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Champions League return: A closer look at Real Madrid ahead of Manchester City tie

Champions League return: A closer look at Real Madrid ahead of Manchester City tie
© Reuters
The Frenchman has never failed to win the competition as Los Blancos manager.

Manchester City host Real Madrid in the long-delayed second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Etihad Stadium on Friday.

Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at the game and the Spanish giants.

City hold the edge

The Premier League side carry a 2-1 aggregate lead into the game after coming from behind to claim a memorable victory at the Bernabeu in February. Despite creating some of the better early chances with Thibaut Courtois busy and Sergio Ramos almost deflecting into his own net, City had fallen behind to an Isco strike on the break on the hour. But Pep Guardiola's men turned the game around in the last 13 minutes, with Gabriel Jesus heading home from a Kevin De Bruyne cross and De Bruyne then hitting the winner from the penalty spot after a foul on Raheem Sterling. To compound Madrid's woe, captain Ramos was sent off in the closing moments.

What has happened since

City's victory made them clear favourites heading back for the planned return at the Etihad Stadium on March 17 but the game did not take place due to the coronavirus outbreak. Both sides were out of action for three months as widespread suspensions of competitions followed. At the time of the stoppage, Real trailed Barcelona at the top of LaLiga after a demoralising loss at Real Betis. They returned after the break with renewed vigour and won 10 in succession to claim only their second league title in eight years.

Ramos absence

Ramos was sent off for bringing down Jesus in the closing minutes of the first leg
Ramos was sent off for bringing down Jesus in the closing minutes of the first leg (Nick Potts/PA)

Zinedine Zidane's side are clearly a rejuvenated team and will fancy their chances of overhauling the deficit and progressing to the new eight-team tournament in Portugal that will now decide the winner of this season's Champions League. City's form since the restart has been mixed by contrast, with some emphatic wins mixed with some frustrating losses. Key to Real's hopes will be how they have trained in the three weeks since their final LaLiga fixture, while City were last in action a fortnight ago. Real will also have to do it without the suspended Ramos, whose red card in the first leg was his 26th at the club.

Bale sidelined

Gareth Bale has fallen out of favour at the Bernabeu
Gareth Bale has fallen out of favour at the Bernabeu (Nick Potts/PA)

Gareth Bale, who appeared as a substitute in the first leg, has become a peripheral figure at the Bernabeu. The Wales international has fallen so far out of favour under Zidane that he has featured just twice since the resumption and only made the starting line-up once. In one of the games in which he was an unused substitute he courted controversy by pretending to fall asleep. He seemed to feature only on the edges of trophy celebrations when LaLiga success was confirmed. His future is uncertain but, with two years remaining on his contract, the Β£85.3million signing does not appear to be pushing for a move.

Pedigree and Zidane's golden touch

Real have won the Champions League or European Cup a record 13 times
Real have won the Champions League or European Cup a record 13 times (Mike Egerton/PA)

There is no denying Real Madrid's formidable pedigree in Europe. The Spanish giants are record 13-time winners of the continent's top club competition and this season represents their 50th European campaign, more than any other club. They are bidding for a fifth title in seven years and a fourth in a row under Zidane. The 2018-19 season – when Zidane had a brief spell away from the club before returning after they had been knocked out by Ajax at the last-16 stage – was the first since 2009-10 in which Real failed to at least reach the semi-finals. The Frenchman has never failed to win the competition as Los Blancos manager.

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Real Madrid players celebrate Karim Benzema's goal against Villarreal on July 16, 2020
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