Tag Archives: Karim Benzema

Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid – Champions League Last 16 predictions

The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.

In arguably the tie of the round we’ll see last season’s semi-finalists Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid go head-to-head in a star-studded two-legged affair.

Lets take a look at the tie in more detail and make our predictions to see who will progress into the last eight of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.

Route to the last 16

Paris Saint-Germain were planted right in the middle of another group of death scenario as they were last season, alongside Man City, RB Leizig and Club Brugge.

They made hard work of it, ending the group stage in second place some way behind City after draws with both Brugge and Leipzig as well as a defeat by City at the Etihad Stadium. It wasn’t until victory in the final game that they secured qualification.

Real Madrid had an easier time of qualification in their group, alongside Inter Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk and minnows Sheriff.

They were shockingly beaten at the Bernabeu by Sheriff, but were able to win all five of their other fixtures to top the group and pull clear of Italian champions Inter on the final day to secure that spot.

Team news

PSG are likely to be without former Madrid captain Sergio Ramos for the first-leg of the game, with the Spaniard still suffering from calf problems that have restricted him to just four appearances this season.

Neymar is back in training after injury but will likely only make the bench at best for the first leg, meaning old foe Lionel Messi and Madrid-bound Kylian Mbappe will lead their attack.

Gianluigi Donnarumma is likely to get the nod ahead of Keylor Navas in goal, while Achraf Hakimi will also be making a return to the Bernabeu during this tie.

Paris Saint-Germain's Spanish defender Sergio Ramos and Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe run during the warm-up sesson ahead of the...

For Madrid, they’re struggling to get key man Karim Benzema fit following a thigh injury.

The French striker has missed each of the last three games, and Ancelotti’s side have managed just one goal in his absence. Vinicius Jr has also seen his form dip since, which is bad news for Los Blancos.

Eden Hazard is fit but out of favour, but as a man always ready for the big occasion he could get the nod in Benzema’s absence. Ferland Mendy is also a doubt at left-back, so Marcelo could start.

Breakdown and Prediction

Tactically these two teams are very similar on the pitch with the way they set up defensively and the way they attack.

Both managers have formed a solid defence during the season, with a midfield that is all about control rather than creativity or solidity.

They complete plenty of passes on the ball and play their way out of tight situations, using pace and individual skill to create goalscoring opportunities in the final third.

With Benzema likely to be out of the game and Vinicius’ form struggling without him, PSG have a huge chance of progression.

Messi’s best form has come in Europe this season, with five goals in the six group games while Mbappe has been sensational this season and is the club’s top scorer.

Away goals are no longer a factor in the tournament so home advantage in the second leg is less important, and PSG must look to take advantage of a weaker Madrid team that they’ll be coming up against.

It’ll be a close but entertaining affair for sure, simply because of the quality on the pitch, but I do expect PSG to have the added X-factor in attack and be able to eliminate the 13-time champions.

Paris SG 2-0 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 1-1 Paris SG
(Paris SG qualify 3-1 on aggregate)

Fantasy Matches: Real Madrid 15-18 vs Barcelona 08-11

When you think about the best teams of the modern era, there are two that stick out like a sore thumb.

During a period where Spanish football was the home of the best players and managers in the world, it was obviously Barcelona and Real Madrid that had periods of dominance across Europe and domestically.

But what would have happened if you put those two teams, at their best, head-to-head with each other? We’re here to break it down and try and figure it out.

Barcelona between 2008 and 2011 were and are considered one of the greatest club sides in the history of football.

Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, they revolutionised the way attacking football was played up until this day. They dominated possession, scored countless goals, passed opponents to death and were the home to arguably the greatest player of all-time in Lionel Messi.

Their 4-3-3 system with attacking full-backs and technically secure players all over the pitch set the benchmark as they won two Champions League trophies, three La Liga titles, three Spanish Super Cups, a Copa Del Rey, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups across three-and-a-half seasons.

Real Madrid couldn’t compete with them during that period, but they made their own mark half a decade later when they not only became the first team to retain their Champions League trophy but they also made it three-in-a-row.

Add to that a La Liga title, a Spanish Super Cup, two UEFA Super Cups and two World Club Cups under Zinedine Zidane (plus an extra World Club Cup under Santi Solari after Zidane’s resignation), this is a team synonymous with success and winning.

The brilliant goalscoring of Cristiano Ronaldo, the majestic midfield play of Luka Modric and Tony Kroos, the playmaking from full-back by Marcelo and the leadership of Sergio Ramos at the back, this was a complete squad.

The difference between these two powerhouse teams is that Real Madrid were able to adapt their style of play depending on the opponent.

Against weaker opposition they had the ability to dominate the ball and carve open defences to score goals, while pushing high up the pitch to sustain pressure.

When they came up against quality outfits though, Zidane would ensure they sat a bit deeper defensively, were compact in midfield and explosive on the counter attack with the pace of Ronaldo, Benzema and even Gareth Bale leading the way.

Barcelona on the other hand were the same no matter what. Much like today’s Guardiola, it was all about controlling the ball and dominating possession. Short passes, lots of sharp movements and rotation across positions and technical security meant they were unshakeable on the ball.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane pose for a photo accepts The Best FIFA Men's Player award during The Best FIFA Football Awards at The London...

But the Catalan legend also instilled a hunger in the team to win the ball back as soon as possible when they did lose it, famously starting a seven-second press that if the opponent was able to surpass would usually result on them being in on goal.

It’s fair to say that Zidane’s Madrid side would ultimately allow Barcelona to have the ball in midfield and be compact, while using their own technical abilities and brilliant quality to try and pick them off on the counter as they did to so many top sides during their Champions League wins during that period.

The difference however, is that this Madrid side never came up against this Lionel Messi.

The little Argentine was a totally different animal under Guardiola, which is terrifying considering all he has achieved since they parted ways in 2012.

Lionel Messi of Argentina and Barcelona FC receives the FIFA player of the year award during the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2010 t the congress hall on...

I have no doubts that Ronaldo would likely have a say on the game himself, because during this period of time he was at his goalscoring best and most clutch. But Messi could effect the game without just putting the ball into the net.

David Villa and Pedro were also huge goalscoring threats from the wing, while Dani Alves in his peak was arguably the best right-back of all-time. It’s hard to imagine this Real Madrid side keeping this peak Barcelona side goalless for 90 minutes and while I wouldn’t bet against them scoring themselves, ultimately the greatest player of all-time would separate the two best club sides we’ve seen in this era of football.

Prediction: Real Madrid (15-18) 1-2 Barcelona (08-11) / Messi masterclass.

Karim Benzema is the best player in the world right now

When you judge the intangibles of football, often these things can come down to preference.

Whether you prefer a powerhouse, a technical clinic, or a fine mixture of both can often decide who you believe to be the best when comparing top talents that are immeasurable.

One thing that is measurable though, even without stats, is how a player affects football matches in a positive way for his team.

As it stands right now in the world of top level football, there is one man doing that more than any other and his name is Karim Benzema.

The Real Madrid striker was firmly in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo for many years at the Bernabeu, while a legal case saw his time with Les Bleus cut short too.

But over the last 12 months it’s hard to argue that there has been a footballer on planet Earth more influential than the 33-year-old.

It wasn’t long ago that I wrote an article pleading for people to start giving Benzema his flowers for his fine form since the departure of his Portuguese strike partner.

Karim Benzema of France scores their side's first goal whilst under pressure from Cesar Azpilicueta of Spain during the UEFA Nations League 2021...

But in the last 12 months in particular he has improved even further and gone up another level, to the point where the French national team couldn’t overlook him anymore.

Benzema was the stand-out player for France as they crashed out of Euro 2020 earlier than expected, but he then started the season for Real Madrid on fire as the main man once again.

With no more Sergio Ramos and Marcelo relegated to fourth-choice left-back under Carlo Ancelotti, Benzema is now the regular captain of the side.

He’s not the same type of leader as Ramos, but he’s been just as effective. He’s built an excellent partnership with Brazilian winger Vinicius Jr and has put the team on his shoulders, with a breathtaking ten goals and seven assists in ten games so far this season.

He continued that into the UEFA Nations League with France, as he grabbed the team by the scruff of the neck in the semi-final and final as they became the first team to win all three major international honours.

In the semi-final at 2-0 down to Belgium, it was he he stepped up in a team of superstars and led by example. A brilliant bit of individual skill created a yard of space before he smashed the ball into the far corner to start the comeback.

Then in the final, in a tight affair between two top quality teams, moments after going 1-0 down it was Benzema again who collected the ball out wide, skipped past a defender and curled a wonder strike into the top corner.

Karim Benzema of France celebrates his team's second goal during the UEFA Nations League Final match between the Spain and France at San Siro Stadium...

It was just another moment of a glorious career but more importantly a glorious year.

Don’t talk to me about Lionel Messi. Don’t talk to me about Cristiano Ronaldo. Don’t talk to me about Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski or Kevin De Bruyne. Karim Benzema is the best player in the world right now.

Karim Benzema is so good France couldn’t overlook him anymore

The impossible has happened – Karim Benzema is back in the France squad for Euro 2020.

The superstar Real Madrid striker had been absent for five years following a scandal involving former teammate Mathieu Valbuena, in which it’s claimed that Benzema stood by and allowed him to be blackmailed.

The situation has prevented him being involved in the national team since 2016, meaning he missed the Euro 2016 finals and the 2018 World Cup win among other things.

But manager Didier Deschamps has made the stunning decision to bring the 31-year-old back to the fold for the upcoming European Championships to bolster an attack short on goals domestically this season.

Olivier Giroud has been the man to lead the line in Benzema’s absence, but the 34-year-old has been limited to just 1003 minutes across the Premier League and Champions League this season. Wissam Ben Yedder has been much better, scoring 20 goals in Ligue 1, while Antoine Griezmann has managed 19 in all competitions for Barcelona.

But then after Kylian Mbappe’s stunning 40 goal season with PSG, Benzema is the next highest scoring Frenchman with 29 goals in 44 games for the Spanish side.

He is the highest scoring Real Madrid player since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club in 2018, scoring more than double the next highest player and was the main man as they lifted La Liga last season and took the race to the final day this season.

He has consistently performed to a world class level, with the added string to his bow that he can heavily influence games as an attacker without getting a goal or assist. He has worn the captains armband in Madrid a lot too, showing true leadership qualities and is experienced yet still in his prime.

All the ingredients were right, but squad politics meant he couldn’t be considered – until now.

He’s become so influential and important for his club side in a position where the national team need more big characters, that it was the elephant in the room at every squad announcement.

Benzema’s inclusion elevates France’s position as favourites at the tournament, ahead of the likes of Portugal, Belgium, England, Italy and Spain. Not only is he a big name and a superstar, but he’s a world class team player.

Mbappe, Griezmann, Pogba, Ousmane Dembele and Kingsley Coman will all get even better with Benzema playing in and around them and France now have another match-winner amongst their ranks.

Real Madrid vs Liverpool – Champions League quarter-final predictions

The UEFA Champions League is back with some absolutely mouth watering ties as we enter the quarter-final stage of the competition.

Two of the most successful sides in European history will collide as Real Madrid take on Liverpool in the last eight, with both sides thankfully able to play their home leg in their respective home cities after COVID-19 restrictions had threatened that neutral venues could be needed.

Zinedine Zidane’s side got through to this stage with a convincing win over Atalanta in the last round, winning both home and away despite injury problems for a 4-1 aggregate win. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds on the other hand were able to stifle an exciting RB Leipzig team in the last 16 to earn 2-0 wins both home and away for comfortable progression.

This game is a very interesting tie on paper and one that neutrals will be very keen to watch.

Both teams have got exceptionally strong squads but have had incredibly inconsistent seasons and have been riddled by injuries throughout the campaign. Liverpool currently sit in sixth place in the Premier League table and this past weekend officially saw their title defence come to an end, despite a convincing 3-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Real Madrid are still very much in their title race, with a 2-0 win at the weekend over Eibar sitting them just three points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid with nine games remaining.

Zidane’s side have shown a capability of being tactically flexible throughout the season, playing several formations, but their starting lineup tends to pick itself when players are available. They will however be without captain and talisman Sergio Ramos who picked up a knee injury while on international duty and has been ruled out for a month.

Eden Hazard is back in training but will miss the first leg, although Federico Valverde is back in the squad for the first game after missing a period of time through injury. The burden will once more fall upon French striker Karim Benzema, who leads the way for goals under Zidane since the boss returned for a second spell in charge of the club.

Liverpool on the other hand have seen their injury problems ease in recent weeks with Diogo Jota, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino all fit again, while Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane have found form once again.

Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are all still out injured at centre-back while captain Jordan Henderson is still missing with fitness problems that could see him miss the rest of the season too, but Fabinho’s return to defensive midfield has been an excellent boost to the team.

Casemiro has been able to keep Fabinho out of the Brazilian national team but they are both quite comfortably the best in the world in their position, while Thiago is able to compete on a technical level with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric from deep positions.

Liverpool have previously used their full-backs with great effect to overload teams in the middle, but this season their approach has had to be altered which was resulted in less assists. Diogo Jota’s form on either side of his injury will be seen as a huge boost and could force Madrid to adapt their way of defending, especially without Ramos in the side.

With that said though, the inexperience in defence with a likely pairing of Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak against Benzema is something they will surely look to expose. Vinicius Jr is always capable of causing problems although inconsistency is a huge issue, while Marco Asensio has begun looking like the player he was prior to his knee injury.

It will be a tightly contested game without doubt, with both teams fancying their chances against the inconsistent form of their opposition.

Overall, the pace of the current Premier League champions should prove too much to handle for a Ramos-less Real Madrid defence.

We’ve seen in the past how much they struggle without their leader at the back and Liverpool’s attack is still one of the best around, even with recent form causing them to struggle in front of goal. The move back to midfield for Fabinho has boosted them tremendously and while I think it’s unlikely that either team keeps a clean sheet, Liverpool are less reliant on a single goalscoring threat and should therefore be able to progress in an entertaining tie.


Real Madrid 1-1 Liverpool
Liverpool 2-1 Real Madrid
(Liverpool to progress 3-2 on aggregate)

Real Madrid show the old guard still has it as they progress past Atalanta

Real Madrid secured their passage to the Champions League quarter-finals with a routine win over Serie A side Atalanta, as Zinedine Zidane showed why he still relies on his old guard to lead this team.

The French manager has been under pressure at several different points of the season so far for under performing domestically in La Liga and also in Europe, but has stuck with his relatively older squad and it is now beginning to come good for him towards the business end of the season.

Goals from Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and substitute Marcos Asensio were enough on the night for a 3-1 win, with Luis Muriel scoring a screamer of a free-kick as a consolation for Atalanta.

With Benzema 33 now, Ramos 34, Luka Modric 35 and Toni Kroos 31, the Madrid core is entering it’s twilight. Despite tha though, they are still oozing quality and are justifying Zidane’s decision to stick with them even through the tough times.

The manager has had to contend with a host of injury problems, including £100m Eden Hazard who has made only 14 appearances in all competitions so far this campaign. The Belgian was missing once again for this tie after picking up another injury, with Spanish media now speculating he could miss the Euros this summer.

Despite that, Zizou has largely stuck with older core where he can and Los Blancos are now reaping the rewards at the business end of the season.

Real Madrid have now won eight of their last 11 games in all competitions and are unbeaten in their last nine. That has seen them close the gap on local rivals Atletico Madrid to just six points with all three contenders having played the same amount of games and still needing to face each other.

While they’re not the favourites in the title race or in the Champions League, their experience and quality when it comes to winning big games cannot go unnoticed. Much of this squad was part of the side that won three Champions League titles in a row and they all were part of the squad that went on a big run post-lockdown last season to win the title.

It’s fair to say that the better teams won’t fear drawing Real Madrid in Friday’s draw, nobody will be clamouring to face them either. Over two legs they’re still incredibly tough to beat and they have the attacking quality to break even the best teams down too.

With the know how of the squad, and the manager, they’re a side to keep an eye on – which is crazy to say about a team as hugely successful as Real Madrid have been in the past.

Nobody can or will take them lightly and they will have the self-confidence that they can beat anyone, so don’t rule them out of doing something crazy like winning a trophy or two come the end of the season.

Champions League last 16 predictions: Atalanta vs Real Madrid

It’s Champions League time once again as the last 16 is back and the second round of fixtures commences.

Last week we saw the first eight teams compete, with some thrilling fixtures to take us through to the second leg and this week we’ll be hoping for more of the same – starting with Europe’s great entertainers Atalanta as they take on record winners Real Madrid.

The Serie A side currently sit in fifth place in the table, just six points behind second placed AC Milan and come into the game in great form having won their last three games in a row. As for Real Madrid, they’ve managed to significantly close the gap at the top of La Liga but sit six points behind Atletico Madrid in second place as they look to defend their title.

It’s been a tough season for Zinedine Zidane’s side as they’ve been forced to compete with inconsistent form, constant injury problems and several COVID-19 breakouts throughout the campaign. Madrid’s group stages saw them on the verge of elimination at that stage for the first time ever, only for a final day win over Borussia Moenchengladbach to be enough to see both teams through after Inter Milan drew with Shakhtar Donetsk.

Real Madrid v Valencia - La Liga Santander : News Photo

Atalanta have been their usual entertaining selves throughout the campaign, scoring 72 goals so far this season including 53 in Serie A – topped only by league leaders Inter. In the group stages of this competition, they were able to navigate a group including Liverpool and Ajax – beating both teams away from home.

Coming into this tie, the Italians will never have a better chance of beating the Spanish giants. Madrid have just 11 senior first-team players available for the first leg – meaning they’re without all of Sergio Ramos, Eder Militao, Alvardo Odriozola, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo, Federico Valverde, Rodrygo, Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema.

With Atalanta only missing Hans Hateboer, they’d be crazy not to go for the kill in the first leg and try and put the tie to bed early. They have the goalscoring capabilities to do so, having score three goals in five of their last eight fixtures and beyond Madrid’s starting eleven they should be able to hold off any threat.

Atalanta BC  v SSC Napoli - Serie A : News Photo

Madrid’s lineup is essentially known prior to kick-off because of their injuries and they’ll have to play in a way that their team maintain discipline and ensure they’re careful about letting the game get away from them. They still have their best midfield out, so have the ability to control a game but the inconsistency of their attack means it’s going to be incredibly difficult to see them score a goal, never mind win the game.

With a three week break between the two legs, Madrid will be hopeful of having some of those players return from injury to bolster their squad. With that said Atalanta’s away record in the competition is exceptional having won every game and conceded no goals and their fast-paced, attacking style could be key to that.

It’s so hard to see Real Madrid keeping a clean sheet even if a few of those players do return to the team by the time the second leg comes round and I think this will be the big shock of the round.

Atalanta 2-0 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 1-3 Atalanta
(Atalanta to progress, 5-1 on aggregate)

King Karim Benzema Saves The Season For Real Madrid

Real Madrid saved their Champions League campaign and maybe their entire season thanks to their main man Karim Benzema once again.

The Frenchman scored twice on the night to bring Madrid back from the brink of elimination to win their group, and maintain their 100% record of progressing from the group stages. Two fine headers from crosses from Lucas Vazquez and Rodrygo were enough for a 2-0 win against Borussia Moenchengladbach and leapfrog the Germans into top spot.

Manager Zinedine Zidane was on the brink of being sacked following a disastrous start to the season, with Madrid needing to win their final group game to stand a chance of qualification, while also struggling in the league this season.

Their worst run of form non-coincidentally came during a period of time where they were without Sergio Ramos in the team, but also where Karim Benzema was out of the side.

He missed three games following defeat to Valencia, and Madrid picked up just one win in that time. He returned for the defeat to Shakhtar but was clearly not 100% fit and was getting some minutes under his belt. That became evident when he was substituted, despite being their main source of goals.

He struggled against Sevilla in the 1-0 win last weekend, but his presence alone seemed to be enough to occupy defenders as Zidane’s men got back to winning ways.

He was back to his best in midweek though and showed why even though he turns 33 years old later this month, he is still the man for the biggest club in the world.

During Cristiano Ronaldo’s time at the club he was often forced to play second fiddle, and rightly so, to the greatest goalscorer in the club’s history.

Despite that Benzema has worked his way up to be in the top five of the club’s all-time top goalscorers, and in his next appearance will become the foreign player with the most appearances in the club’s history – surpassing Roberto Carlos.

During Zidane’s second tenure he has been the talisman and the go-to player. He is a leader of the dressing room and leads by example on the pitch with his performance.

A world class footballer, a legend of the game and once again the saviour of Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane when they needed it most. Put some respect on Karim Benzema’s name.

Real Madrid: Another Stale Performance Causes Question Marks Over Zidane

After defeat at the weekend to Cadiz, Real Madrid began their Champions League campaign with a stunning 3-2 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Zidane rotated the team with a view to the El Clasico this weekend with Eder Militao, Fede Valverde, Rodrygo, Marco Asensio and Luka Jovic all starting the game. It started badly, with Shakhtar taking a more than deserved 3-0 lead into the half-time break.

Luka Modric and Vinicius Jr pulled goals back for Madrid in the second half as Zidane made changes, but it wasn’t enough. Valverde saw a 93rd minute strike ruled out by VAR for an offside, but it would’ve been an undeserved draw had the result stood.

The result means that in nine games without Sergio Ramos in Europe since he came to the club, Madrid have won just once. Once again Zidane’s side struggled in the Champions League without the stardust of Cristiano Ronaldo to lead them, while Marcelo is well past his peak now at left-back.

After spending a grand total of zero during this summer transfer window, the Real Madrid squad looks very stale right now. Despite the return to the squad of Martin Odegaard, Madrid look slow, weathered and it’s quite clear the squad is full of top players at the end of their career right now.

Considering the side is one of the biggest in the world in terms of name, the lack of real star quality in the squad is shocking.

Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk: Group B - UEFA Champions League : News Photo

Eden Hazard is the star man but he has barely featured during his 18 months at the club. Constant injuries have seen him in and out of the side but even when he has played he has failed to impress, scoring just one goal in his Real Madrid career so far.

While Vinicius Jr, Marco Asensio and Rodrygo are exciting prospects, their games are riddled with inconsistent displays. It stops the team being a consistent threat and means that the only threat they have on a regular basis is Karim Benzema.

As good as Benzema is, he is 32 years old now and will be 33 before the turn of the year. He is another top level footballer who is coming to the end of his career. Last year Madrid started in a stiff and slow manner once again but the introduction of Ferland Mendy and Fede Valverde into the side really helped inject new blood and energy into the side.

Zidane was rightly praised for those decisions as it ultimately led to Real Madrid winning La Liga after lockdown. Zizou needs to find more inspiration once again this season to find a way to extract a similar change in fortunes or he could be in trouble.

He needs to find it quickly too with the fixture against Barcelona coming up this Saturday afternoon. Should Madrid suffer a third consecutive defeat in all competitions, culminating with defeat to their fiercest rivals, Zinedine Zidane will likely see his head on the chopping block with the media sharks circling the Bernabeu.

If Anyone Can Complete The Comeback, It’s Real Madrid

It’s almost time for the return of the UEFA Champions League and a big story is brewing already.

Real Madrid must travel to Manchester to take on Pep Guardiola’s City side looking to overturn a 2-1 deficit from their defeat at the Bernabeu back in March. Back then the prospect of a trip to the Etihad in their form without Sergio Ramos (suspended) looking to win by 2 clear goals seemed completely impossible.

Fast forward 146 days and it doesn’t seem so crazy.

Since then, Real Madrid have overturned a deficit in La Liga to win their 34th La Liga title and not lost a single game since the restart. They scored 21 goals and conceded just six in their 11 games en route to the title and come into the game knowing that Manchester City’s form has been hot and cold.

City lost three times since the restart including the FA Cup semi-final to Arsenal and were well beaten to the Premier League title by a rampant Liverpool side. While their skill and goalscoring ability is always a threat, they will be without Sergio Aguero for the tie while Leroy Sane has since joined Bayern Munich.

Real Madrid v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League : News Photo

It’s a tie that on paper is mouth watering and on the pitch could prove to be spectacular. But how will Real Madrid approach it?

Without Ramos, Eder Militao is expected to start at centre-back alongside Raphael Varane with Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy at full-back. In midfield, Casemiro is a sure starter at the base while the likelihood is Toni Kroos and Luka Modric join him. Federico Valverde has struggled to recapture his best form since lockdown ended but his high energy in midfield could be a very useful alternative to have in the side. In attack, Karim Benzema will lead the line but he won’t have either Eden Hazard or Gareth Bale alongside him. The Belgian is a big doubt with another ankle injury, while Bale wasn’t selected as part of Zidane’s 24 man travelling squad despite full fitness. Vinicius Jr and Marco Asensio are most likely to join Benzema to complete the starting line-up.

The possibility of Vinicus going up front with Asensio in behind to compact the midfield a bit more is possible, although I think Zizou’s best hope will be to match City’s 4-3-3 and look to hit them on the counter with the pace out wide and ball-playing ability of his two midfielders.

He has plenty of depth too on his bench, with the likes of Isco, Rodrygo, Luka Jovic and Marcelo all excellent attacking outlets if needed.

Man City will undoubtedly look to attack as usual and with a fully fit squad other than Sergio Aguero, it will be interesting to see how they line up. Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez will likely line up in attack but the rest of the side is up for debate.

Zinedine Zidane has proven himself to be a world class manager as well as a world class footballer but now is his biggest challenge to date. If anyone can do this though, it’s Real Madrid. Because it’s the Champions League.