge for them.

The tougher question now, perhaps the toughest question. Your prediction for the final scoreline for this tie and who is going to win?
It’s going to be very tight. But, because they are at home and they have the fans behind them, they have all the memories from last year in their heads about – thou shalt not do this again – I think Manchester City will win 2-1 in the game. 2-1 in the game and obviously 3-2 overall. I just think they (Man City) will have enough. And it will be, as I said – one chance or one effort or one mistake or one misstep and that’s all that that will be.

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(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Switching to the other semi-final – AC Milan was the pick for most experts for this tie, so what Inter Milan did (Inter Milan beat AC Milan 2-0 in the first leg), did surprise most people. This is in fact the first Milan derby in the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in 20 years. The last time this happened, AC Milan had won and they of course went on to win the title, beating Juventus. Paulo Maldini was the man of the match of the final. Many members of those teams were in the stands, watching the final, along with someone like Novak Djokovic. What would your scoreline prediction be for this game, the second leg?
Obviously if any team goes into any game with a 2-0 advantage you would think that they are going to win the game so going by that I would say Inter Milan. But I think AC Milan will win the game, but I think they will win 1-0 and I don’t think they will get through. I think all the damage was done by those two early goals that went in for them (Inter scored 2 goals in the 8th and 11th minutes of the match via Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhiteriyan)

So, essentially Mark Seagraves is picking Manchester City and Inter Milan as the two finalists for this season. And who would he go with as the eventual winner?
Oh well, there’s only one winner there isn’t it? Manchester City, yes, of course. The semi-final unfortunately is the final isn’t it? Real Madrid vs Manchester City – would like to think that that would be the final. And that’s no disrespect to Inter Milan because if you look at their squad and the players that they have available – it’s a fantastic squad as well. But I just think a Man City 11 on form and an Inter Milan 11 on form – there’s only one winner.

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(AFP Photo)

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