Real Madrid vs Manchester City
Real Madrid will not be in the best of form heading into their big Champions League round of 16 first leg match against Manchester City. The Spanish giants have stumbled in recent weeks, which has seen them lose their lead atop La Liga.
Meanwhile, City have gotten back to winning ways after back-to-back defeats to Manchester United in the Carabao Cup and Tottenham in the league. And given their current predicament with the upcoming UEFA ban, City will certainly be fired up to make this year’s campaign count.
The Champions League 2020 betting odds have Real as slight underdogs at home, but the 13-time European champions should never be counted out.
Real Madrid’s downward trend
The New Year started out so well for Real. After drawing their final three matches before the winter break, they won their first eight matches of 2020, although one of which was an extra-time win over Atletico in the Spanish Super Cup.
That terrific run extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to an impressive 21 matches (16 wins, five draws).
However, that run finally came to an end after their 3-4 Copa del Rey defeat to Real Sociedad. And after a 1-4 win at Osasuna, they had more setbacks, with a 2-2 home draw against Celta Vigo and a shock 1-0 defeat to Levante this past weekend.
Real’s attack has not been all that fierce all season — they’ve scored just 46 goals in 25 La Liga games — but it has slowed down even more with Karim Benzema’s recent dry spell. The Frenchman has scored just two goals in his last 11 appearances and none in his last four.
Real have received close to nothing this season from big-money signing Eden Hazard, who has been injured for most of the campaign. And after making his return against Celta, Hazard once again suffered a broken ankle so he will be out for the Man City match as well as the Clasico on the weekend.
It will be up to the likes of Isco and Vinicius Junior, Lucas Vazquez, or Rodrygo to provide support up front for Benzema against City.
The defence has by far been Real’s big strength this season. However, they have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last four games, which is somewhat concerning. That backline will need to be at the top of its game to prevent City from stealing a crucial away goal.
City’s big chance
The Premier League is long gone for City. They remain a massive 19 points back of runaway leaders Liverpool, who still have a game in hand.
The Champions League is very clearly the main focus for Pep Guardiola’s side from this point forward, especially with their uncertain future in the competition due to their recent UEFA ban.
City have not been quite the same attacking force in 2020. They’ve scored over two goals just once in their seven league games this year, although that one occasion was in a 1-6 thumping of Aston Villa.
Sergio Aguero had a hat-trick in that Villa win as he scored in his first four matches of 2020. But the Argentine has cooled off in recent weeks. He’s failed to score in each of his last four appearances, his longest goal drought of the season.
Aguero had a chance to end that dry spell in their 0-1 win at Leicester over the weekend, but he failed to convert a penalty, which has been City’s Achilles heel this season. They’ve missed their last four attempts from the spot.
Still, City have so many weapons besides Aguero who can produce some Champions League 2020 highlights. Raheem Sterling, who missed the Leicester match due to injury, should be fit to make the trip to Madrid. Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, and Gabriel Jesus are also capable of being match-winners.
And on the other end, City’s defence has started to improve since the return of Aymeric Laporte. They have kept a clean sheet in all three matches he has played. With Real’s attack not as prolific these days, City will like their chances of limiting the damage at the Bernabeu.
Real Madrid and Manchester City have squared off four times previously. City have yet to win, with Real winning twice and drawing twice.
The two sides last met in the semi-finals of the 2015/16 Champions League. Real just barely got through over two legs after a Fernando own-goal in the second leg. Madrid went on to the final, where they beat Atletico Madrid on penalties.
They also met in the 2012/13 group stage. Real came from behind twice to win 3-2 at home and drew 1-1 in Manchester. Benzema had given Real the lead before Sergio Aguero equalised from the penalty spot.
|Real Madrid vs Manchester City||Under 3.00 Goals @ 1.88|
|February 27, 04:00 (GMT+8)|
The SBOTOP odds for this match have Real priced at 2.77 at home, with Manchester City the favourites at 2.44 to win the first leg in Madrid. Meanwhile, a draw is priced at 3.35.
A draw feels like it’s the most likely result in this match. Madrid will be desperate not to lose and could set up in a more defensive formation to prevent City from grabbing an away goal.
For all of Guardiola’s managerial success, he has straight-up struggled away from home in Europe. His sides have won just six of the last 26 away knockout matches, with 10 draws and 10 losses.
Having said all of that, though, I’m a bit more confident in this being a low-scoring contest that will go under three goals. Real could play a lot more cautiously in the first leg, while City should be able to contain a limited Real attack.
|A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR () BETS ARE WORTH:|
|= €20 (Highly confident)||= €10 (CONFIDENT)||= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)|
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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