MANCHESTER, ETIHAD STADIUM -- Not an easy game for Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo had to miss it after failing a fitness test during Monday's training session and Karim Benzema wasn't any healthier and had to leave the game at half-time. Real hould have them both ready for next Wednesday's return leg, but they will need a much better performance from their midfielders if they want to succeed.
- Zidane shouldn't have started Benzema. It's clear that big players want to play big games even when they are not 100% ready to go, but the Frenchman should have stayed on the bench to begin with. Zidane decided to replace him with Jesé after the half-time whistle hoping to get some chances off counterattacks, but possession-oriented midfielders like James or Isco were needed more desperately so that Madrid could keep the ball and control the match.
- The midfielders need to step their game up. Fernando and Fernandinho simply dismantled every effort by Real Madrid, with Modric and Kroos helplessly struggling with the ball on their feet. Casemiro helped the defenders but his offensive contribution must improve, especially considering that he could be seen doing precisely that when he was with FC Porto last season.
- The last 20 minutes show the way to go. Madrid improved late in the game and had a couple of chances to break free through Toni Kroos and Gareth Bale. They have to replicate these last 20 minutes on the return leg if they want to reach the Champion League Final.