Manchester City face Real Madrid on Wednesday in the Champions League Round of 16 with Pep Guardiola eager to make an impression following the news that the Premier League club are banned from European competitions for the next two seasons.
Sergio Aguero returns to Madrid – Atletico being the team where he made a name for himself – whilst the Argentina international will be hungry to make up for his poor performance against Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday.
Aguero understudy, Gabriel Jesus, was the hero on Saturday, his 80th minute goal guiding Manchester City to a 1-0 win over Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester, who have impressed this season and look increasingly likely to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Manchester City travel to Madrid in full confidence after a tough fixture in the league. Manager Pep Guardiola praising their performance: “It was a good performance. We didn’t give up and that’s an incredibly good sign for us.”
A stat the Manchester City do need to improve on is their conversion on penalty kicks. The Premier League club have missed four spot kicks in a row, whilst Aguero won’t be relinquishing his duties as penalty taker any time soon.
“We have missed four penalties in a row, but maybe we will score a penalty when we need it to win something. The keepers are good too, but the next one we are going to score,” added Guardiola.
But whilst Manchester City clearly have a problem finding the net from the spot, former Leicester City player Riyad Mahrez indicates this perhaps isn’t a bad thing, praising the fighting spirit of his teammates.
“Sometimes it happens,” said Mahrez. “The most important thing is that we won today – even though we missed a penalty. We missed a penalty against Tottenham and we lost.
“But today we showed a great reaction today after the miss so that the last time made us stronger.”
Of course, Manchester City won’t want to be missing any penalties in the Champions League knockout stages, where they face a Real Madrid side who will be without Eden Hazard.
Ahead of their clash against the Spanish giants, Pep Guardiola believes his squad has prepared well for this important fixture, as he looks to bring the Champions League trophy to the Etihad for the first time.
“The preparation after 12 days off was good,” said Guardiola. “We have played two good games and it’s good to prepare for Real Madrid with these good opponents. We are playing the kings of the competition. We will see, we will try to enjoy it and do our game.”
The return of Aymeric Laporte is a welcomed one for Guardiola. The Frenchman’s returned for around an hour in order to build up his fitness whilst his selection for the Real Madrid fixture is possible. At Euro Fantasy League, we said earlier that Manchester City have missed Laporte with the recruitment team at the Premier League club failing to replace Vincent Kompany, who joined boyhood club Anderlecht last summer.
Kompany’s leadership and defensive qualities have been missed this season and whilst Liverpool have been excellent, and deserved Premier League winners – yes, they haven’t won it yet but it’s likely – Manchester City may have challenged Jurgen Klopp’s side for the title if they had a defence, and one that is not injury ridden.
Too often we’ve seen players being played out of position, whilst the arrival of Joao Cancelo hasn’t taken off. It’s even surprising that Guardiola allowed Angelino to join Bundesliga side RB Leipzig on loan – with a view to a permanent transfer, with the Spanish left-back performing exceptionally well under Julian Nagelsmann in Germany.
With Manchester City still on the hunt for three trophies this season – Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Champions League – they’ve done remarkable well considering their injury list.
If they are to beat Madrid at the Bernabeu on Wednesday evening, Manchester City will need Kevin de Bruyne at his very best and since his return from injury, the Belgium international has been excellent and it wouldn’t be far off to say he’s been the best midfielder this season.
Real Madrid vs Manchester City certainly makes for an interesting tie with the Premier League club looking to get their revenge on the Spanish club after being eliminated from the Champions League in the 2015/16 semi-final.
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