Which one of these serial trophy-winning managers will be deemed a bald fraud on Twitter at full time? Paddy thinks it will be Zinedine Zidane, but I’m not so sure.
Even before you consider that the first leg took place over five months ago, this tie is uncharted territory for Manchester City.
They have played Champions League second legs at home with a first leg lead to defend before, but only against Dynamo Kiev, Basel and Schalke. When hosting someone half decent for the return match, it has been following a draw (to PSG) or a loss (to Liverpool and Tottenham). But this is an unusual scenario for Real Madrid too.
The last time they were beaten at home in a first leg in this competition was back in 2011, when Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team won 2-0 in the semi-final.
And the general history of ties in this scenario is also against Zinedine Zidane’s boys. Only once in the last 16 seasons has a team been beaten 2-1 at home in the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie and made it through.
Real were on the wrong end of it too – they won 2-1 at Ajax last season before being beaten 4-1 at the Bernabeu.
Los Blancos are in form though.
When the first leg took place, Real were two points behind Barcelona, yet they won their first 10 games following lockdown on their way to clinching the La Liga title.
City won eight of their final 11 league matches following the win over Real, but in that period have lost to Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, with victories over a David Luiz-inflicted Gunners side and a partied-out Liverpool their only wins against big clubs in recent months.
So with Real unbeaten away from home against the top 10 sides in Spain this year, and having won six of their knockout games on the road under Zidane, the price for an away win is too good to turn down.
Real could win the match yet still go out of the competition. To have any chance of going through they will need at least two goals, and to get them they may have to leave themselves a little open for a counter-attack.
Plus with Sergio Ramos suspended, who will provide the grade A shithousery they’ll need to keep the home side at bay?
Both teams have scored in six of Madrid’s seven away matches in the Champions League knockout phase in the last three seasons, and it’s been a similar story for City at home.
Since Pep pitched up, the Citizens have both scored and conceded in four of their five European knockout matches at the Etihad. We could be set for a thriller and Both Teams To Score.
If Real are to have any realistic chance, they are going to need Karim Benzema to deliver. So it’s just as well he’s in superb form, with seven goals and two assists in his previous 10 matches.
But even if the Frenchman can’t get on the score sheet, he should be able to keep Ederson on his toes. Only six players in Europe’s big five leagues had more efforts on target than Benzema did in 2019/20.
He also had two shots on target in seven of Real’s last 10 games, and although Zidane won’t instruct his side to go all out from kick-off, they do need to score at least twice. With that in mind, they will have to take more risks as the match progresses and so they should create some chances for their number nine.
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