Manchester City are on the road to Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 clash at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday (3pm ET). They have very different histories in the competition but both share a strong desire to lift this year’s trophy.
Real Madrid are the most successful team in the history of the European Cup / Champions League, having lifted the trophy on 13 occasions, six more than any other side. Man City had only qualified once before 2011 and are yet to go further than the last four.
It is City who are favorites with the U.S. bookmakers to secure their maiden triumph at around 4/1 (+400), with Real Madrid available at 14/1 to lift the trophy.
While it would be foolish to write Madrid off given that they won the competition three times in a row between 2015-16 and 2017-18, all under current head coach Zinedine Zidane, they do represent slightly less daunting opponents than their reputation suggests.
Ajax saw them off at this exact stage last season, securing their progression with an impressive 4-1 victory at the Bernabeu in the second leg of that encounter. Things have stabilized since Zidane returned to the helm shortly after, but they still sometimes give the impression of being a team constructed of counterbalances to underlying issues.
The shape of Madrid’s attack hasn’t really changed since the time when Cristiano Ronaldo was its centrepiece, with a cross-heavy approach still pervading. They get off a good number of shots during their matches, but the average quality isn’t great. In the league, they are on course for one of their lowest scoring seasons in years.
To make up for it, Madrid have been very solid defensively within the context of La Liga, with young Uruguayan midfielder Federico Valverde filling in some of the gaps left by the other ageing players in that zone. They have, though, occasionally had issues defending transitions, especially against good opponents. Paris Saint-Germain scored five times against them in their pair of meetings during the group stage.
That is something that Man City will be keen to take advantage of on Wednesday, particularly given that a couple of away goals would put them in a very strong position ahead of the second leg back at the Etihad. They are the Premier League’s top scorers, with an average of over 2.5 goals scored per match (compared to Madrid’s 1.84 per match in La Liga), and scored 16 times in six matches to top their Champions League group.
The offensive power of Pep Guardiola’s side is undeniable. In the Premier League, that was also allied to a pretty stingy defensive unit in both of their title-winning campaigns in 2017-18 and 2018-19. That hasn’t been the case this season. City still have the joint fourth-best defensive record in the division, but with 11 matches still to play, they have already conceded more goals than they did in the whole of last season.
Over the last two seasons, City’s Champions League campaigns have ended at the quarter-final stage after defensive collapses against fellow English sides. These included against Liverpool two years ago and Spurs last year. With their defence generally not functioning at its previous level, primarily due to slacker defence in transitional phases, it remains a potentially decisive doubt around Guardiola’s side.
Real Madrid have more to gain from keeping Wednesday’s match pretty tight, given that they will be keen not to concede a quantity of away goals that would leave them chasing the tie in Manchester. Man City, unable to lean on their defence, would probably benefit from a more open game as they have more firepower than their hosts. That is especially the case with former Chelsea forward Eden Hazard out of action for Madrid.
Our Preview’s Real Madrid vs Man City Predictions & Betting Picks Conclusion
Man City have a decent chance of being able to impose their rhythm on the tie, just as Ajax did at the Bernabeu last season. If they do, they can be fancied to come out on top from what would, in those circumstances, be a relatively high-scoring match. These are the Real Madrid vs Man City predictions for this preview:
- In the “match result and over/under 2.5 goals” market with Bovada, bet “Manchester City & over 2.5 goals” @ odds of +240.