I’ve been poking about the history books to investigate a bit of historic creative accounting from Manchester City, in the early years of the 20th century. Here’s some pre-match reading:
Here are the teams again in purely textual form. Raheem Sterling is back for Manchester City, but he makes it only as far as the bench:
Real Madrid: Courtois, Carvajal, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Mendy, Valverde, Casemiro, Modric, Vinicius Junior, Benzema, Isco. Subs: Areola, Eder Militao, Kroos, Bale, Marcelo, Lucas, Jovic.
Man City: Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Mendy, De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan, Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva. Subs: Bravo, Sterling, Aguero, Silva, Fernandinho, Joao Cancelo, Foden.
Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy).
The team sheets have been handed in, and these were the names on them:
Real Madrid come into this game on the back of a 2-2 draw at home to Celta Vigo and a 1-0 defeat to Levante, leaving them two points behind Barcelona in La Liga ahead of this Sunday’s Clásico, a fixture looming over their future ominously like a shadowy ghost character over a popular fictional hound in Scooby-Doo. Plus, their trophy cabinet contains more European Cups/Champions Leagues than can be considered healthy, so perhaps their focus will be elsewhere.
Eden Hazard will certainly be elsewhere, having picked up an injury at the weekend. “I don’t know if his season is over, but I hope not,” Zinedine Zidane said yesterday. “He loves playing football and while I can’t tell you what is in his eyes, I can see he is not happy.” Raheem Sterling on the other hand will be present, having recovered from a hamstring injury. “His natural condition, his regeneration is amazing. He said to us he could have played against West Ham and Leicester but the doctor said be careful,” Pep Guardiola said. “But he wanted to play and that’s a good sign. He’s fit, he’s ready.”
City have won two of their last four games by two and one goals to nil, and lost the other two by two and one goals to nil, from which you can conclude pretty much nothing. Sergio Ramos thinks they might be supermotivated because of the prospect of a two-year European ban: “When you see that this could be your last Champions League in the next few years, maybe that gives you extra motivation,” he said. “The Champions League is a special competition because of what it generates, because of its magnitude worldwide, so it is the focus for all great soccer players. It is a great place for them to shine.” Guardiola however thinks that is phooey: “There is no special motivation. Even if it was the last one there would not have to be extra motivation. The desire to win has to be there, without that it is impossible, but more than that it’s another game, that’s all.”
In other news, Zidane thinks Guardiola is at the top of the management tree – “There are so many great coaches, but for me he is the best.” – while Guardiola thinks Zidane, who has never lost a Champions League knockout tie, has a special gift for this competition: “What he’s done in Europe will not be repeated. Winning the Champions League three times in a row proves how great this club [Real, obvs] is.”
Here’s Sid Lowe’s match preview. And welcome!