The biggest game of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 sees Real Madrid take on Manchester City. In this battle of heavyweights, one side boasts having won the most Champions League title and another yet to even win one.
Moreover, it’s Pep Guardiola facing his former foes. He tormented them during his days as Barcelona boss. But this Manchester City ain’t no Barcelona. It’ll be a colossal task for them to oust the high-flying La Liga leaders.
Zizou vs Pep proves to be a feisty tactical battle. With both teams consisted of world-class players more than capable of winning games by themselves, a high-octane encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu should set this tie up pretty nicely.
Real Madrid Predicted XI
Courtois, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy, Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Valverde, Hazard, Benzema
The good thing for Madrid is that Eden Hazard is BACK! He should feature against a side he tormented many times in England. James Rodriguez, Mariano Diaz & Marco Asensio are on the treatment table and unavailable.
Manchester City Predicted XI
Ederson, Walker, Fernandinho, Laporte, Zinchenko, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Jesus, Aguero
The bad thing for City is that Raheem Sterling is probably out after suffering an injury against Tottenham Hotspur. Leroy Sane is training again but unlikely to feature, while Benjamin Mendy recovers from a knock.
Real Madrid vs Manchester City Preview
When two of the very best managers around face-off, there are guaranteed to be fireworks. Los Blancos have regained their swagger under Zinedine Zidane, who’s turned them into a difficult side to break down & super effective on the break.
On the flip side, City can’t stop conceding goals. Their defence has been their Achilles heel this season. Unless Guardiola can conjure up something to fix his defensive leak, it’ll be impossible for City to gain the upper hand.
If Sterling doesn’t make it, expect both Gabriel Jesus & Sergio Aguero to feature. The two strikers possess a cunning goal-scoring eye but must finish off chances to put City in the driving seat.
Kevin de Bruyne is wrecking apart whoever he faces in what’s been an exceptional season, as he’ll be key to finding the gaps in Madrid’s defence & churn up definitive chances with his majestic delivery.
Riyad Mahrez has the opportunity to prove himself at the highest level & aims to run rings around the opposition defenders with his tricky movement & creativity. But Ilkay Gundogan & Rodri have big responsibilities at making things tick, get the ball into the final third & contribute defensively.
Los Blancos won’t’ stand down at their own yard. Expect Zidane to play a crowded midfield line involving Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Casemiro & Fede Valverde to choke out the visitors. Zizou knows all too well how Guardiola loves dominating games, but he also knows City players tend to disintegrate under adversity.
Madrid’s world-class midfielders will press high up, make crunching challenges to derail their confidence. They’ll be all too happy to allow City to have all the possession, win back the ball in key areas & then threaten with their devastating counter-attacks.
The La Liga leaders have enough firepower upfront to finish off chances. Karim Benzema has scored 18 (in all competitions) so far and doesn’t intend on slowing down. Despite missing a lot of action this season, Eden Hazard’s ability to influence a game remains unquestioned.
He’s caused City a lot of problems when playing for Chelsea & will be primed to prove his worth in this heavyweight encounter. Hazard’s impeccable ability to dribble past defenders, score stunners & open things up should help fuel Madrid’s tenacity going forward.
That being said, the game should be decided on which side is defensively stronger enough to hold out the other. Both teams possess devastating attacking arsenal who can carve apart any backline on their given day.
But in this regard, Madrid’s defensive record is exceptional thanks to their back four’s brilliance. Los Blancos have conceded just 14 (!!) goals in 23 league games, while the Citizens have conceded double that in 25 Premier League matches.
Thibaut Courtois has rediscovered his shot-stopping brilliance in goal, having kept nine clean-sheets in La Liga this season. He’s guaranteed to frustrate City with his clutch stops. Ederson’s also been pretty good by making clutch saves to bail them out of trouble.
But City’s backline is just too unreliable, so it’d be unfair to pour all trust on the Brazilian. Unless Fernandinho forms an impenetrable partnership with Aymeric Laporte and wing-backs Kyle Walker, Oleksandr Zinchenko maintain utmost concentration to counter Madrid’s attacks, they WILL CONCEDE!
The Citizens are highly unlikely to be defensively perfect, so they must be clinical enough to salvage a respectable result. This is going to be a battle of mental fortitude. The side which ends up thriving under the intense pressure should end up gaining the upper-hand at the Bernabeu.
I can’t see City winning this one knowing Madrid’s current form. I can’t even see them scoring, especially if Sterling doesn’t make it. I see Real winning this 2-0, heading into the Etihad Stadium with a comfortable lead.
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