Real Madrid and Manchester City will be hoping to take a step towards the Last Eight stage of the UEFA Champions League when they meet on Wednesday.
The Round of 16 stage of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League will reach its halfway stage with the two matches on Wednesday. The marquee fixture on the day will see record champions Real Madrid and Manchester City lock horns at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Real Madrid reached the Last 16 stage of the UEFA Champions League after finishing second in Group A, five points behind PSG. Los Blancos, though, have enjoyed a fine season, although Zinedine Zidane & co. come into the game on the back of a shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of Levante in La Liga.
Manchester City, on the other hand, were comfortable winners of Group B, finishing seven points ahead of runners-up Atalanta. The 2019-20 season, though, has been a turbulent one for Pep Guardiola’s men, who are set to concede the Premier League title to Liverpool and have also been handed a two-year European ban by UEFA.
Real Madrid were victorious, the last time they clashed with Manchester City in a competitive setting, beating the Citizens 1-0 in the 2015-16 Champions League semi-finals. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Zinedine Zidane has been handed a major blow ahead of his side’s return to Champions League action. Against Manchester City on Wednesday, the Real Madrid manager will be without Eden Hazard, who has injured his ankle once again and is likely to be sidelined for a couple of months at the very least.
Apart from Hazard, Zidane will also miss out on the services of Marco Asensio due to a long-term knee injury. James Rodriguez has rejoined training after recovering from a hip injury, but has not made the 19-man squad to face Manchester City. Rodrygo Goes is omitted from the squad once again.
The key decision for Zidane would be deciding who replaces Hazard. Gareth Bale, who is back in contention after recovering from gastroenteritis, should get the nod ahead of Vinicius Jr. and Lucas Vazquez.
Bale will start on the right flank, while Isco, who was a rare bright spot against Levante, will be deployed on the left wing. Karim Benzema will lead the line for Real Madrid against Manchester City, hoping to be back among the goals.
Casemiro and Toni Kroos are certain starters in midfield, with the former sitting at the base of the three-man unit and looking to keep a check on Kevin De Bruyne’s output. Kroos will be the creative chief for Real Madrid, especially with Luka Modric likely to make way for Federico Valverde, who will be the workhorse in the middle of the park.
At the back, Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos all pick themselves. As for the left-back slot, Marcelo was impressive against Levante, but should make way for Ferland Mendy, with Real Madrid likely to look to shore up the defensive side of things. Thibaut Courtois is an automatic pick in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Isco
Unlike his counterpart in the Real Madrid dugout, Pep Guardiola has been handed a major boost ahead of the trip to the Spanish capital. Against Real Madrid on Wednesday, the Manchester City boss will be able to call upon the services of Raheem Sterling, who has returned from a hamstring injury.
Leroy Sane now remains the only absentee for Manchester City, although the German forward is inching closer to making his return from a long-term knee complaint. Sterling, though, should be named in the starting lineup straightaway and will be deployed on the left flank.
Sergio Aguero will spearhead the Manchester City attack against Real Madrid, while on the right wing, Riyad Mahrez is likely to get the nod over Bernardo Silva. Kevin De Bruyne will once again be the key man in midfield for Manchester City, with David Silva set to provide creative support.
Rodrigo will hold the fort in front of the backline while also looking for scoring opportunities from range. As for defence, the onus will be on Aymeric Laporte to keep a check on Karim Benzema, looking to shut off the threat of the French striker.
Fernandinho is expected to partner Laporte at the heart of the Manchester City defence, with Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy expected to form the full-back pairing. Finally, Ederson will take his place between the sticks.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Laporte, Mendy; De Bruyne, Rodrigo, David Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling
- Manchester City have never won against Real Madrid. The two sides have faced each other four times, each occasion in the Champions League, with City losing their two away games at Santiago Bernabeu and drawing the other two at the Etihad.
- Real Madrid have prevailed in their last four Champions League knockout ties against English opposition: 5-0 on aggregate vs Tottenham (2010-11 quarter-finals), 3-2 vs Manchester United (2012-13 Round of 16), 1-0 vs Manchester City (2015-16 semi-finals), 3-1 vs Liverpool (2017-18 final).
- Manchester City have been knocked out in each of their three previous Champions league two-legged ties against Spanish clubs: 1-4 on aggregate vs Barcelona (2013-14 Round of 16), 1-3 v Barcelona (2014-15 Round of 16), 0-1 vs Real Madrid (2015-16 semi-finals).
- Zinedine Zidane has won all 12 Champions League ties he’s been involved in as Real Madrid manager (9 two-legged ties and 3 finals). He currently holds three Champions League trophies as manager, a joint-record alongside Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti.
- Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has scored 10 goals in his last 13 Champions League appearances. That’s one more goal than in his previous 34 matches in the competition (9). Only Lionel Messi (6) and Cristiano Ronaldo (5) scored more times than Sterling in last season’s knockout stages (4).
Player to Watch
After a fantastic first half of the season, Benzema has gone a bit cold in recent weeks, with goals starting to dry up. The French striker has enjoyed a record-breaking campaign, but with Real Madrid in need of some inspiration, he needs to rise to the occasion again.
Benzema has enjoyed a decent Champions League campaign and with Manchester City likely to afford a few openings, Benzema could be in business. A big game for Benzema, as Real Madrid look to return to winning ways.
Real Madrid 1-0 Manchester City
This is one of those rare matches between two top class teams that could have severe shortage of goalmouth action. Real Madrid, despite the defeat to Levante, have one of the best defences among the Champions League teams and are unlikely to afford Manchester City a lot of chances.
On the opposite end, there could be a few openings, but with goals drying up for Karim Benzema, a profligate evening could be on the cards. However, the hosts should have plenty of chances going there way, one of which ought to be converted. That one opportunity will eventually make the difference, which is why The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-0 win for Zinedine Zidane & co.