Manchester City were held to a goalless draw against Real Madrid in the first of the two-legged Champions League semi-final clash on Tuesday evening and surprisingly seemed content with the result despite Madrid finishing the game without a recognised striker and having played defensively throughout the drab tie.
The Sky Blues are now set for a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu for the second leg, and it will be a gigantic task to get a result in Madrid. Many believe that City will pay the price for not doing more to take a lead in the first leg, and here are five reasons why City are likely to suffer a defeat in the away outing.
1. Ronaldo Will be Back
The biggest factor for the second leg will undoubtedly be the return of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese international has been in outstanding form in all competitions this season and was a big miss in the first meeting with Man City.
It’s no surprise head coach Zinedine Zidane was content to take a goalless draw on the road without his most influential player, but now City will have to keep quiet a man who has bagged 16 Champions League goals this season already.
2. Real Madrid’s Flawless Home Form
Manchester City have definitely underestimated Real Madrid’s threat on home soil. The Sky Blues players all talked up going to Madrid and matching them toe-to-toe, but in reality, they can expect to be under the cosh a lot. Real have won all five of their home games in the Champions League this season, scoring 18 goals in the process.
Shakhtar Donetsk, Paris Saint-Germain, AS Roma and Vfl Wolfsburg have all fallen to Real at the Bernabeu, and Zidane’s men haven’t lost in Europe at home for 13 months. In fact, Los Blancos have lost just once at home since 2011, so Manchester City have a difficult task to come out on top. Seldom do the Spaniards fail to win in their backyard either, so the favourites remain Real as a result.
3. High levels of Fitness
One problem Manchester City will struggle to deal with is the intensity and relentless attacking threat of the Real Madrid side. Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are willing runners either down the outside or cutting inside and committing a defender, and both boast incredible levels of fitness. Real are a much fitter side than City and are expected to boast the lion’s share of possession which is sure to be a draining experience for the visitors.
Real Madrid are a team of athletes, capable of playing at a high intensity from the first minute until the last, and their superior physicality is sure to cause City problems. To wear out their opponents, the home side will keep the pitch as big as possible, spreading the play to the opposing flank to make their opponents run width to width.
4. Benzema Could Expose City’s Soft Centre
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema was carrying a knock in the first leg and was brought off at half-time as a result. He should be in a much better condition in the second leg, and he’ll have been told by Zidane to isolate Manchester City’s centre-backs. Vincent Kompany is far from at his best physically while expected partner Nicolas Otamendi has struggled all season in a City shirt.
As a result, the physicality and powerful running of Karim Benzema might expose Manchester City’s soft centre. He dropped too deep in the first leg, perhaps as he was in no condition to be running at full speed, but that should all change at the Santiago Bernabeu.
5. Real will Pick City off on the Break
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini will need to be wary of Real Madrid’s counter-attacking threat. The Spaniards are one of the best sides on the break due to the speed they move the ball from back to front. Manchester City will be afforded possession at times, and Real will leave their forwards in advanced areas so they can be picked out quickly in the turnover.
The Sky Blues are a side who like to push their fullback ahead of the play to get an overload in the wide areas, but such a style will play into the hands of Los Blancos, who will actively seek such opportunities to clip the wings of the Sky Blues.