Football Features

Real Madrid vs Man City: Pep Guardiola can profit from Los Blancos “obsession”

By Harry Edwards

Published: 18:29, 16 December 2019

Manchester City’s quest for Champions League glory sees them take on Real Madrid after the draw for the last-16 was made in Switzerland on Monday.

Pep Guardiola’s side topped their group with relative ease, finishing unbeaten and seven points clear of second-placed Atalanta.

The Citizens had five possible opponents ahead of the draw, including Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund and Lyon. Certainly, there were ties Man City would have fancied more, but Real Madrid were the name to come out of the pot.

Real Madrid meanwhile finished second in Group A behind Paris Saint-Germain, overcoming a slow start in which they picked up one point from their opening two games. Now back in the knockout rounds, Real Madrid are searching for Champions League number 14 and their fifth in seven seasons.

But, for now, hopes of a final appearance must be put aside ahead of a tricky tie for both teams. So, what do you need to know?

When is Real Madrid vs Man City?

First leg: 26 February 2020, Santiago Bernabeu

Second leg: 17 March 2020, Etihad Stadium

What does it mean for Man City’s schedule?

Man City may have the worst schedule surrounding their European games of any Premier League side competing in the knockout stages.

Four days before their first leg in Madrid, Man City must travel to Leicester City in what will certainly still be a top-four clash, given the Foxes’ wonderful campaign so far. Then, the weekend following the first leg, Man City are scheduled to host Arsenal in the Premier League – though that fixture would be replaced by the Carabao Cup final should Guardiola’s side reach it.

Things are only slightly better for the second leg at the Etihad. Man City are at home to Burnley three days before hosting Real Madrid. Then, four days later they travel south to face a Chelsea side who will undoubtedly be fighting for their European future having also taken on Bayern Munich in the week preceding.

Previous meetings: Real Madrid vs Man City

04 May 2016: Real Madrid 1-0 Man City (Champions League)

26 April 2016: Man City 0-0 Real Madrid (Champions League)

21 November 2012: Man City 1-1 Real Madrid (Champions League)

18 September 2012: Real Madrid 3-2 Man City (Champions League)

Aggregate Score: Real Madrid (WDDW) 5-3 Man City (LDDL)

Real Madrid’s strengths and weaknesses

Strengths

Karim Benzema has been in scintillating form this season, continuing to ensure Real Madrid do not miss the goals of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Frenchman has 16 goals in 21 games across all competitions, 12 of which have come in La Liga – no player has more this season. Benzema is joined in attack by the likes of Rodrygo Goes and Isco, with the former finding his feet in the Champions League with four goals.

On top of their strengths in attack, Real Madrid have also been pretty solid defensively. In La Liga, they have conceded 12 goals so far, with only Atletico Madrid having a better defensive record. And, although this hasn’t really carried over to the Champions League just yet, there are positives for Real Madrid to build on.

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Weaknesses

Not so much a weakness that Man City will be able to exploit, but Real Madrid’s obsession with the Champions League could count against them. Between 2016 and 2018 they won the competition three seasons in a row, something no one has managed to do in the Champions League era – Real Madrid are also the only team to retain the trophy.

But last season Real Madrid fell out of the competition at this stage to Ajax. Yes, Ajax were wonderful in their run to the semi-finals, but Real Madrid’s capitulation at the Bernabeu will still be hurting the club. It could cause Real Madrid to be overly motivated for the tie, which might work against them if Guardiola has City fired up from the off.

Key stat: Real Madrid have progressed through 12 of their past 13 knockout ties in the Champions League.

Real Madrid’s reaction to the draw

Real Madrid are the most successful team in European Cup/Champions League history, and their position as an unseeded team was bound to cause problems for one of the group winners.

And, although club director Emilio Butragueno admits Man City are a big side, he also stated that they are Real Madrid and can take on anyone.

“At this point, they are a great opponent, and it will be an exciting tie for the neutrals,” Butragueno said. “We approach [the tie] with enthusiasm, trusting our players. Everyone knows how special this competition is for us and for our fans.

“In front of us stands a rival who will demand the most out of us. They are great opponents and it’s a very exiting tie for football.

“We trust our players, and everyone knows how special this competition is for us. We have an opponent who will ask the best out of us.

“They have invested a lot of money in recent years, but we are Real Madrid and we are in a position to face any team.

“We have a home game first and we will try to get a good result at home and hopefully we will be back in Nyon for the quarterfinal draw.”

Prediction

This is a tough one to call. The 13-time winners vs the team trying to get their first. Zinedine Zidane vs Pep Guardiola. Spain’s big spenders vs England’s.

Guardiola has enjoyed a good record against Real Madrid as a manager, winning nine of the 17 games so far and losing just four. However, three of those have come in his past three games. Guardiola may say he doesn’t pay attention to the records, but the Catalonian will want to come out on top and – if the Premier League title race is over as most believe – Man City’s focus could 100 per cent be on the Champions League. Man City to advance

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