Mark O’Haire’s Champions League Tips – R. Madrid v Man City
Last weekend’s match in Manchester ended goalless with both sides involved in plenty of shadow boxing at the Etihad.
Real Madrid v Manchester City, Wednesday 4 May 19.45, BT Sport Europe
But on Wednesday night we should expect the gloves to come off and Real Madrid to land a knockout blow on Manchester City at the Bernabeu.
Los Blancos were the main aggressors in the first leg, especially during the second period when Zinedine Zidane’s troops – minus Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema – landed 11 shots and created eight chances after the interval. In contrast, the Citizens managed just one attempt on target in the whole 90 minutes.
City’s best opportunity to take a hold of the tie now looks beyond them and the Premier League’s first Champions League semi-finalist since 2012 have history and stats against them as they bid to outmanoeuvre a Madrid team that’s now churned out 10 successive La Liga victories.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men scarified their Sunday encounter with Southampton, leaving big hitters like Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero out of action, to focus on this contest. But with only 9/29 (31%) of sides to draw 0-0 at home in the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie progressing, it looks a tall order.
If City’s supporters are a glass half full bunch, they’ll point to the fact that since 2001, six semi-final ties have been drawn 0-0 in the first leg with an even 3-3 split between home and away successes in the reverse. And whilst David Silva’s injury absence could be seen as a blow, Yaya Toure is ready to return to the fold.
Arguably Man City’s best performance of the whole campaign came in Spain when the Citizens ripped Sevilla apart. Silva was absent in the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan with Toure allowed to roam thanks to the cover provided by Fernando and Fernandinho. A similar platform could well bear fruit in Madrid.
But City will need to feed Sergio Aguero much more often if they’re to really make a splash here. The outstanding Argentine hasn’t had a single shot on target in the Champions League for seven hours and 12 minutes and is without a goal in the competition since the first leg of their last-16 clash with Dynamo Kyiv.
Premier League teams have lost eight of their last 10 trips to either Real Madrid or Barcelona and Pellegrini’s group have recorded just two Champions League clean sheets in 19 road trips recently – one of which came against Viktoria Plzen. So keeping Real out at the Bernabeu looks unlikely.
This is also Man City’s first real encounter with a European powerhouse this term and a step up from their group phase duels with Juventus; and remember those two fixtures ended in 2-1 and 1-0 defeats. So I’m not too confident the visitors can succeed in Spain this week.
Madrid have W30-D3-L2 in home Champions League ties since 2010/11, racking up a ridiculously good +81 goal difference in those 35 matches.
This season the hosts have a perfect 100% Bernebeu record in this competition, scoring 18 and keeping five clean sheets from five.
Los Blancos have also remained unbeaten in nine (W6-D3-L0) against English opposition and so are quite understandably short-priced favourites to clinch their place in a 14th final of Europe’s premier club competition.
The suggestion is that both Ronaldo and Benzema will play despite not training properly during the last week but with Gareth Bale in outstanding nick – the Welshman scored his 19th La Liga goal on Saturday and his fourth in four games – Madrid’s fearsome front three should be ready to out-shoot City.
Los Blancos should be close to full strength and ready to rumble. I expect this encounter to live up to its billing this time around and I reckon Real will edge the Citizens out despite conceding. But rather than taking a home win alongside Both Teams To Score, I’ll include Over 2.5 Goals instead for a slice of safety.
Man City have seen 14 of their last 20 away trips on the continent feature at least three goals and although Madrid’s clean sheet record at home has improved, they’re still far from having a stable defensive unit to be able to trust.
Real Madrid to win and Over 2.5 Goals (23/20)
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