An unstoppable force meets an immovable object , a ruthlessly free scoring side meets an iron defence.The stage: UEFA Champions League. The 3 time champions of Europe under Zidane, Real Madrid must first undergo the tough test at the Etihad stadium against a manager who has given them difficulties in the past with F.C. Barcelona. Its not a secret that Guardiola is still in love with the Catalan club and has openly labelled Barcelona as the “Best team” in the past on several occasions. For Pep and the Catalonian blood in him , this game is personal , but he must keep his calm as he commands his forces against an ice-in-his-veins cool Zinedine Zidane.
Head to Head
Total Champion League Meetings : 5
City: W1 D2 L2
Madrid: W2 D2 L1
ZINEDINE ZIDANE AWAY FROM THE SANTIAGO BERNEBAU
The second leg of this delicious football tie was initially to be played in Lisbon, but Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola absolutely did not want to give Real Madrid any advantage and urged the UEFA commitee for the match to be played at the Etihad. Thus, Madrid players need to travel to Manchester , adapt to their conditions in these dangerous times of Covid whereas , Manchester city are gonna enjoy the full home benefits . Many reports have claimed about the detection of SARS Cov-19, in an unnamed real Madrid player ( supposedly, Mariano Diaz) and the UK Policy of 14 day quarantine for any travellers from Spain, are already suggestive that Real Madrid would be distracted from the game and Manchester City will truly have a huge competitive home advantage .
Zidane’s away record is much more impressive than his counterpart’s, with the former conceding only 14 times in the entirety of La Liga and keeping 19 clean sheets in the total process of being crowned the Spanish champions. The defence is thus, Solid for the Spanish champions.
PEP GUARDIOLA IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WITH MANCHESTER CITY
The Catalan coach has had a strong backing by the chairman of Manchester city F.C. , but he very well knows that he was brought to the Etihad for the sole purpose of winning the champions league. He has an amazing in form squad this season but the previous horrors of not getting ahead of the Quarter Finals stage of UEFA Champions league might still haunt him, as there has been open criticism and he has been many times unfairly labelled as a fraud by his haters.
This mini tournament however , does provide him an excellent opportunity to silence his haters as The Catalonian arives in Lisbon with a squad boasting a total of 102 goals in the premier league , a free scoring side which terrorises most of the defences in the world . He also has been boosted with the return of Aymeric Laporte in the Centre back position , and has formed an outstanding partnership with Eric Garcia recently. And lastly has a goalkeeper who has won the golden glove in the premier league with 16 clean sheets !
City forwards must be licking their lips while looking at a Ramos free Madrid defence, and Real cannot sit at the back and defend since they are already behind in the eye.
SERGIO RAMOS ABSENCE , GARETH BALE AND ISCO AMONGST REAL MADRID SQUAD
Gareth Bale is a big game player. Yes, he has had differences with his manager and the situation is looking worse than ever for the man from Wales , but, Consider the fact that Bale has never disappointed Zidane on an important European night. He repaid his managers trust with a stunner against Liverpool in Kyiv . You can hate Bale as much as you want but you cannot deny his quality and the fact that he has never disappointed when called on to perform , ESPECIALLY in the Champions league.
Isco on the other hand is a favourite to start the match. The Spaniard has a sort of a sixth sense to be at the right place at the right time and apply an ice cool finish. Did the picture of the goal against city paint in your mind ? On a big night , he was called to perform against a city side and he scored against the run of play. Zidane will trust him again to start for sure.
Asensio also is another option for Zidane in the attack with the Spaniard having recovered from his injury and performing well in the last stages of the La Liga.
AGUERO ABSENCE , STERLING AND KEVIN DE BRUYNE ‘S PURPLE PATCH A WELCOMING NEWS FOR THE ETIHAD
If Zidane has options , then Pep Guardiola possesses an army at his disposal ! If Manchester city are a relentless goal scoring machine , then that machine is powered by Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Srerling. A front three with Gabriel Jesus , Riyad mahrez and Sterling followed by a De Bruyne powered midfield is a frightening prospect for any defence. If the Belgian international gets some space and a few seconds to look up , then consider an assist to be already on the way ! KDB has established himself as the best player for man city by a country mile and the Man City player of the season award winner has a combined 33 goals and assists in the premier league, which is also the highest in the league. Set pieces are gonna be crucial moments especially if there is a clear shot on to goal and the Belgian behind the ball. Scoring a wonderful free kick against Chelsea, there would be very few players one can consider to be more dangerous at free kicks than him at the moment. Lastly, many pundits have claimed Kevin to be the best player in the world at the moment.
Sterling has had a personal best season on the finishing end of the pitch . Netting his 20th goal on the last day, the boy from Jamaica has become a goal thirsty monster ! His finishing is inch perfect , his pace with the ball back to his ever best, the citizens must be expecting a lot from him . Every time he plays, he looks eager to get on that score sheat and has a good partnership with Gabriel Jesus. The duo have been dangerous at times as they carve open the defences of the premier league.
Meanwhile, Sergio Aguero has started hitting the gym as he looks to recover in a race against time to be fit for the champions league. Pep Guardiola has ruled out the possibility of playing Sergio in the match against Madrid , but if city are going to win this, then nobody wants it without an Aguerooooo! moment.
RUTHLESS MANCHESTSER CITY AT THE ETIHAD
The premier league silver medalist’s have lost 9 games in the league this season, which is more than their last two seasons combined together. The mighty standards set by city themselves make their 81 point 102 goal scoring season look a disappointment (and Liverpool’s victory, of course) . Anyone following the premier league will tell you that once city have scored one goal at the Etihad , then its just the beginning of a painful end for the opposition. The newly crowned premier league champions in their very first game experienced a 4-0 loss at this very stadium. They have surely scored many goals in away games , but there is no denying of the ruthless goal scoring mode they put on at the Etihad , making official premier league matches look like training ground in a matter of a few minutes .
Home factor is not exactly a thing for City , the way it is for Liverpool and the club often criticised for having an apparent empty stadium, but the home performances from city in the way they dominate the ball and games in their home is well known by all and especially real Madrid will be aware .
REAL MADRID’S IRON DEFENCE BUT WITHOUT THE MASTER OF THE DARK ARTS
Was the tie over at 2-1? Wrong. The tie was over when Sergio Ramos was sent off. The challenge on Gabriel Jesus which in the eyes of the refree was denying a clear oppertunity for the blues, had no choice but to send the real Madrid skipper off. Real Madrid after the restart have been lead by Ramos both in the offence as well as defence section. He scored a wonderful free kick , is confident to take a shot at goal, and yet be the rock of a defender he is . The main reason why this would be the biggest test for Zidane and Real Madrid is because they will be without their Voice on the pitch , their knight in shining armour. Rafa Varane is more than capable to lead the defence, but the passion and energy that Ramos brings to the game is unmatched ! Real Madrid will be without a legend for sure but so will be city (Aguero) also. The Argentine was the leading scorer for the blues when he got injured and city have had well enough time to cope up in his absence, with Gabriel Jesus finding the net 4 times in the last 7 games , but Madrid will be without Ramos for the first time since the restart . Another advantage for city.
- Strong compact defence which is difficult to break and a lightning quick counter attack which has more often than not resulted in goal .
- City have lost to teams quick on counter attacks on various occasions in the premier league , notably wolves and a more recent example of Southampton, who kept their shape and focus and were quick to break.
- Players playing with pride and passion. Various reasons have been linked as to how the los balancos won the champions league three times in a row.. Our opinion remains simply the fact that each and every player plays with a pride and a respect for the White shirt and history of the Spanish capital which is unmatched by any other club on the planet.
- No matter how poor they play , in the champions league Real Madrid are something else
WEAK LINKS FOR MADRID
- Playing without their skipper and knight in shining armor for the first time since the restart, it should be interesting to see who steps up and takes the responsibility of a steady leader
- Away from home at England with strict laws for Spanish tourists and against a well rested city side who have been focusing on this tie since a long time.
- Mariano Diaz being tested positive for Covid19 and the effect this could have on the squad. It would be intresting to see how UEFA responds to this.
- A well rested, well focused squad playing a big match in their home stadium where they have pushed aside opponents with ease. No major injuries except to Aguero and the entire squad looks ready to perform when called to action.
- Away goal advantage and that too in the form of a 2 goal cushion. We have seen 4 goal advantages being turned around in the Champions League , but theoretically , 2 away goals should be enough for any team, thus the tie is said to be theirs to loose.
- Perfect Farewell to El Mago. When we thought 2020 couldn’t be any worse , David Silva firmly refused to extend his contract with the Etihad and decided to bid adieu to the sky blues. David Silva admitted in an interview , that winning the champions league trophy would be the perfect farewell to an illustrious career
- Absence of the Ramos threat.
WEAK LINKS FOR CITY
- Inconsistency has been a major reason for city to be lacking behind Liverpool, and we are pretty convinced at times that not even Pep Guardiola knows which city side will turn up today, the ruthless one ? Or the error prone one
- Overthinking for big games has been a thing for Guardiola. He has been knocked out of the champions league for that reason since the last three reasons. He needs to stick to the plan and do with city what they have been doing entire season without making a weird change in formation or team selection
- Unfortunately to say, we have never seen city players play because of the love and respect for the club. With great grief, we must say that the incentive appears to be the money which they Ever seen city go down a goal? Yes, for a few minutes the play is exceptional , but over time before the final whistle goes, we get the feeling of a team which has accepted its fate. We want to see the team who fought till the end, till the 93:20 on the final day to win their first title. Defeat is understood but giving up before the final whistle ? NEVER !
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