Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane will be hoping his squad’s Champions League experience can overturn their 2-1 defeat to Manchester City next week.
An impressive second half showing in the last 16 first leg in Madrid on February 26, with late goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus, handing the advantage to Pep Guardiola’s side.
However, with the bulk of his side having three Champions League winners’ medals in their cabinets, Zidane will be calling on that vital experience to turn the tie on its head.
Experienced Real Madrid v Under Pressure Manchester City
Real Madrid slotted back into domestic action in consistent style, with 10 wins from 11 games enabling Zidane’s side to overhaul Barcelona and secure their first league title since 2017.
The Frenchman has relied on his old guard of Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema during that run, in what he described as his proudest achievement as a manager.
City, on the other hand, have come nowhere near that level of consistency following their comeback in June, with Premier League defeats against Chelsea and Southampton, and an FA Cup exit against Arsenal.
With Liverpool cruising to the league title, pressure has increased on Guardiola to secure the Holy Grail of a Champions League title at the Etihad Stadium.
Following their successful CAS appeal, City will be in next season’s Champions League, but another failure could increase the pressure on the former Barcelona boss.
Real Madrid and Zidane have been their and done it in the Champions League, however the final stages of Europe’s premier competition will be new territory for many of his City stars.
No Aguero…..all eyes on Jesus
City decision to send Sergio Aguero for knee surgery in the final weeks of the extended domestic season means he will miss the visit of Los Blancos.
Guardiola is notoriously cagey about his line up for big games, and he is expected to throw in a wildcard against Zidane, however, Brazilian international Jesus is almost certain to start.
Jesus ended the season strongly, with four Premier League goals in his last five games, but the pressure will be on him to perform against Varane and co.
If Jesus struggles to make inroads, Guardiola may need to rely on the in form De Bruyne to make the crucial difference.
For Real Madrid, Zidane’s main concern is the absence of Ramos, as his first leg red card rules him out.
Eder Militao is likely to step in as cover, but the former Porto man has looked shaky at times during his first season in La Liga.
With the key absence of Ramos, and City also experiencing defensive issues, this game is almost certain to include goals, and if you are looking for a flutter, check out 888 football betting odds for Man City vs Real Madrid.
Guardiola v Zidane
Despite being synonymous with the most successful modern periods of Spain’s two superpowers, Guardiola and Zidane have rarely crossed paths.
Zidane was still completing his coaching badges as Guardiola’s all conquering Barcelona side were sweeping all before them between 2008 and 2012.
Real Madrid’s dismissal of City in the 2015-16 Champions League semi final was one of Manuel Pellegrini’s final acts as manager, with the February clash the first time the two coaches have faced off in opposite dugouts.
In terms of style, Zidane has changed little in how his side sets up, during his second spell in charge.
The experience of Ramos and Varane, alongside the metronomic trio of Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric, and the consistent goal threat of Benzema, continues to be his Plan A.
Zidane will call on his reliable old guard again in this one, with summer signing Eden Hazard yet to really catch fire at the club, following his 2019 move from Chelsea.
Guardiola is weakened by the absence of Aguero, but the strong end of season form of De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden will be heartening for the Catalan coach.
He could name an almost identical line up to their first leg win, with Sterling for Riyad Mahrez a potential change from that famous night in Madrid.
There are so many intriguing match ups in this one, with Sterling v Ferland Mendy and Benzema v Ayermic Laporte both potentially game changing.
However, all eyes will be on Zidane’s midfield unit, and how they cope in containing De Bruyne.
The Belgian international could be the key figure in determining the outcome of this game.
If Real Madrid can keep possession in the centre of the park, and utilise their extensive big game nous, Zidane’s side could power into the last eight.
But if De Bruyne is allowed too much space, he will relish the chance to be the talisman which pushes City on to a first European title since 1970.