Tuesday 26th April. 7:45PM. BT Sport Europe
Just four clubs remain in the hunt for club football’s ultimate prize. Just 180 minutes stand in the way of those teams and a place in next month’s final, and the action gets underway on Tuesday night with a fascinating clash at the Etihad.
Manchester City have arrived at this competition for the first time ever and will be determined to end the Manuel Pellegrini era with the ultimate high. However, they face their hardest challenge so far as they take on the competition’s most successful club in history.
Will it be another magical night in Manchester, or will Real’s experience shine through? There’s only one way to find out.
Manchester City Have Nothing To Lose
Despite picking up a cup, City’s domestic campaign has fallen flat. In Europe, though, it has been a season of immense progress and regardless of what happens from now on, Pellegrini can take huge pride in knowing he’s helped the team to the next step of its ultimate ambition. But now they’ve reached this stage, they won’t want to fall away without a fight.
The home leg was always going to be crucial for the Premier League side’s chances, but they’ll see issues in the Blancos camp as a fantastic opportunity to establish an advantage ahead next week’s return trip to the Spanish capital.
City have found form at just the right time and enter this one with a seven match unbeaten streak behind them. Moreover, the confidence of beating PSG is boosted further by the fact that the hosts now have most players, including skipper Vincent Kompany back in action.
This won’t be an easy task for the hosts, but if they can find the trio of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero on a regular basis, the Blue Moon might just be rising in Milan on May 28th.
Zidane Sweating Over Major Stars
Like their hosts, the mighty Real Madrid have suffered a turbulent campaign at times, facing expulsion from the Copa del Rey, a disastrous start under Rafa Benitez and a number of other minor issues too. However, they enter the business end with hopes of a double still alive, and can give their hopes of lifting an 11th European Cup a serious boost with a big performance in Manchester.
The Blancos can be vulnerable, as Wolfsburg showed in the quarter-finals. On the other hand, we also witnessed an incredible turnaround that this attacking unit is capable of producing. Unfortunately for Zinedine Zidane, though, his formidable trio has been seriously hit. Karim Benzema is almost certainly out while doubts over Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness will also have the Spaniards worrying.
With the likes of Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez, the Liga giants still boast plenty of quality. However, the inclusion of their 16-goal superstar would clearly boost their chances, not least because it will make a psychological impact on City too.
Real Madrid won’t want to make the same mistakes they made in Germany, and will want a precious away goal at the very least. On paper, it has the potential to be a classic. Let’s just hope it lives up to the billing.
Manchester City v Real Madrid Betting
Over two legs, Real Madrid are firm favourites to progress, but the bookies feel this first leg is far tougher to predict. Nevertheless, the visitors are slight favourites at 11/8 with Bet365 while Manchester City can be backed 15/8. The draw is available at 12/5.
For the hosts, it feels imperative that they take a lead to the Bernabeu. Meanwhile, the visitors will want to score at least one away goal to make things a little easier back in Madrid.
The start could potentially be a little cagey, but one goal could easily kick this one into life and we think both teams will score.
As far as a first goalscorer is concerned, we have to fancy the competition’s leading marksman. Ronaldo should return to action after missing out at the weekend; even at 80% fitness, he’d still be the most likely scorer.
We’d advise waiting for team confirmation. But with William Hill offering refunds on the second goalscorer, Ronaldo has to be worth a punt.