Manchester City may have removed the dark cloud that had been hanging over the club after the successful CAS appeal against UEFA’s unjustifiable two-year ban, but the success of this elongated season now hinges on City’s fate in Europe’s premier competition.
With a World Cup style, single-legged tournament awaiting the overall winners of Friday fixture, Manchester City are fully aware that if they can avoid defeat, it will definitely be Pep Guardiola’s side on the plane to Portugal to play either Lyon or Juventus in the quarter-final.
We caught up with independent source of all things Los Blancos, RealMadridInfo a few questions ahead of Friday nights huge clash…
Firstly, thank you for joining us! It seems like an age since the first-leg given the pandemic, but what were your thoughts on the game and the performance of Real Madrid?
The first leg left me with mixed feelings. We started really well and gave Manchester City no breathing space in the first half. The game was open in second half and both teams had chances to score.
Although, looking at the goals we conceded, I feel with just a bit more focus, they could have been avoided. Gabriel Jesus’ winning a header against Sergio Ramos is unlikely 9 out of 10 times but Ramos’ positioning favoured Jesus, and the poor tackle by Carvajal resulting in the giving away of a penalty changed the result in five minutes.
One player who has been in amazing form has been Karim Benzema – has this been the Frenchman’s best season in a Real Madrid shirt?
Benzema has been in a great form lately, although this wasn’t the case just after December. He was struggling with goals until the break happened. I think the break has really helped his form and since then he has been carrying the team’s scoring responsibilities very well.
This could arguably be considered his best season since the one under Jose Mourinho back in 2011/12 where he scored 21 league goals, especially if we take into account that this season he had to do it without the help of Real Madrid’s all time top scorer. Do I really need to name him?
How big of a miss will Sergio Ramos be on Friday night, especially given his quality and experience in the Champions League?
What Ramos means to the team in terms of his leadership and clutch moments needs no explanation, even more so in a match like the one at the Etihad. Of the last six matches that Ramos has not played in Europe, Real Madrid have lost five and won just one. Now this is one stat to give Madridistas anxiety and further optimism to the Cityzens.
After beating Ajax 2-1 in first leg, the 4-1 loss in the second leg without the captain shows how important he is to the team in games like these. Hopefully Zidane and team take the Ajax defeat as a lesson and avoid a repeat against City.
Which players will be key to Real Madrid looking to turn around the 2-1 deficit at the Etihad Stadium?
Real Madrid have enough quality to turn around the 2-1 deficit. Benzema and Vinicius could prove to be important, but one unlikely name that I would mention is Carvajal! He has been in top form since returning from the break and Zidane knows how to use his full-backs. He could prove to be decisive with his attacking runs and work rate.
How do you think Zinedine Zidane will approach this game from a tactical point of view and where do you think his side should look to exploit in Pep Guardiola’s team?
Zidane has enough experience to figure out how to approach a big and must win game. The primary goal is to qualify and then follows the performance. Zidane will most likely go with his preferred midfield for big games and try to absorb the pressure and hit City on the break. I think Zidane will look to exploit City’s high backline and Vinicius’ pace will be the key asset.
Since the return of football, Manchester City have been in a hot form, scoring goals for fun despite being without Aguero. Controlling the midfield will therefore be important for Los Blancos, to minimise conceding chances against City’s high flying attackers.
Real Madrid predicted starting XI?
Real Madrid will most likely start with Zidane’s go to line up, which he always uses in big games. Courtois in goal with Carvajal, Varane and Militao for the suspended Ramos. It remains to be seen whether Real Madrid opt for a offensive approach by starting Marcelo or a moderate approach by playing Mendy.
Modric will lead the midfield alongside Casemiro and Kroos with Isco roaming around the pitch in a free role. Finishing off with Vinicius and Benzema as forwards; given Hazard is still doubtful due to his ankle issues.
Expecting both teams to create chances. However, the better defence will take the win. Going for a 1-0 Victory for Real Madrid (2-2 on aggregate).
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