Manchester City are the defending English Premier League Champions, and currently sit top of the table in the EPL this season. Their domestic form has been exemplary. However, their fortunes in the Champions League are dire. City need a victory over Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid on Wednesday, to keep their hopes of advancing to the knockout stage alive.
City currently sit at the bottom of the Group D table, gaining a mere 2 points, while still searching for their first victory in the competition.
This is a huge fixture for Real Madrid as well. Los Blancos are in second place in Group D, one point behind leaders Borussia Dortmund and three points ahead of third place Ajax Amsterdam.
City do have firepower up front, but who see time on the pitch is still a question. Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko share the club lead with 7 goals in all competitions. Dzeko has been the lifesaver for City, scoring in critical times in matches against Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspurs. Tevez is the more consistent striker, but doesn’t have the flair for the dramatic like Dzeko does.
Sergio Aguero has been battling knee issues all season, but could be in the starting eleven for City. Despite his injury woes, Aguero has notched 6 goals in all competitions for City.
Another possibility for City is David Silva in the False 9 slot. Silva has experience in that position for both City and Spain. Silva is a decent bet to make the team sheet, for his knowledge of the Real Madrid side.
There is the possibility of the mercurial Mario Balotelli to see action. Balotelli only has two goals in all competitions, but one of those goals did happen in the Champions League. While Balotelli struggles are well documented, he is poised for a breakthrough performance.
Samir Nasri is the creative force for City. The Frenchman is the talismanic figure for Roberto Mancini’s side, who can find the back of the net as well. Nasri has 3 goals in all competitions for the Sky Blues and will be called upon to heighten the attack.
Yaya Toure has plenty of experience against the opposition. The former Barcelona midfielder tangled with Real Madrid on numerous occasions. His knowledge and history could be very useful for City.
The problematic matchup for City is Gareth Barry at holding midfield. Barry isn’t fleet of foot, and may be asked to matchup against the dynamic Cristiano Ronaldo. Mancini might be better off, starting Javi Garcia instead.
The two certainties in the back are Vincent Kompany in the middle and Pablo Zabaleta at right back. After that it is unclear. The other centre back spot as rotated between Serbian International Matija Nastasic and Joleon Lescott. Left back as alternated between French International Gael Clichy and Serbian Aleksandar Kolarov.
No questions about who starts between the sticks. Joe Hart is considered one of the best in the world, and will be under immense pressure from a swarming Real Madrid attack.
There are many things to be said about Real Madrid. But it all centres around Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar, is always the main focus with Real Madrid, and he shows no signs of slowing down. His 19 goals in all competitions leads the club, including 5 in the Champions League. Ronaldo scored the decisive goal in Madrid’s 3-2 victory over Manchester City on Matchday one. Ronaldo has been nursing an eye injury, and he was pulled early on the weekend. However, Ronaldo is expected to start on Wednesday for Madrid.
The scary part about Real Madrid is the depth that surrounds Ronaldo. Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema are skilled strikers in their own right. While Higuain has 8 goals in all competitions, he has yet to find the back of the net in Europe. By contrast Benzema has 6 goals in all competitions, but has found the back of the net twice for Madrid. Manager Jose Mourinho has an arduous decision to make on who makes the team sheet.
The midfield has plenty of depth as well. Mesut Ozil or Luka Modric could be the masterminds in the middle of the pitch. Angel di Maria or Jose Maria Callejon could start along the right flank. These are problems most managers would love to have, and Mourinho will have more decisions to make.
Xabi Alonso is the rock of the midfield. The former Liverpool man has appeared in all but one match for Real Madrid this season, and will be asked to shut down the likes of Nasri, Silva and Toure. Michael Essien has been ruled out for Madrid in this match due to injury, so expect Sami Khedira to start alongside Alonso.
The middle is the strength of the back four, with Pepe and Sergio Ramos minding the middle. Pepe might be the most underrated centre back in the world, while Ramos does flirt with the attack, but is showing more responsibility with his defensive duties. Right back Alvaro Arbeloa can be an adventure at right back, and is known for some calamitous errors. Fabio Coentrao should get the start at left back.
Iker Casillas has started every match for Madrid this season. The Spanish keeper is looking for his first clean sheet in the Champions League, and would love to record it in this huge fixture.
This one has intrigue. It also has some bad blood. Mourinho is never to shy away from controversy, as he criticized City for performing so poorly in Europe.
“I don’t think it’s normal when you go out in the group phase. I think they will go out, and that will be difficult for them. They can beat us tomorrow, because they have a team to compete against Real Madrid, and they can do the same against Borussia Dortmund – but eight points will not be enough, I think. So City will be the big team out.”
Usually when Mourinho speaks, he does so to inspire his own team. He knows this is a must win for City, and he is telling his player to be prepared for an inspired City side. He also knows that his team, can handle moments like this, and Mourinho is confident that his team can see this one through. I think they can as well. Should be a terrific match. Real Madrid wins 4-2 and City will be out of the Champions League.
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