Manchester City play their maiden semifinal second leg Champions League tie at the Bernabeau with chance to make it a historical delight.
Historical patterns :
In my leg one preview, I had pointed how Manchester clubs and Real Madrid have history of 3.5 goals per game amongst them.
In same vein I expected Manuel Pellegrini’s team to get a slender home win in the first leg, especially without Ronaldo playing.
But it finished a snore fest 0-0. More worrying for City was Silva limping out in the match and the fact that they barely had one shot on target.
However in historic first semifinal appearance they wanted to keep their chances alive as long as possible. They did that and now have little to lose. Even the markets put them only 8% chance for the title.
Also 0-0 in modern football isn’t a bad result in Champions League two legged knockout ties. Big clubs these days often score in away ties, unlike in the 80s-90s – where away teams would mainly defend, reason why the away goals rule came into force.
City can now advance with two results – a scored draw or a win. A 0-0 draw also keeps them in play. Which means as long as they avoid a loss, they are in the tie.
On the other hand Real Madrid have to either keep at 0-0 or win. Effectively, they can’t concede goals. For every goal they concede, they need to score one more. On top, the pressure and expectations is on them. With or without Ronaldo, they are expected to win this leg, and the tie.
Betting Odds :
I did an average of top betting sites and this is what the markets say
Real Madrid win – 74%
Draw – 17%
Manchester City win – 9%
Key Personnel :
However these odds will drastically change if names of Ronaldo and Karim Benzema don’t make to the starting XI. At the moment the markets expect Ronaldo to start. I too.
Irrespective of all feeds coming from Madrid – about his participation being ‘difficult’, the medical team under fire and help seeked from Barcelona doctors, I see this as mind games. Cristiano will very likely start.
Key playmaker David Silva won’t surely start for Manchester City. Yaya Toure is a doubt and either ways his performances lately aren’t inspiring. I suspect Pellegrini will start with Iheanacho and Aguero and take the game to the opposition. Either ways, the likes of Toure, Navas, Iheanacho or Sterling starting won’t disturb the odds.
Likely lineups :
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Modrić, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Jesé, Ronaldo (Lucas Vasquez)
Manchester City: Hart; Sagna, Otamendi, Kompany, Clichy; Fernando, Fernandinho; Navas, Touré (Iheanacho), De Bruyne; Agüero.
Both teams rested key players during the weekend to achieve contrasting results. City were thrashed by mid table Southampton 2-4, in a game which exposed the overpaid City players resolve and commitment. The sky blues season domestically has been a major flop; mainly as their players have chosen which days to perform and which days not.
Contrastingly, a Gareth Bale inspired Real Madrid battled out a 1-0 win over mid-table Real Sociedad to keep their La Liga title hopes alive. A fair statistic to show commitment of both teams would be Madrid made double the fouls and tackles, than City, over the weekend.
Real Madrid are on a seven game unbeaten streak with wins over Barcelona & Sevilla in the past two months. From a seemingly hopeless season, not too long ago, the Galacticos are well in line for the double.
City, meanwhile, have history, pride and passion to play for. The days they decide to play, they look the part. Their 4-2 win over Paris St Germain was a top performance over both legs.
Manuel Pellegrini lost his maiden Champions League Semifinal tie, to Arsenal narrowly in 2004, as manager of Villarreal. He has points to prove to Manchester City board and to his pride.
I suspect City will come out attacking, as they did versus PSG, with a mentality get one away goal, or two. This won’t be an easy game for Madrid.
If Ronaldo is fit, a pulsating 3-2 to Madrid. A game which both sides of fans will remember for long.
If Ronaldo isn’t fit, then City to edge out a low scoring scrappy draw (1-1) and proceed for their first Champions League final to play either Bayern Munich or Atletico Madrid.