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Rodrigo Confident Man City Can Reach Champions League Final

It’s been a near flawless season for Rodrigo.

The pivot in Pep Guardiola’s Treble-chasing side has played 49 matches in all competitions and barely put a foot wrong.

His development since joining Manchester City in the summer of 2019 has been rapid, and he is now widely recognised as one of the world’s finest defensive-midfield players.

Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu is a fitting stage for a man of the Spaniard’s talent and ability.

Real boast one of the best midfields in the game, blending artistry with industry and possessing generational talents in the shape of Croatia’s Luka Modric, whose return to fitness is a boost to the Spanish side, and Germany’s Toni Kroos.

And with French World Cup star Aurelien Tchouameni and Uruguay’s Federico Valverde adding a fresh dynamic to their makeup, it’s a midfield that offers something for everyone.

Rodrigo, however, is not overawed. The man who has arguably been City’s most important player this season will surely feel at home in the company of other world-class midfielders.

“We respect a lot, Real Madrid,” he told journalists at Monday’s pre-match press conference in Madrid.

“They are the king of the competition – but we have weapons, and they know that. We are in a good moment.

“We respect them – and nothing will be decided tomorrow. We have weapons and we trust 100% we are able to qualify [for the final].”

Rodrigo appears relaxed ahead of what some believe is the most important game of City’s season so far. He is aware of the gravity of the first leg but confident in his and his team’s quality.

City are looking to become the first English side to beat Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on more than one occasion, having previously won here in 2020.

Indeed, this is the ninth time the two teams will have met in the Champions League, with both teams having won on three occasions.

It’s a fixture that guarantees goals, too, with the last four UEFA Champions League games between Real Madrid and City yielding 17 goals at an average of 4.3 per match.

The most recent meeting, however, was perhaps the most dramatics.

Real’s 3-1 success at the same stage last season was heart-breaking for City and saw us eliminated 6-5 on aggregate.

Madrid subsequently went on to beat Liverpool 1-0 in the final and claim their 14th European Cup/Champions League.

It was one of the toughest nights in our recent history, but City have gone 10 games unbeaten in this competition since then.

And Rodrigo wants to use the chastening experience as extra motivation on Tuesday.

“I have the philosophy and so do my teammates, that you can learn from past experience,” he said.

“We did a great two games, but we did not go through. But we are here again to fight – with motivation. We have been very, very good this year and we arrive here in the best moment.

“Football is like this sometimes. We did 180 minutes brilliantly but it’s not enough. Sometimes you lose the leg in five minutes. The last minutes in that leg we didn’t handle it in the right way.

“We learn from that. Football is like this. I don’t like to talk much about the past. We changed a lot of things.

“And the way we are coming now is another year, another goal, and we will fight again like last season, but with the hunger of getting revenge.”

City’s superb form was a theme Rodrigo returned to throughout his pre-match press conference.

It’s now 20 matches unbeaten in all competitions for Pep Guardiola’s side, and ten successive Premier League victories.

We sit top of the table with four matches remaining, are in the last four of the Champions League and have booked our place in the FA Cup final on 3 June.

“To be honest the whole year we have been very, very good,” Rodrigo says.

“Maybe the results weren’t but now we are in a moment where we identify exactly what we have to do.

“We are clever, we score when we need to score, and we know big teams like us need to identify the moments we push a bit more. This is why we have won 10 games in a row in the Premier League.

“We have to step forward now – individually and collectively – and that is something we have understood since February, March until now.

“I can talk about my club – the philosophy we have, new players coming in. We try to teach this level of ambition every year, and of hunger.

“When you win, win, win you are closer to winning but you need to go again. We have top-quality players. We have been unbelievable in the last years and this year we will fight for everything.”

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