Wouldn’t it be something if this was the year Manchester City finally won the Champions League? UEFA levied the club with a massive fine and a two-year ban from the competition, dealing a huge blow to Sheikh Mansour’s hopes of winning Europe’s most prestigious competition. Manchester City have been one of the favorites to win it all per the Champions League betting odds for each of the last three years, and they are favored to get past the most decorated team in the history of the competition when they face Real Madrid in the first leg of their Round of 16 clash on Wednesday.
Don't miss the Champions League action from the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain at 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, February 26, 2020. Catch every moment of the match live on TNT.
Zinedine Zidane has improved Real Madrid significantly since coming back to the Bernabeu. The storied club had its worst season of the decade last year, but Real Madrid are atop the table in La Liga with just one loss despite not having the same talent as past squads. Los Blancos easily made it to the knockout rounds of the Champions League, but they failed to get the better of Paris Saint-Germain in both of their matches, leading to a more difficult draw in the knockout rounds.
Manchester City had one of the easiest draws of any team in the Group Stage, and the Citizens won the group by seven points. They largely cruised after winning their first three matches, so they are relatively untested in European competition this year. However, City have fallen flat in the Premier League, as Aymeric Laporte’s injury exposed this back line. Laporte is back in the lineup again though, and that has given this defense a big boost.
Marco Asensio suffered a torn ACL over the summer, and he has yet to play for Real Madrid this campaign. The board is hoping that he will be available for the second leg of this tie though. Mariano Diaz is unlikely to play, but the club is set to get a big boost with Eden Hazard slated to return from an ankle injury this weekend.
Leroy Sane has not played for Manchester City this season after tearing his ACL in the Community Shield match with Liverpool. He could make his debut as soon as next weekend, but he will miss the first leg against Real Madrid. Raheem Sterling and David Silva are questionable due to injury concerns too, potentially limiting City’s formidable attack.
Matchup to Watch
The return of Hazard stands to make Real Madrid very dangerous on the attack. Karim Benzema continues to get it done after all these years, and Luka Modric has played well too. Talisman Sergio Ramos is the X-Factor though, as the veteran defender has seven goals already this campaign.
City are one of the few teams in the world with more attacking talent than Real Madrid. Kevin De Bruyne might be the best set-up man in the world, and Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, and Sterling are all clinical finishers. They will punish Real Madrid if the hosts decide to play a free-flowing game, so don’t expect to see that on Wednesday.
Free Soccer Betting Pick
The over is a tempting play given the combined star power on display in Madrid, but the better option is Manchester City. The Citizens are just too strong, and they don’t have to focus on their domestic league with Liverpool so far in front.
Champions League Odds: Manchester City 2, Real Madrid 1
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