Man City’s Mr. Reliable Rodri stands in Real Madrid’s way

If Real Madrid are to exact revenge on Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-finals, they will need to end Rodri’s remarkable run of 64 games unbeaten for club and country.

The 27-year-old last tasted defeat when Spain lost a Euro 2024 qualifier to Scotland on March 28, 2023.

Since then he has scored the winner in the Champions League final, helped City to lift the Premier League, FA Cup, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, as well as guiding his country to Nations League glory.

Regularly hailed as the best midfielder in the world by City boss Pep Guardiola, he is the one man even a side decorated with world stars cannot live without.

The English champions have coped with lengthy injury absences this season for Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne.

However, in all four of City’s defeats in all competitions this season, Rodri was missing through suspension.

Similarly, Spain’s only loss since facing the Scots at Hampden Park a year ago came in a friendly against Colombia last month when he was left on the bench for the full 90 minutes.

Rodri also has good recent memories of the Bernabeu after scoring twice two weeks’ ago in Spain’s 3-3 draw with Brazil.

“Rodri is the best,” said Guardiola after the holding midfielder netted his eighth goal of the season last week against Aston Villa.

“In his position, he is the best so he can do everything. The quality, he reads the game, his mentality, he is always ready.

“He is so good at many things…The presence, the physicality, he is complete.”

Madrid rightly feel they got one over the Premier League’s financial powerhouses by luring Jude Bellingham to the Santiago Bernabeu rather than a return to his homeland last summer.

But City can feel equally smug about snatching the Madrid-born Rodri from under their own noses.

After making his breakthrough at Villarreal, he spent just one season at Atletico Madrid before City splashed out o62 million ($78 million) to trigger his release clause in 2019.

Who wins the head-to-head between Bellingham and Rodri will go a long way towards deciding a third meeting between the Spanish and English giants in the past three seasons.

Two years ago, City saw a two-goal lead slip away in stoppage time at the Bernabeu as Real launched a remarkable fightback on their way to a 14th European Cup.

Guardiola’s men got their revenge 12 months later in another semi-final tie as they thrashed Madrid 4-0 at home in arguably the high point of the former Barcelona boss’ eight years in charge in Manchester.

And Rodri believes having home advantage for the second leg at the Etihad, where City are unbeaten in the Champions League since 2018 could be the deciding factor in the tie.

“We know each other very well. We come from last year’s experience which was very nice for us”, said Rodri after the draw was made.

“We know that it will be very difficult to qualify again but honestly I think the draw was favourable for us in the sense that the return leg is at home.”

That confidence comes from a man who is not used to losing and who City cannot cope without. BSS


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