Manchester City are in the midst of their preparations for their Champions League second leg clash with Real Madrid at the Etihad on Friday and have loads going for them ahead of their Champions League tie with Real Madrid.
The Cityzens hold an actual advantage over Los Blancos – leading 2-1 that means any draw or a 1-0 loss will still take them through – and are in excellent form as they have six wins with five clean sheets and an average of four goals scored per game in the six games played at the Etihad since the resumption of football.
History also favors the Etihad side as they have progressed in all seven Champions League matches where they have won the first leg away from home, while Real Madrid display a more lackluster record of coming back after losing the first leg. Zinedine Zidane himself also has the dubious distinction of having overseen just two wins from six games with English teams in the competition.
In the case of Guardiola, City have one of the best ever coaches in the game, one with considerably more knowledge of, and greater motivation for, beating Real than pretty much anyone else.
However much luck is needed to win the Champions League, a trophyless league campaign often provides the motivation needed. The last time Real Madrid won the tournament they finished 17 points and two positions behind Barcelona in La Liga. Man City have just lost the Premier League title to Liverpool, besides losing out in the FA Cup, and are hence on the prowl baying for blood.
This has been the most extraordinary of years, however, and a consequence of football restarting was the decision that the leagues would not run concurrently with European competitions. Instead of facing a Madrid side that were in the middle of a title race, both teams will have had at least a fortnight without a game to prepare.
Not only do Zidane’s side not have to deal with simultaneous challenges but they are also on a high from winning their league – something that looked pretty unlikely around the time of the first leg. This could mitigate against their favor as the euphoria of the win could diminish the urgency and spirit to continue their winning sstreak. Or not.
City will still have plenty in their favour on Friday – the scoreline at kick-off being, again, a pretty big deal.
Regardless, this should be a really high-powered, full adrenaline flowing Champions League square off between two of the greatest competitors in world football.