Manchester City and Real Madrid face off in the UEFA Champions League as the competition returns after a long hiatus.
Five months after the UEFA Champions League was prematurely and uncertainly called off due to the coronavirus, a return of the most elite club competition in the world sees Manchester City host Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium. The Premier League giants hold a 2-1 lead from the first leg of the round of 16 which they will look to kill off.
Zinedine Zidane’s side on the other hand, as affiliated as they are as kings of Europe, would look to overturn a tie wherein the odds are not in their favour. In a match that will be nothing short of unpredictable and mouth-watering, we take a look at all the things you would like to know ahead of the much anticipated fixture.
HISTORY BETWEEN REAL MADRID AND MANCHESTER CITY:
Real’s last outing against Manchester City across a two-legged tie was in the semi-final stage of 2015/16 when a 1-0 aggregate win, courtesy of Gareth Bale saw them across the line. Back then, Manuel Pellegrini was a manager and the Citizens had a far worse squad.
Apart from the clash between the Sky Blues and the Whites in February, they have met each other on just four other European occasions in the last decade. Real Madrid were unbeaten against City until the latest meeting.
Los Blancos are without a win at the Etihad Stadium on both of their last visits, but to progress to the quarter-finals, they’ll need a win and have to score at least twice. For the Citizens, a draw, win or 1-0 defeat would be enough to go through.
Both managers have most of their players fit for the fixture, but there remain significant absentees for either of them.
Pep Guardiola is unable to call upon Sergio Aguero whose injury rules him out of the fixture. Benjamin Mendy on the other hand is suspended. Leroy Sane having joined Bayern Munich will not feature either, whereas Eric Garcia, whose future may be away from the Etihad Stadium may or may not be a fixture in the squad.
Zinedine Zidane has called up a 24-man squad but will be without Sergio Ramos who is left out thanks to a red card. Mariano Diaz, who recently tested positive for the coronavirus will be unable to feature as well. On the flipside, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez have both been left out entirely from the trip to northern England.
Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane have faced each other just once competitively before, which was indeed in City’s 2-1 win in Spain’s capital.
The former Barcelona manager has reached the pinnacle of Europe with the Catalans having won the Champions League twice. However, in the last nine years, he has not made it past the semis. With the Centurions, the 49-year-old has never crossed the quarter-finals and has only beaten Basel and Schalke in the first knockout round, rather easy opponents one may say.
Real Madrid’s head coach in Zidane on the other hand has won the European Cup thrice as a coach and once as an assistant. Whilst being in the dugout, the Frenchman has never been knocked out of the competition which will be something he hopes for ahead of the clash against Manchester City as well.
Felix Brych, the seasoned Bundesliga and German official will be the whistle-blower for the first European Cup outing since lockdown. The 45-year-old is vastly experienced and among several key fixtures, the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final tops his CV.
Real Madrid have been overseen by Brych on nine occasions and they’ve won six times, drawn twice and lost once. Their defeat however, did come in this very fixture of last season but against Ajax Amsterdam, who thumped them 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Manchester City on the other hand don’t have a great fortune with the German as the match referee. In four clashes which he has officiated involving the Citizens, they have lost thrice and won only one of those, an omen they’d love to erase from memory prior to Friday.
PROGRESS IN RECENT HISTORY:
In each of the last three seasons, Manchester City have not been able to make it past the quarter-finals of the Champions League. During 2016/17, they were knocked out by an inspirational Monaco side while in the subsequent campaigns, they did make it a step ahead only to be shown the exit door by Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
Los Merengues have been crowned champions in two of their last three seasons but were battered by Ajax Amsterdam, 5-3 on aggregate in the 2018/19 edition. However, one would have to go back to 2011 to find for a Champions League round of 16 away leg defeat for Madrid. Not to mention, it was Pep’s Barca who won 2-0 that night.
Who do you think progresses to the next round in a clash between two of Europe’s finest?