The Champions League semifinal draw kept apart the two teams from Madrid and also denied Pep Guardiola the opportunity to face his club for next season, Manchester City–at least until a potential final.
When the names were drawn out in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday, it was Manchester City vs. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich vs. Atletico Madrid. Both semifinals will be fascinating, but on the basis of the quarterfinals, you could argue that the two weakest teams still left face each other, as do the two strongest teams.
City knocked out Paris St Germain in the quarter-finals thanks to a goal from Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne which secured a 1-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium and sent the Premier League side through 3-2 on aggregate.
Madrid recovered from a 2-0 first-leg defeat by Wolfsburg to progress to the last four following a hat-trick by former Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
Pellegrini was manager at Real Madrid from 2009 to 2010, during which time the likes of Ronaldo was bought from Manchester United for £80m, along with Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso.
The Chilean, though, was sacked after just one season, and replaced by Jose Mourinho, following early elimination from the Champions League and also losing out on the domestic championship to Barcelona.
“It is a difficult draw,” said Pellegrini. “It doesn’t matter which team we played. The options are the same.
“I always prefer to finish at home but that is not the most important thing.”
City have played Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage of 2012/2013, with the Spanish giants winning 3-2 at home while it finished 1-1 in Manchester.
The other semi-final will see Atletico Madrid, who knocked out Barcelona, take on Bayern Munich, managed by Pep Guardiola in what will be his final season before taking over at City next season.
This is a replay of the 1974 European Cup final, which the Germans won 4-0 following a replay.
These are the two best teams left in the competition, along with the two most tactically interesting coaches. The tie is a hipster’s dream, with Guardiola’s vision of total football facing the immovable object of Diego Simeone’s defensive rock of a side, one that has conceded only 16 goals in 32 La Liga matches all season.
Even more impressive, that has happened in a league that averages more goals per game (2.71) than England (2.62), France (2.49) and Italy (2.53) (although not Germany, which is at 2.8 partly because Bayern and Dortmund have scored so many).
In his seven years as coach, Guardiola has always reached this stage of the competition: in the last two seasons, Spanish sides have been his undoing, Real Madrid in 2014 and Barcelona last year.
This could be even tougher for his side that is brilliant going forward but continues to make mistakes at the back. A 2-2 draw at Benfica in the quarterfinal second leg was enough to progress, but was hardly convincing.
With Philipp Lahm and Franck Ribery showing signs of their best form, Guardiola will need more from Douglas Costa and Thiago Alcantara for a two-legged affair that could turn out to be a classic.
Champions League Semi-Final
Tues, 26 April: Man City v Real Madrid – Buy Champions League Tickets
Wed, 27 April: Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich – Buy Champions League Tickets
Tue, 3 May: Bayern Munich v Atletico Madrid – Buy Champions League Tickets
Wed, 4 May: Real Madrid v Man City – Buy Champions League Tickets