Manchester City will face thirteen-time winners Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.
Pep Guardiola’s reward for topping his group is a date with the most successful side in the competition’s history, who won the title four times in this decade.
However, Real aren’t the same side as the one that beat Liverpool in the 2018 final. Talisman Cristiano Ronaldo has moved on to Juventus and goalkeeper Keylor Navas has been replaced with the decidedly shaky Thibaut Courtois. More over, a long list of key players have been vastly below their best in recent seasons, including midfielders Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Isco.
Karim Benzema has stepped up in the absence of Ronaldo and has already scored sixteen times this season, but other forwards such as Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale have had a difficult 2019. That’s without mentioning their defensive struggles, too – Marcelo and Sergio Ramos are not the imperious figures at the back that they once were.
With that said, though, they are still a very dangerous team littered with big names. City will have to be at their best to progress over two legs, even if drawing Zinedine Zidane’s men isn’t the death sentence it once was. All in all, it’s a meeting I think City have a good chance of progressing from. The away leg at the Santiago Bernabeu will be a challenge, but City have proven their capabilities in tense European atmospheres. In front of the home fans, if Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero bring their A-game, I can see us reaching the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, Liverpool will be facing Atletico Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur take on RB Leipzig and Chelsea play Bayern Munich. One of Atalanta and Valencia is guaranteed to be in the pot for the next round; those two teams will be the goal for each English side.
The first leg of Manchester City vs Real Madrid will take place in the second half of Febuary with the second leg to follow in March, with exact dates to be confirmed soon.
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