18th September 2012
New Champions League campaign returns with the first round serving us some interesting clashes. Even so, the odds are all eyes will be on Santiago Bernabeu, where La Liga champions Real Madrid take on Premier League winners Manchester City. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Having entered the new season with virtually unchanged squad, Real Madrid were expected to hit the ground running early on, but that just did not happen. While doing well to pip Barcelona to the Spanish Super Cup trophy, los Blancos had a dismal start to their league campaign, with some even saying the title race is virtually over after Barcelona created an eight-point advantage at the La Liga summit. It is for that reason that Jose Mourinho’s men will see the Champions League clash against Manchester City as an excellent opportunity to restore some of the lost confidence and finally kick-start their season. There are no doubts Jose Mourinho will be making changes to the starting line-up following the 1-0 defeat to Sevilla, even if that was probably team’s strongest starting 11. Luka Modric, Fabio Coentrao and Karim Benzema are pushing for starting places, while Michael Essien could start at right-back if Alvaro Arbeloa fails to recover from an ankle problem.
The group of death proved to be too difficult for Manchester City last season given they were beaten to the place in the knockout stages by Napoli, but Roberto Mancini’s side have been given a new opportunity to prove they can mix it with the best of them, having been pitted against Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax. After winning the Premier League title the Citizens are seen as favourites to go through alongside Real Madrid, but that won’t mean much unless they can prove their worth on the pitch. Roberto Mancini has reasons to be satisfied with the start of the season seeing that his side picked up 8 points from first 4 Premier League games, while winning the Community Shield trophy at the expense of Chelsea. City are now preparing for their toughest test yet and the good news is Sergio Aguero is back in contention after missing the start of the season through injury. Gareth Barry is also back, but Micah Richards remains long-term casualty.
Real Madrid have yet to hit the ground running this season and their recent showings hint backing los Blancos to win this one would not be the right thing to do. Having said that, I also doubt Manchester City have what it takes to triumph at the Bernabeu after failing to beat Liverpool and Stoke away, so my advice is to bet on draw.
Verdict: Draw (X)
Best Odds: 3/1