The green shirt that Erling Holland exchanged with Karim Benzema four years ago must be somewhere special. It’s a friendly match, but now more than options, both want to beat the other in the Champions League semi-final clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City (2 pm, live on ESPN).
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And this match is signed with a guaranteed goal. On the one hand, the experience of Benzema, the boss of Real Madrid defending its crown. Holland’s youngsters, on the other hand, are executioners at Manchester City, who are looking for Champions League glory for the first time.
But this is a previous step. They meet in their first semi-final this afternoon, in a rematch of last year’s clash, the Whites made an incredible comeback from the series to reach the final. And always eager to see Guardiola at the Bernabeu.
Fight of the beaten
Holland will have a player he admires and who asked for his shirt four years ago in front of the player. “Look at Karim Benzema at Real Madrid. He is now 34 and has suddenly become an even better player in recent seasons. It’s incredible, I’ve always wanted to do that“said the Norwegian when he signed for City last year. Nine months later, football confronts them.
In 2019, Real Madrid played a friendly against Salzburg in August of that year, where Haaland started his second season with the Austrian side. It was 1-0 thanks to Hazard’s goal from Benzema’s pass. The blonde Holland was the 30th man in the locals and when the players went to the locker room at half-time, he took the opportunity to exchange shirts with the Frenchman.
Holland only played the first half of that friendly. Patson took his place on the pitch in the second half, so the goalscorer was only able to face the Whites for 45 minutes as Salscurbo played another eleven in the second half.
And their stats are in great shape. Benzema has scored against Liverpool in the round of 16 (3), Chelsea in the quarter-finals (1), Holland five against Leipzig and two against Bayern. If that wasn’t enough, they were the top scorers of the year with 24 for City and 21 for Madrid.
With this 2023’s best assistants playing in their side, they are not the only ones standing in front of goal, Vinicius has passed 14 goals compared to Kevin de Bruyne’s 12. We’re talking about deadly twins coming face to face.
The Santiago Bernabeu will enjoy another match that will be remembered in Champions League history. Holland will face them in an official competition for the first time – he only played the first half of a friendly with Salzburg in 2019 – and will be looking to leave his mark on the world to tell the world that he is football’s new star. At home, Real are calling on their old defenders like Benzema, Modric and Kroos and betting on already integrated youngsters like Vinicius and Rodrigo.
It’s the first leg, but much of the history of this fight could be defined at any minute.