Madrid, Spain | XINHUA | Real Madrid look to overturn a 2-1 home defeat from the first leg when they visit Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium on Friday night in the return leg of their last 16 Champions League tie.
When City outplayed Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium at the end of February, Madrid looked to be heading out of the competition, but the suspension of football for three months due to the coronavirus allowed them to regroup and they now go to Manchester as La Liga champions after winning 10 out of 11 games since the return to action.
Zinedine Zidane’s side will travel amidst strict safety precautions due to the coronavirus and will be in a virtual bubble to assure their safety in Manchester. Zidane has left Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez out of his squad, which means Karim Benzema will probably be partnered by Marcos Asensio in attack, while there is a big doubt over whether Vinicius Jr or Eden Hazard, who has struggled with an ankle issue, will play in the third attacking role.
Sergio Ramos is suspended after his late red card in the first leg and the absence of the Madrid captain will be important for his side – so important in fact that he has traveled to add his support from the sidelines.
Eder Militao will cover for Ramos in central defense, but there is no doubt Ramos is a big loss for Madrid, who are likely to also field Raphael Varane, Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal in defense.
Pep Guardiola’s side finished the Premier League in second place and despite some disappointing displays, such as their FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, actually had better results than anyone in the Premier League after the restart, netting 21 goals in their last five league games.
Kun Aguero is likely to miss out again, but Madrid will have to beware of the pace of Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, who caused them big problems in the first leg.