After clinching the La Liga trophy last month, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid side have a tougher challenge to come next. With a 2-1 aggregate deficit to overturn in the blue half of Manchester, Los Blancos have a difficult task ahead on Friday.
Can they sting Manchester City here to book their place in the Champions League quarter-finals?
Or will Pep Guardiola’s men have the last laugh – even without top goalscorer Sergio Aguero in tow?
Some much-needed perspective
Manchester City ended their Premier League season with style, smashing nine past Watford and Norwich to end their campaign strong.
By contrast a week earlier, Real Madrid were celebrating only their second domestic title since the 2011-12 campaign.
It came at Barcelona’s expense – who themselves have a tricky Champions League last-16 assignment against Italian side Napoli this week.
They’ll be without influential captain Sergio Ramos through yellow card suspension for their latest assignment.
It means that Raphael Varane, who has been tirelessly linked with a Premier League move in recent years, needs to step up in central defence.
Alongside him will, presumably be, Eder Militao – who has shown his quality and awareness under high-pressure situations this term.
It’ll be interesting to see how the likes of Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez fare in this contest.
Kevin de Bruyne excelled in the first leg, particularly during an action-packed second-half – where super sub Sterling won their penalty.
Gabriel Jesus also impressed at the Bernabeu, while Aguero was a surprise omission from Guardiola’s starting eleven and didn’t feature.
It’s very difficult to split these two sides. With a narrow lead, City are slight favourites to prevail here.
However, we’ve seen multiple examples this summer alone that advantages can easily be dismantled with a fast start.
Neither wants to lose, but if I were predicting this, I’d expect both teams to score at a minimum.
Whether Real are capable of overturning this deficit without Ramos, is perhaps the biggest question of them all.
Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Laporte, Otamendi, Cancelo; de Bruyne, Rodri, D. Silva; Sterling, Jesus, Mahrez.
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Militao, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Isco, Benzema, Hazard.