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Bad news for Real Madrid is that Man City should be even stronger for classic Champions League re-match – Stuart Brennan



Manchester City have been unplayable for the opening half-hour of their Champions League classic in opposition to Real Madrid. And the unhealthy news for the Spanish aristocrats is that – barring an harm catastrophe in opposition to Leeds on Saturday – they should be even stronger for the return leg within the Bernabeu subsequent week.

The news that each John Stones and Kyle Walker educated with the squad on Tuesday, forward of the primary leg, regardless of being absent for the opening quarter-hour of the session, when the media have been current, places a brand new complexion on the journey to Spain. Pep Guardiola took an opportunity on Stones, who solely lasted 36 minutes earlier than feeling his tight hamstring once more, leading to Fernandinho entering into the best again position.

That meant City ended the sport with solely centre again pairing Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte from their common again 4, with Oleks Zinchenko slotting in at left again. Zinchenko and Fernandinho did extraordinarily effectively, however there is an actual prospect that the Blues may have first-selection full again pair Walker and Joao Cancelo again subsequent week.

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Walker should have every week of coaching to prepare after damaging his ankle a fortnight in the past, whereas Cancelo is once more accessible after serving a one-match suspension for his yellow card in that sport. Even when Walker doesn’t show to be match, Zinchenko has proven he is not simply dependable however is additionally a pointy and constructive asset in his present way of thinking.

The extent of Stones’ harm is unclear and as City’s greatest-performing centre again in current weeks, his absence wouldn’t be good news, however Laporte and Dias are a effectively-balanced and trusted partnership. All of which suggests that City’s defence should be stronger, and their form extra recognisable, for the second assembly.

Real’s defence was shambolic at instances, and was severely uncovered by a ferocious City press within the opening half-hour, whereas City’s concession of three targets was right down to Karim Benzema’s brilliance for the primary, an unlucky by means of-the-legs second from Fernandinho for the second and an unfortunate handball for the third. To not say City can not enhance defensively, as a few of their passing out from the again was hazardous to the purpose of unsafe, particularly with Benzema as a continuing lurking presence.

However the anticipated return of Walker and/or Cancelo should go a protracted option to fixing these points. Additional ahead, the Blues have been at full power and, so long as nothing untoward occurs at Elland Street on Saturday teatime, they may go into the second leg in fine condition.

The Real sport got here simply three days after the 5-1 win over Watford, that means eight gamers needed to dwell with the actual fact that they had lower than the really helpful 72 hours of recuperation time between video games. Kevin de Bruyne began all three video games within the area of six days in opposition to Brighton, Watford and Real – little marvel that, after the sport, when requested to cease and talk about the sport by journalists within the Uefa blended zone, he apologised and mentioned “I’m just too tired” earlier than heading dwelling to mattress.

De Bruyne could need to go once more at Leeds, however is more likely to share the burden of midfield inspiration with Bernardo Silva – and he does have 4 full days to get his power again. The actual fact he, and the remainder of the squad, then have one other 4 days to organize for the second leg is one other huge bonus for City.

These 4 days will be essential, not simply by way of bodily restoration, but additionally by way of making ready tactically and placing proper the defensive points that they had within the first leg. Guardiola and his workers had simply two days to give you a plan for the sport and drill it into the gamers – inadequate, particularly as Carlo Ancelotti had the advantage of six days since Real’s earlier sport at Osasuna.

This time Real are more likely to win the Spanish league title this weekend, needing only a level at dwelling to Espanyol, however that will occupy their ideas. City have an even larger sport at Leeds, needing to win to make sure they maintain their noses in entrance of chasing Liverpool within the Premier League race, however they then have three days to recuperate and scheme out a plan for the second leg.

Small margins, however at this degree, with two prime groups going at it hammer and tongs, small margins depend.

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