Taking a 0-0 scoreline to the Santiago Bernabeu holds no fear for Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who questioned Real Madrid’s ambition in the Champions League semi-final first-leg stalemate at the Etihad Stadium.
City, playing at this stage of the competition for the first time, unsettled the 10-time winners during the opening stages by pressing relentlessly and keeping their play at a high tempo.
But the loss of playmaker David Silva to a hamstring problem upset their rhythm and the hosts scarcely worked Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas until a swerving free-kick from Kevin De Bruyne in stoppage time.
By contrast, England number one Joe Hart made important close-range blocks to deny Casemiro and Pepe as a largely impressive City defensive showing creaked under late pressure – the impact on Madrid of losing Cristiano Ronaldo to injury on the eve of the match appearing to belatedly subside.
Pellegrini felt his former employers were more than happy with the draw and pointed towards impressive showings on the road against Sevilla, Dynamo Kiev and Paris Saint-Germain as reasons for optimism ahead of next week’s return clash.
“I don’t think they are favourites,” Pellegrini told a post-match news conference, despite Madrid’s cumulative home score in the Champions League this term standing at 18-0.
“As I said before this game, we have the same [chance] as Real Madrid. They have the advantage of the first game away so they tried to manage the tempo of the game.
“We’ve had results playing away against PSG, Dynamo Kiev and Sevilla, so we are not afraid to go to the Bernabeu and we will see which team will play better in that game.”
In Manchester, Pellegrini favoured his own team’s efforts although he conceded Silva limping off five minutes before half-time badly hindered their creativity.
“I think [Madrid] came with a result in mind. Normally when you go away for the first 90 minutes you’ve got to be a bit more speculative,” he said.
“We went out to try and win the game, attacked Madrid in their half but we couldn’t create clear chances.
“In terms of intent I think it was us who tried to win the game. Madrid also had those good chances from corners but Joe Hart kept them out really well.
“We were trying to attack but it you keep giving the ball away Madrid will grow in confidence. I think it down to was losing David rather than any tactical system.”