Rugby fanatic - but so much more
Rugby fanatic - but so much more
The Champions League makes its long awaited return this week, and Manchester City welcome Real Madrid for the second leg of their last-16 tie. It seems a long time since the first leg was played in Spain at the end of February. City hold a narrow advantage from that first leg, taking a 2-1 lead back to Manchester with them. Their overall record against Spanish sides is not great, however, and a one-goal lead does not look overly comfortable for Pep Guardiol’s side. You can read our predictions about how the game might turn out here.
Once football resumed action in June, City won nine from 12 games in all competitions. They could not catch Liverpool in the race for the Premier League title, though, and nor could they reach the final of the FA Cup. That means that they will be desperate to hang onto their lead in this tie and reach the last eight of the Champions League, as it is the team’s last chance of silverware this season. They have shown a vulnerability to counter attacks in recent weeks, something that Real will be looking to exploit. They have also kept just two clean sheets in 11 European knockout matches under Guardiola.
For Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid, this game is all about putting right the mistakes that they made in the first leg in February. Los Blancos are the champions of Spain now, and that will give them confidence for the trip to northern England. They took 30 points from 30 once La Liga resumed action after lockdown, something that is a real testament to the team’s winning spirit and conditioning. Zidane has warned his team that after this they will face four finals if they want to win the trophy – stern words that will have galvanised his players.
City hold a 2-1 aggregate lead from this tie’s first leg, which was played back in late February. Isco gave the Spanish side the lead in that game, but a Gabreil Jesus header and a Kevin De Bruyne penalty meant that City took what could be a crucial lead. Real were handed another blow when Sergio Ramos was sent off late on. If you think that De Bruyne can be an important player again, then Betway have odds of 8/1 on him scoring and City winning.
These teams have met on just five previous occasions, with all of those games coming in the Champions League. The first time the sides met was in 2012. In that season’s group stages, Real edged the two games, winning 3-2 in Spain and drawing 1-1 in Manchester. That pattern continued when the teams encountered each other again in 2016. This time the sides clashed at the semi-final stage of the Champions League. The first leg in Manchester was drawn 0-0, before Real won the second leg 1-0.
Real have a pretty strong record away from home against English clubs in Europe. They have won six, drawn four and lost six of their previous games on English soil. Their last away game against an English club was a 3-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the 2017/18 Champions League group stage. That defeat ended a 12-game unbeaten run against English sides. History is against Los Merengues, however, as they have lost the home first leg of a UEFA competition tie on six previous occasions, and gone on to win the tie just once, and that was way back in the 1970/71 European Cup against Wacker Innsbruck.
City do not have a great record against Spanish teams. In two-legged knockout ties, the Citizens have lost four and won just one. They have lost to Barcelona at this stage of the competition twice. Pep Guardiola’s side have won 13 of their last 22 European matches, home or away. They have lost just six of those games. This is their ninth Champions League campaign and the seventh successive time that they have reached the last 16 of the competition.
Our prediction for this game is that it will end in a draw. That means that City will go through on aggregate. We suspect that it will be close, though. Goals might well be on the agenda given how leaky City have looked at times in recent weeks, especially when teams hit them on the break. Los Blancos will not want to repeat the mistakes of the first leg, but we predict that they will not have quite enough to finish City off and the game will end 1-1. Our recommend tip comes from Betway, who are offering a price of 4/1 on the game being a draw where both teams score.