Man City’s thrashing of Watford just the tonic ahead of Real Madrid tie – Rodri

Gabriel Jesus claimed the first of his four goals in the fourth minute.

Manchester City’s Rodri is ready for the challenge of Real Madrid (Mike Egerton/PA)

By Andy Hampson, PA

Midfielder Rodri believes Manchester City’s thrashing of Watford was just the tonic needed heading into this week’s clash with Real Madrid.

City looked heavy-legged against Brighton in midweek after a draining previous fortnight in which they played both Atletico Madrid and Liverpool twice.

They were far more sprightly as they crushed the Hornets 5-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, hardly looking back after Gabriel Jesus claimed the first of his four goals in the fourth minute.

Rodri (left) hit a stunning goal against Watford (Martin Rickett/PA)

Rodri, who hit the other goal in stunning fashion, feels the Premier League leaders are now in good shape for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Spanish giants Real on Tuesday.

“You have these games – Liverpool-Atletico-Liverpool-Atletico – and it is so demanding,” said the Spain international. “At the end of this period you are a little bit… ‘phew’. You need to breathe a little bit.

“We now face Real Madrid in the best moment and we’ll see.

“We know exactly how they play. This is a team that, of course, have the experience of the competition and wait for their opportunity.

“They are not consistent over 90 minutes but are always dangerous. We have to be aware.

The prolific Karim Benzema will be a strong threat to City (John Walton/PA)

“The first game is here at home so we have to do our best but – the way I saw our team in this match – I’m not worried.

“Maybe after the FA Cup match (against Liverpool) I felt the team were a bit weak and tired, but not in this game. It makes me hope the team is going to be good.”

One player certain to test City is Real’s prolific forward Karim Benzema, who has netted 39 goals in 40 matches this season including four across both legs of the quarter-final victory over Chelsea.

Rodri said: “He is in the best moment of his career. He understands every part of the game and is scoring goals, important goals.

“I would say, ‘f****** hell’, this guy is amazing in every game, and he not only scores goals but makes his team feel comfortable with the ball.

Pep Guardiola wants fans to make their presence felt (Martin Rickett/PA)

“He is a great player but it is not only him. We have to be aware of all of Real Madrid.”

City manager Pep Guardiola has called on fans to give the players an extra push in the first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola said: “I ask our people, our fans, if they have nothing more interesting to do – come on, take a train, a bus, a car and come and be with us.

“It is special. For this club it is only the third time in the semi-final of the Champions League against a team who have a lot of Champions League trophies in the cabinet.

“It has to be a special night for us, give everything we have in our soul and enjoy it.”

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Jesus also brushed off questions about his future to turn his full focus to the game. The Brazil striker had been the subject of speculation following strong reports linking City with a move for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland.

Jesus said: “This is no time to think about this.

“Now is the best moment of the season. I want to enjoy, to keep focused on my team. We have the tough, tough game on Tuesday against Real Madrid and that is my focus.”

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