Verdict: Home win
More excitement is expected at Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night as Real Madrid get ready to play host to Manchester City in the return leg of the Champions League semi-final. Both rivals head into the rematch feeling great pressure to make one further step towards the chance to fight for what could be their only major trophy this season.
Los Blancos continued to push for La Liga title without Cristiano Ronaldo, who was absent in the Tuesday’s match at Etihad as well. Gareth Bale stepped up to the plate to keep Real Madrid’s title charge alive with the only goal in a crucial win over Real Sociedad at the weekend. With their tenth La Liga win in a row, Zinedine Zidane’s men are awaiting the game against Citizens in the positive atmosphere despite some selection issues that are bothering French manager. Question remains if Gareth Bale would be the only available member of the BBC trio at Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, since both Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema struggle with fitness. Portuguese start Ronaldo has returned to training on Monday and is expected to be available for selection. Ronaldo is the competition’s top scorer with 93 goals and he is hopeful that a hamstring strain would be shrugged off in time for the Citizens match. On the positive note, Zidane managed to rest Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal and Pepe for the match at Anoeta as he focuses his entire attention on making it into the Champions League finals which will see Real Madrid fight for their 11th European title in history.
While Cristiano Ronaldo completed a full training session at the beginning of the week, Karim Benzema could only do running work and is a huge doubt for the match with his hamstring problem.
Brazilian midfielder Casemiro has picked up a knock in Saturday’s league win, but he is expected to be in line to make an appearance while Kroos, Marcelo, Carvajal and Pepe are all returning to the fold.
Manuel Pellegrini is feeling the weight as his team’s European future remains in serious doubt. And while the goalless draw from the first match versus Real Madrid did not offer any answers towards the Citizen’s chances to make it to the Champions League, Manchester City’s hopes of finishing the season among the top four teams received a serious dent. Pellegrini’s men were beaten 4-2 at the hands of Southampton as the Chilean manager decided to make none less than eight changes to the line-up. The only positive aspect of the Sunday’s loss in Kelechi Iheanacho’s continued spell of fantastic form. The 19-year-old Nigeria striker has bagged a brace against Southampton to make it four goals in his last two starts. The youngster has become the emerging star that is expected to be given plenty of more playing time by Pep Guardiola. Manchester City have already made a significant result in Europe, but having dispatched Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round, Citizens are eager to make another step forward as Pellegrini’s charges hope to keep the English flag flying high in the final match of the competition.
David Silva has been ruled out of the second leg with his hamstring injury, which could be a big problem for the Citizens.
Raheem Sterling is one of the main questions as the big money investment from Liverpooled has been overlooked far too many times for in the season. On the positive note, Manchester City could be boosted by the return of influential midfielder Yaya Toure.
Key Factors to Consider
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 16 Champions League goals this season
- Los Blancos have notched 10 La Liga wins in a row
- Zidane’s men have won 9 of 10 home fixtures in all competitions
- Manchester City failed to win 3 of their last 5 matches
- Kelechi Iheanacho scored 4 goals in his last two starts for Man City
Real Madrid seem to have an upper hand in the return leg at Santiago Bernabeu. In addition to home ground advantage, Los Blancos are the more experienced side in the European competition and know how to deal with all the pressure involved in the elite club competition.
Verdict: Home win
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