Spanish champions Real Madrid will lock take on the champions of England Manchester City tomorrow in their first Champions League match of the season. Being drawn in the group of death, every point will count for these teams if they wish to finish winners of their group. Therefore, it is expected that both teams will start with their strongest line-ups and give it their best. Join me after the break for some analysis and predictions, but first make sure you read the in depth scouting report written by our very own Dennis J. Seese if you haven't done so already!
Given that Manchester City are a fairly new side in the Champions League, they have never before played Real Madrid. Based on their long history in Europe and being the only team that has won 9 Champions League trophies Los Blancos should be considered favorites. In addition, City have had little experience handling both the domestic and European leagues and were knocked out of the group phase last year while Real Madrid went on to the semi-final only to lose to Bayern Munich in penalty shoot-outs. However, as Jose Mouriho has said before, Manchester City are a team that have been put together to win the Champions League and could prove to be very difficult rivals to meet. However, despite what history might suggest, Real Madrid are not clear favourites as they are not currently playing well and taking on the Premiere League Champions could not have come at a worst time.
Probable Line-ups and Tactics:
Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao, Khedira, Modric, Alonso, Di Maria, Benzema, and Ronaldo.
Since los blancos will be playing at home, Jose Mourinho will most likely choose a fairly offensive line-up to try to take a favourable result to Manchester where he will look to defend. Given that Higuin played the entire game on Saturday and gave a poor display, Karim Benzema is expected to start. Mourinho is most likely going to use a 4-3-3 formation to try to neutralize Manchester City's attack. Ozil, Di Maria, and Modric all played one half on the weekend, so they will all be fresh for this game; however, it is difficult to predict which two of the three will start. Traditionally, Karim Benzema has played better with Ronaldo and Ozil, while Di Maria and Higuin share an Argentinean connection. Therefore, it makes sense to start Ozil with Benzema and make use of the versatile, tactically sound Modric as the third defensive midfielder.
Manchester City: Hart, Maicon, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Toure, Barry, Silva, Nasri, Tevez, and Balotelli
City's formation is expected to shift throughout this game. At times they will be in a 4-4-2 shape to defend, but they will also be fast to shift to a 4-2-3-1 or even a 4-2-2-2 (much like the one Pellegrini used against Barcelona with Villareal). They will look to accomplish this by getting Silva and Nasri to track back. In addition, Maicon is expected to start for his new club and could look to push forward, but he will be under a lot of pressure dealing with Ronaldo. It is no secret that Real Madrid are weak in defending set pieces so Manchester City will look to hurt them aerially from the first minute. Therefore, it is expected that Balotelli will start ahead of Aguero while the ever physical Tevez will put pressure on Pepe.
Players to Watch
Mesut Ozil: the German has been called the "best Number 10 in the world" by his manager, but he will most likely play out of position for long periods of this match. However, his off the ball movements and vision for passes will still make him the biggest threat. In addition, this game will be decided in midfield where both teams will look to keep possession and hurt each other with fast counterattacks and Mesut Ozil's work rate could determine which team has the upper hand.
David Silva: the Spanish international is a very intelligent player who resembles Ozil in his vision and calmness. Coming off a very successful run at Euro 2012, he will be looking to test his skills against one of the best teams in the world. In a way, Silva is the metronome of Manchester City; however, he does not only distribute passes but also makes runs through holes between the defense and midfield opening up space for his teammates.
Real Madrid have only played one good match this season and have only taken 4 points in 4 matches. On the other hand, Manchester city are 4th in the Premier Leauge having earned 8 points in 4 matches. The mental pressure on Los Blancos will be immense coming into this game after what Mourinho said about him having "no team". Real Madrid could therefore come out motivated and ready to fight or they could be too intimidated and scared to take the game to Manchester City. Therefore, this game could play out completely differently depending on which mentality the players have and what Mourinho has done to motivate his players. Based on recent performance, Manchester City are the favourites. Nevertheless, Real Madrid should be able to earn a victory at home like they did against Barcelona when no one thought they could.
Real Madrid 2 – 1 Manchester City
How do you think this game will play out? Share your line-ups and tactics in the comments!
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