Man City have only been competing in the Champions League since 2013/14, but despite reaching the semi-finals just once in the six campaigns during that time, back in 2015/16, they were curiously labelled as favourites for the tournament this time around.
They remain so regardless of showing greater vulnerability this season, with defensive weaknesses laid bare after Vincent Kompany departed and Aymeric Laporte suffered long-term injury.
City will welcome the return of Raheem Stirling whether he starts or just makes the bench, but Laporte will need to be assessed given he’s only featured three times since coming back and failed to last the full 90 in any of them.
Pep Guardiola hooked him just before the hour on Saturday claiming he was struggling with the pace of Leicester’s attacks, and it would be reasonable to assume Real’s frontline can cause similar problems.
Real aren’t quite the same force as they were back when Cristiano Ronaldo was leading the charge, but they remain one of Europe’s elite sides with plenty of talents within the ranks.
They’ve been dealt a blow as Eden Hazard is set for another spell on the sidelines, but he’s been missing for about half of Real’s matches so far this season, and with just one goal and five assists from 15 outings, they’ve coped without him to date and are competing strongly in La Liga.
Real Madrid To Beat Manchester City
Real’s last four outings may have yielded a disappointing W1-D1-L2 record, though Zinedine Zidane has rotated his line-ups and he’ll field his first-choice backline of Mendy, Ramos, Varane and Carvajal here.
The one time all four of those started during this recent blip saw them win 4-1 on the road at mid-table Osasuna, while they’ve won seven of 11 unbeaten games and kept seven clean sheets when they’ve all started this season.
Man City are still struggling to establish themselves on the European stage and their record away to the best teams at this level is atrocious.
Indeed, they’re W1-D1-L10 when facing elite sides they’ve travelled to in the Champions League (Barcelona x3, Bayern x3, Real Madrid x2, Juventus, Liverpool, PSG and a Dortmund side that reached the final in 2012/13).
Of course, City are a better team now than they were in the earlier seasons, but even since 2014/15 they’ve lost six of seven winless games without finding a goal in any of the defeats.
Those away day blues include 4-0 and 3-0 defeats to Barcelona and Liverpool under Guardiola, adding to a series of disappointments on the road for him personally.
The Spaniard has a poor W2-D3-L6 record away in knockout ties since 2014/15, with the two victories coming over Basel and Schalke in fairly straight forward Last 16 ties, while two of the stalemates came against weaker opposition in the shape of Benfica and Shakhtar Donetsk.
It’s not often Los Blancos are at a bigger price than their opponents at the Bernabeu and they look worth backing here.
Real Madrid To Beat Manchester City At 15/8
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