Bellingham could help Madrid turn tables on champions Man City


AFP, Madrid :
Jude Bellingham is aiming to give Real Madrid the edge they badly lacked last season in the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Manchester City today, as he continues a remarkable first season in Spain.
England star Bellingham will lead Madrid’s attack alongside Vinicius Junior as the reigning European and Premier League champions visit the Santiago Bernabeu.
Battered and bruised in a 5-1 aggregate thumping by Pep Guardiola’s City at the semi-final stage last year, Real Madrid stumped up 103 million euros ($112 million) to sign the England star from Borussia Dortmund.
Madrid’s initial expectations for the 20-year-old were quickly smashed, as he surpassed them at lightning pace.
Bellingham began in stunning goalscoring form, with 14 strikes in his first 15 matches for the club, breaking the record of 13 held by Madrid greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Alfredo Di Stefano.
Having arrived at the club as a midfielder but mainly deployed in attack by Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, Bellingham quickly established himself as a leader and a fan favourite — “Hey Jude”, they serenade in the capital.
Although inevitably his goal flow has slowed in recent weeks, he remains Madrid’s top scorer and in addition to 20 across 32 appearances in all competitions, he also has provided 10 assists.
Madrid, who also seem poised to capture Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe this summer at the end of his contract, hope Bellingham can help them catch up with City.
Guardiola believes Bellingham’s presence could be crucial for the record 14-time winners.
“(Bellingham’s) impact has been massive,” Guardiola told reporters in March.
“It’s a different team from last season — his influence is obvious, and we have to try to discover what he does to control it.
“Facing Real Madrid is always a tough challenge, nobody can deny it. They are an exceptional club, and in this competition they can control many things with the experience they have in the past.”
Madrid have a track record of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in Europe and did just that against Manchester City in 2022 on the way to glory.