City will blow Real away: Rooney predicts
Wayne Rooney, the legendary footballer, has boldly predicted Manchester City's victory over Real Madrid in the Tuesday's Champions League semi-final.
The two heavyweights will square in the first leg of the knockout clash at the Bernabeu Stadium on Tuesday, May 9.
In his latest column for The Times, Rooney, who retired from football at the age of 35 after a successful professional career, has previewed City's game against Real.
"Manchester City will not just beat Real Madrid in their Champions League semi-final — they'll blow them away," the former England international wrote.
"Of course, I may be wrong. There is no side better at disproving arguments against them than Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid in the Champions League. But I just think City are so good that they're on another level," he added.
The former player acknowledges Real Madrid's record, but his clear favorite to go through to the final is City.
"Of course, I could be wrong, but I think City are on another level," he added.
"You can never rule out a team with Real Madrid's experience and history, but I wouldn't bet on them. I think this is City's year.
"From the start of the season I felt this would be the campaign where Pep Guardiola would finally conquer Europe with City and the football his team are playing in recent months and the way they are peaking at the right time has only reaffirmed that thought."
For Rooney, the key factor in this tie is Erling Haaland, who has already broken the Premier League goal-scoring record in his first season.
"A year ago, Real Madrid knocked City out, but now the dynamic is different. City are better defensively and are a more patient team, but the biggest change is Erling Haaland," Rooney explained.
"Last season at the Bernabeu the team had five crazy minutes that lost them the tie. With Haaland it wouldn't have happened.
"Real Madrid could not have played the same way. In both games they had periods where they took the ball away from City and they were able to do that because City had no real counter-attacking threat."
The former United forward wonders how Real Madrid can stop Haaland over the two-legged tie.
With Eder Militao unavailable for Carlo Ancelotti for the first leg through suspension, all signs point to Antonio Rudiger being tasked with dealing with the Norwegian striker.
"He's a great competitor who likes one-on-one play," Rooney said.
"Still, I don't think the German defender can handle Haaland, to be honest.
"With Haaland's speed and power, and his movement in the box, I don't think any center-back in the world can stop him."