Real Madrid will look to overturn a first leg deficit when they take on Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Friday.
After nearly five months of hiatus, UEFA Champions League will return to action this Friday and the headliner of the night will see La Liga champions Real Madrid face off against Manchester City in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie at the Etihad Stadium.
The first leg had seen Manchester City pick up a crucial 2-1 win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne finding the back of the net after Isco had put the hosts in front. The Cityzens head into the game on the back of a strong finish to the Premier League season, beating Norwich City 5-0 on the final day.
Real Madrid were also in fine nick post-lockdown and went on an eleven-game unbeaten run to lift the La Liga title after three years. Their last league game of the campaign saw them being held to a 2-2 draw by minnows Leganes, but Zinedine Zidane’s side have been resilient over the past couple of months and will back themselves to overturn the first leg deficit.
Ahead of this crunch clash coming our way from the Etihad Stadium on Friday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Manchester City do not have any fresh injury concerns heading into the game on Friday night. However, they will once again be without the services of star striker Sergio Aguero while Benjamin Mendy is suspended for the game due to accumulation of yellow cards.
Guardiola fielded an unorthodox lineup in the first leg that saw Kevin De Bruyne operate as a false nine. However, he is expected to revert to his favoured 4-3-3 on Friday night, with Ederson Moraes starting in goal. Kyle Walker is a certainty at right-back while Olesandr Zinchenko should feature on the left in Mendy’s absence.
Aymeric Laporte is another guaranteed presence in the Manchester City defence for the home side. He is likely to be partnered by seasoned campaigner Fernandinho at the heart of the back-line, although youngster Eric Garcia, who is linked with Barcelona, is also an option.
Rodri should slot in as the deepest of the three midfielders, with Ilkay Gundogan providing him support. De Bruyne will occupy the third midfield slot for the hosts and will be the creator-in-chief, as they look to dump Real Madrid out of the competition.
Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling are the obvious options in the wide areas, although the manager could consider Phil Foden, who has impressed every time he has been on the field. Gabriel Jesus should be the man spearheading the Manchester City attack in Aguero’s absence.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling
The big blow for the La Liga champions is that captain and talisman Sergio Ramos is suspended for the game after being sent off in the first leg. He has still travelled to Manchester with the rest of the squad that sees Eden Hazard return after missing the last few league games. But, Gareth Bale has been left behind in Spain by Zidane.
Real Madrid are likely to mirror Manchester City’s 4-3-3 formation on Friday night, with Thibaut Courtois, who won the Zamora Trophy, slotting in between the posts.
In Ramos’s absence, Eder Militao is expected to start at the heart of the Real Madrid defence alongside Raphael Varane. Dani Carvajal is a certainty in the right-back slot, while Ferland Mendy is expected to get the nod over Marcelo at left-back, in order to cope with the threat posed by Riyad Mahrez.
Casemiro is one of the first names on the team sheet for Real Madrid and he will anchor the midfield, looking to curtail the influence of De Bruyne on the night. Toni Kroos will be tasked with providing the creative outlet, while Luka Modric is likely to get the nod over Federico Valverde in the third slot in the centre of the pitch.
The fit-again Hazard should get the nod on the left wing, from where he will look to link up with star striker Karim Benzema and cause problems to the Manchester City back-line. Rodrygo Goes could get the nod on the right over the likes of Vinicius Junior, Isco and Marco Asensio.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Militao, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Hazard
- This is the third Champions League meeting between Manchester City and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium. The previous two encounters have both ended in draws – 1-1 in 2012/13 group stages and 0-0 in 2015/16 semi-final first leg.
- Real Madrid have won five of their 11 Champions League matches in England (D3 L3). In the process, they have beaten four different teams – Manchester United, Leeds United, Liverpool and Tottenham.
- In major UEFA competitions, Manchester City have always progressed from all of their previous seven knockout ties when they have won the first leg away from home.
- Real Madrid are looking to overturn a first leg deficit in a Champions League knockout tie for the first time since the 2015/16 quarter-final, when they beat Wolfsburg 3-2 on aggregate after having lost 2-0 in the first leg.
- Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has won 28 knockout matches in the UEFA Champions League – more than any other manager in the history of the competition.
Player to Watch
It hasn’t been the most memorable of debut seasons in Spain for Eden Hazard, who made the mega-money switch to Real Madrid from Chelsea last summer. Niggling injuries and fitness issues have hampered him from living up to the expectations that were on his shoulders post the transfer.
However, the Belgian international showed glimpses of what he will bring to the table post-lockdown, striking up a brilliant rapport with Karim Benzema, before another injury struck him down. Returning to England for the first time since his high-profile switch, Hazard will be looking to make a solid impression and in the process fire Real Madrid to the quarter-finals.
Manchester City 2-1 Real Madrid
Real Madrid have won ten of their last eleven fixtures (D1) and were quite brilliant in the La Liga title run-in. However, they will be going into the game without Sergio Ramos, who was one of the biggest influences in their lead-up to the league title triumph.
At the same time, Manchester City have been scoring goals for fun since football returned to action, even though they had to make do without Sergio Aguero for a number of matches. The Cityzens’ attacking prowess, coupled with Ramos’s absence could conspire in favour of Pep Guardiola & co. on Friday.
Thus, The Hard Tackle is predicting another 2-1 win for Manchester City which should eliminate Los Blancos from the Champions League.