Zidane Vs Guardiola in the juiciest tie of last 16
Former three-time consecutive winners of the Champions League Real Madrid are back under the leadership of Zinedine Zidane in a competition he has never been knocked out of. They host the bookies favourite to win the whole shebang in Manchester City in the first leg of the most eye-catching last 16 tie of the lot. Zidane has been open about prioritising La Liga this season and therefore may see the Champions League as secondary to the Galacticos’ desires however writing off tournaments does not seem to be the Real Madrid state of mind and may well just be some clever PR.
City have scored 30 goals in their last 10 Champions League outings; they have also been victorious in eight of their last 10 away trips in all competitions. In six of those 10 matches both teams have scored and there have been over 3.5 match goals. Gabriel Jesus has been a particularly effective player in Europe so far this campaign, notching four in his last five, with them all being on the Sky Blues’ travels. Pep Guardiola’s men’s last six games in the Champions League round of 16 have brought over 2.5 goals.
Now an experienced cog in the machine at 32, the Frenchman has 27 goal involvements in 33 appearances this season and has eight more league goals than any other player. Penalty taker Sergio Ramos has the second most with five. His consistency has improved since being excluded from the France national team following a breakdown in relations with coach Didier Deschamps and will be the focal point of their attack on Wednesday evening. With El Clasico coming on Sunday, Zidane needs his main man to be at his best, to address their recent slide of one win in their last four matches.
Kevin De Bruyne
With the announcement that subject to appeal City are banned from the competition for the next two seasons, they could have even more determination to make this campaign count. On his day De Bruyne is the best creative midfielder on the planet and having proven his fitness this term after a frustrating 2018/19 he has the ability to run the show at the Santiago Bernabeu.
25 goal involvements in 26 games in a failed title push demonstrate that the Belgian has still been operating at a high level despite the 22-point gap behind soon to be Premier League champions Liverpool. He has eight goals and 17 assists domestically however just one assist from four outings in Europe, so comes into this one with a point to prove against other elite midfielders such as Casemiro and serial winner Toni Kroos.
City will turn up and get a valuable away goal in the biggest match of their season so far, showing the rest of the field why they are the competition favourites.