Real Madrid 1-2 Man City: Report, Rating & Reaction as Comeback Win Puts Citizens in Driving Seat

Manchester City secured a deserved 2-1 win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu to earn Pep Guardiola’s side a significant advantage in their Champions League round of 16 tie.

An engrossing opening to the match saw both sides struggle to carve open a meaningful opportunity, until ?Gabriel Jesus was denied from close range by Thibaut Courtois.


?Karim Benzema was next to force a goalkeeper into action, but with his downward header looking destined to produce the opening goal, Ederson’s low save halted his celebrations as Vinicius Junior slipped after the rebound with the goal at his mercy.

Despite City looking strong, it was the hosts who drew first blood, as a pair of mistakes from Nicolas Otamendi and Rodri culminated in Vinicius feeding Isco, who slid beyond Ederson.

City had looked the more likely to score a goal throughout, and they got the goal their performance merited when Jesus out-jumped Ramos to head beyond Courtois’ despairing dive. There was still time for a pivotal second goal, as Kevin De Bruyne put the Cityzens in front from the spot after Raheem Sterling was brought down by Dani Carvajal. 

There was still time for Ramos to see red for hauling down Jesus, handing ?City a major advantage ahead of the return leg.



?REAL MADRID

Key Talking Point

Zinedine Zidane

Tactically the talking points ahead of the clash were all on how Pep Guardiola would line his side up, so when Zinedine Zidane opted to field Isco wide and drop Toni Kross from the side, the pendulum of discussion swung the Frenchman’s direction.

And, well, you can say for the first 60 minutes, it wasn’t working. Madrid were coming up short in the final third with each foray forward, rarely looking like testing Ederson as Isco was forced to turn infield each time he received the ball on the flank. Neither Federico Valverde nor Luka Modric were willing to surge forward in fear of leaving Casemiro unguarded, and it was all too frustrating for the hosts.

Changes were not rung at half time, and for 15 minutes of the second period there was little to suggest a change in dynamic from before the break. 

That said, when you’re granted an opportunity and you take it, then your previous failings are forgotten. Isco may have scored, but there is no forgetting how Madrid performed. They were second best throughout, and the scoreline was a fair reflection of their negative approach.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Courtois (6); Carvajal (5), Varane (7), Ramos (5), Mendy (7); Valverde (6), Casemiro (7*), Modric (6); Vinicius (7), Benzema (6), Isco (6)

Substitutes: Bale (6), Vazquez (5), Jovic (5)


Casemiro

Rodri Hernandez,Casemiro

There were question marks over Madrid’s lack of creativity in the final third, but there could be no such queries over their strength at the base of midfield. Casemiro was a rock in the centre of the park, blocking passing routes when he could and feeding the wide players in a bid to force the issue.

Lacking Toni Kroos on the pitch meant his role was given the added incentive of long range passes and, for the most part, he did so efficiently. Madrid’s failings were no fault of his own, even if he scoreline was against his side.


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MANCHESTER CITY 

Key Talking Point

FBL-EUR-C1-REAL MADRID-MAN CITY

Was Pep Guardiola going to ‘overthink’ things again? Was he going to tinker far too excessively and sacrifice his side’s undoubted strengths in favour of conservatism? Based on the lineup, yes. Based on the performance? No.

This was smart, intuitive, creative and effective. And up until 60 minutes into the match, the only downside of the Citizens’ display was the lack of a goal. Isco’s goal looked like being their undoing, but if the match had finished there then it would be have wholly unjust on the efforts of Guardiola and his side.

Using Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne as false nines was in order to disrupt the Madrid central three, and that allowed Mahrez and Jesus to wreak havoc up and down the wings. There were nervy moments, as expected at the Santiago Bernabeu, but this was a tactical plan meticulously thought out and superbly executed.


Player Ratings


?Starting XI:
Ederson (8); Walker (8), Otamendi (5), Laporte (7), Mendy (6); Rodri (6), De Bruyne (8), Gundogan (8); Mahrez (8), Jesus (8*), Silva (6)

Substitutes: Fernandinho (7), Sterling (8)


Gabriel Jesus

Dani Carvajal,Gabriel Jesus

As a striker, it was a surprise to see Gabriel Jesus tasked with providing cover to Benjamin Mendy as an unorthodox left wing-back. It shouldn’t be really, as we know how Guardiola is, but nevertheless few saw it coming.

More intriguingly though, few could foresee him playing with such discipline when Madrid were on the ball, yet busting a lung to surge forward whenever possession was overturned. His all round performance was superb, and the goal was just rewards for his dedication.


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Looking Ahead

Next up for Real Madrid is a Clasico showdown with fierce rivals Barcelona – top spot being at stake in La Liga – while Man City face an equally colossal clash as they take on Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup final.

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The 25 Best Full-Backs in World Football – Ranked

Six years ago, Jamie Carragher brutally dismissed the full-back as either failed wide midfielders or unsuccessful centre backs, claiming “nobody wants to grow up to be Gary Neville”.

This statement may have held some truth back in Carragher’s formative years but in recent years, the decline of out and out wingers has led to a significant increase in the importance of the full-back position in the modern game. It’s more fashionable now than it’s ever been.

With an increasing amount of forwards exhibiting a tendency to drift inside, full-backs perform the vital function of providing their teams with the necessary width to both attack and defending cohesively. 


Carragher’s claim about the position lacking acclaim is also contentious. Yes, maybe no one did grow up wanting to be the better Neville brother back in the early 2000s, but walk around the streets of Liverpool and you would find hundreds of youngsters who consider Trent Alexander-Arnold to be their idol. 

The full-back role is at the apex of its relevance in the modern game, but who is the best in the position in the world? Here’s the ranking of the current top 25.


25. Jesús Navas 

Jesus Navas

?Like a fine wine or a nice cheese, former Manchester City man Jesús Navas appears to be maturing with age at Sevilla.

The 34-year-old has captained Los Palanganas’ in all of their league games this season, helping his side record the fourth best defensive record in ?La Liga.


24. Álex Grimaldo 

Alex Grimaldo

?Benfica’s flying left-back produced his best performances yet last campaign, racking up a 12 assists – the third highest in Liga Nos and just one shy of Bruno Fernandes’ tally. 

He has continued in a similar vein this time out and with a rumoured €60m release clause in his contract he could be on the radar of several clubs next summer. 


23. Kyle Walker

Kyle Walker,James Maddison

?Once upon a time ?Kyle Walker might have made a claim for a top 10 position of this list but a few shaky campaigns means he only just breaks into the top 25. 

It will be an interesting off season for Walker with Manchester City’s transfer ban forcing him to consider his future at the club.


22. Lucas Digne

Lucas Digne

?Since switching Camp Nou for Goodison Park in 2018, Digne has been one of ?Everton’s top performers. 

He is a good all-round full back who also has a penchant for dead balls – especially 25 yard free kicks which we absolutely love. 


21. Ben Chilwell 

Ben Chilwell

?Ben Chilwell is the most exciting graduate of Leicester City’s youth academy for many years. He may not be the finished article but improvements to the defending and decision making are still very much possible. 

It will be interesting to see how he gets on during his return to the ?Champions League next season – if Leicester make it. Or, if he moves. Chelsea and Manchester City, I hear?


20. Aaron Wan-Bissaka 

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

?Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a mutant. No one should be able to tackle like he does. 

Many forwards have tried to slip past his octopus-like legs and very few have been successful. Imagine if he was any good going forward – he’d probably win the Ballon d’Or. 


19. Kieran Trippier

Kieran Trippier

?Kieran Trippier is loving his time at ?Atletico Madrid. He’s grown his hair out longer to disguise his elf-like head and he’s playing pretty well too. 

Having a defensive minded coach like Diego Simeone is exactly what the Englishman needed and he is showing ?Tottenham what they’re missing this season.  


18. David Alaba 

David Alaba

?The first of two Bayern Munich players whose inclusion is somewhat controversial… 

?After filling in at centre-back during an injury crisis near the start of the season, David Alaba has been almost exclusively deployed in the role. Technically though, he can still be categorised as a left-back, so he makes the list. 

The Austrian’s performance levels rarely dip below a seven out of ten and he has been a reliable piece of the Bayern puzzle for just over a decade now. 


?17. Alex Sandro 

Alex Sandro

?Now in his fifth season with ?Juventus, some say Alex Sandro has benefited greatly from a lack of competition at left-back throughout his Bianconeri career. 

However, the Brazilian rarely lets his side down and is irresistible going forward. He deserves to be considered among the world’s greats in his position. 


16. Alex Telles

Alex Telles

The numbers Alex Telles has been producing this season are nothing short of sensational.

The left-back has registered ten goals and nine assists for Porto, and with the Brazilian only having 15 months left to run on his contract it’s looking increasing likely that he’ll depart the club in the summer. 

Any takers? 


15. Raphael Guerreiro 

Raphael Guerreiro

?An undervalued part of Dortmund’s scintillating attack this season has been the contributions of Raphael Guerreiro at left-back. Okay, left wing-back. He still counts though.

The Portugal international has hit five goals and three assists – not bad for a full-back. Okay, okay – wing-back. 


 14. Robin Gosens 

Robin Gosens

?Atalanta might be the most exciting football team in the history of space and time. A big reason for them being so entertaining is the industrious performances of Robin Gosens down the left flank. 

The flying German has seven goals and five assists in Serie A this season, it’s just shame that he wears number eight… that’s just not right for a defender.


13. Alphonso Davies 

Alphonso Davies

In a two years time we would not be surprised to see Alphonso Davies at the top of this list, such is the 19-year-old mouth watering potential. 

Davies has burst onto the scene with Bayern this season and already looks certain to go down in history as the best left-back, with the second name Davies, of all time. Sorry Ben mate, you had a good run.


12. Theo Hernández 

Theo Hernandez

Milan have not been very good this season, that’s a given. But amid this shower of mediocrity the performances of left-back Theo Hernandez have stood out like a sore thumb – in a good way of course. 

Still only 22, Hernandez is destined for a big future in the game. Probably not with the Rossoneri though, unless they seriously improve. 


11. Ferland Mendy

Ferland Mendy

Blessed with blistering pace and deceptively technical, Ferland Mendy has settled down into the Real Madrid squad nicely since arriving in the summer. 

With Marcelo back from injury he faces a battle to nail down a regular starting spot at left-back – though there is little doubt that the Frenchman represents Los Blancos’ long term future in the position. 


10. Nicolás Tagliafico

Nicolas Tagliafico

A vital part of Ajax’s heroic run to the ?Champions League semi final last season, Nicolás Tagliafico has been equally impressive during the current term. 

The Argentine is a robust defender with supreme positional sense who has also shown himself capable of pitching in with goals and assists when required.


9. Marcelo

Marcelo

?After reigning as king of the full-backs for several years, Marcelo has to settle for a space just inside the top ten these days.

Injuries have wreaked havoc with the Brazilian’s season so far but he has returned to the Real Madrid side recently and celebrated with an assist against Celta de Vigo last weekend. He’s still got it. 


8. Ricardo Pereira?

Ricardo Pereira

Forget Caglar Soyuncu, forget Jamie Vardy, the real standout of Leicester’s surprise success this season has been Ricardo Pereira. 

Relentlessly consistent at right-back, the Portugal international has missed just one game for the Foxes and would be a shoo-in for the Premier League team of the season, if it wasn’t for the performance of a certain Liverpool-born star.


7. Dani Carvajal 

Daniel Carvajal

?Real Madrid’s dependable right-back for many years, Dani Carvajal has now racked up over 250 appearances for Los Blancos.

Carvajal is enjoying a tremendous season this time out, as his five assists can attest.  


6. Benjamin Pavard 

Benjamin Pavard

Strings to Benjamin Pavard’s bow include: left-back, centre-back, right-back. This guy can play anywhere. 

Though he lacks a bit of pace, the Frenchman more than makes up for it with his near perfect reading of the game. One of the most hard to beat defenders in world football. 

Plus, remember that goal he scored against Argentina? Cor. That’s worth 5 places alone.


5. Jordi Alba 

Jordi Alba

?Often looking like a sprightly attacking midfielder thrusted into the left-back position, Jordi Alba’s technique is a joy to watch. 

The timings of his runs from deep have gifted his side countless goals over the years and he looks set to continue his fine form for many seasons to come. Long may it last.


4. Achraf Hakimi

Achraf Hakimi

?After a somewhat uneventful first season at Borussia Dortmund, Achraf Hakimi has been a revelation at Signal Iduna Park this campaign.

The Moroccan has racked up no less than ten assists from right-wing back. Will BVB be able to extend his stay past the expiration of his loan deal in the summer? Probably not, no. 


 3. Andy Robertson

Andy Robertson

?The flying Scotsman’s rise to be the best left-back in the world has been absolutely remarkable. 

Since arriving at Anfield in 2017 and displacing Alberto Moreno from the first team, Robertson has won the Champions League, Club World Cup and will – barring a cataclysmic collapse – lift the ?Premier League trophy at the end of the season. 


2. Joshua Kimmich?

Joshua Kimmich

?Yes, yes, yes we hear you shouting. Joshua Kimmich may be being used as a central midfielder these days but he’s still played parts of this season – and the majority of his career – at right-back, meaning he qualifies for the list. 

Okay? Good. I’m glad we agree. 

And why is he one the list? He’s obscenely good. One of the most complete footballers in the world and still only 25, who knows what the future holds for the Germany international.


1. Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold

It had to be Trent Alexander-Arnold didn’t it? 

The Liverpool right-back has helped make the position sexy again with his physics-defying cross field passes and humble charm.

TAA has racked up 12 assists this season and has also come on leaps and bounds defensively with the Reds comfortably conceding the least goals in the Premier League. 

This fella is 21-years-old don’t forget. What a freakishly good footballer he is.


For more from Matt O’Connor-Simpson, follow him on Twitter!

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Picked a Real Madrid & Manchester City Combined XI Ahead of Champions League Clash

?In a tale of veterans vs. new boys on the block, the competition for places in a combined XI between Real Madrid and Manchester City is rather staggering. And it’s even more staggering when you consider where the two clubs were a little over 10 years ago – while Real Madrid were still bossing Europe, Manchester City were in transition thanks to new ownership, but still had a side consisting of Richard Dunne, Stephen Ireland and Benjani. 

Since the takeover, Manchester City have grown into a top side, and have remained an ever-present in the Champions League – despite still not winning it – since qualifying for it for the first time in the 2010/11 season. 

Real Madrid however are a different force entirely; they hold the record for the most times winning Europe’s top competition, winning it a whopping 13 times. Los Blancos have won four of those since 2013, including back-to-back Champions League wins three times in a row, from 2015 to 2018. 

With the two sides facing off in this season’s round of 16, fate has decided that one giant will be knocked out early on. With that being said, here’s our efforts at a combined XI of both teams in their current states.


Goalkeepers & Defenders

Pre-Season Friendly"Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur FC"

Ederson (GK) – Since arriving to City in summer 2017, Ederson has quickly established himself at the top level. Arguably one of, if not the best, goalkeeper in the Premier League, the 26-year-old Brazilian is known for his commanding style and excellent reflexes, but also his astounding ability with the ball at his feet. He’s conceded just two goals in the Champions League so far this season, compared to the seven conceded by Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois.? 

Dani Carvajal (RB) – Carvajal has served as Madrid’s starting right-back for several years now, and has been a key part of teams that has seen them win four Champions Leagues since 2013. In a time where world class full-backs are slightly more difficult to come by in football, Carvajal has proved irreplaceable for Los Blancos, and has amassed over 250 appearances for the club. 

Sergio Ramos (CB) – Captain of both Real Madrid and the Spanish national team, it’s virtually impossible to argue against the inclusion of Sergio Ramos. His undoubted leadership qualities, combined with his ability and desire to win puts him in this team without question. To say Sergio Ramos is merely a good centre back however, simply doesn’t do him justice. He’s managed over 100 career goals from his position, and has popped up with some vital ones which have been instrumental to Madrid’s Champions League success. No brainer.

Aymeric Laporte (CB) – While it’s difficult to sympathise with Manchester City due to the sheer ability and firepower they possess in their squad, their failure to replace ?Vincent Kompany has proved costly. Aymeric Laporte has proved to be a shining star in a dark time for City’s defensive disarray, but even injuries to him this season have limited his opportunities. Now back to full fitness, City will hope that they can rely on him to inspire their team to greater success in the latter stages of the Champions League. 

Marcelo (LB)  – Similarly to Ramos and Carvajal, Marcelo has been integral to Real Madrid’s success over the last few years. Having racked up just over 500 appearances for Madrid, the 31-year-old Brazilian was also key to Madrid’s European success in the last few years, scoring in their 3-1 victory in the final versus Atletico Madrid in 2014.


Midfielders

Carlos Casemiro

Casemiro (CDM) – Perhaps a name that goes somewhat unnoticed when in a team like Real Madrid, Casemiro has proved in recent years that he is easily one of the world’s best midfielders. His work-rate, combined with his aggressive tackling and intelligence, Casemiro is able to operate box-to-box, and is a vital asset to Madrid’s side at this point. He became a regular under manager Zinedine Zidane in his first spell, and has since established himself as a mainstay. Another key player in their recent European success, the 28-year-old put Madrid back in front against Juventus in the 2017 Champions League final with a? long-range effort, which they eventually won 4-1. 

Toni Kroos (CM) – It’s fair to say that Real Madrid have two of the best midfielders in the world at their disposal. Toni Kroos made a name for himself at ?Bayern Munich and missed out on Champions League glory due to injury in their successful 2012/13 season, but moved to Madrid in 2014. Since then, he has been an ever-present in the side, and tasted plenty of Champions League success which he has directly contributed to. His passing ability and creativity on the ball means he is an incredible asset to Real, and his trophy cabinet doesn’t look that bad either; just the four Champions Leagues and a World Cup.

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Kevin De Bruyne (CM) – Another one known for his outrageous passing ability, Kevin De Bruyne has established himself as one of the best midfielders in football. For ?Manchester City, he has registered 15+ assists every season in the Premier League alone in three of the last four seasons. At 28 years old however, De Bruyne is entering his peak and is yet to win a Champions League. With Manchester City in trouble with UEFA, could we potentially see him move on?


Forwards

FBL-C1-EUR-REAL MADRID-PSG

Bernardo Silva (RW) – Since signing for Manchester City from Monaco in 2017, Bernardo Silva has excelled in a forward position. He quickly established himself as an integral part of the team in City’s 2017/18 season when they achieved a record 100 points in the Premier League, and has since become a favourite at the club due to his ability as a playmaker. 

Karim Benzema (ST) – ?Sergio Aguero narrowly misses out in this one, but through no fault of his own. Karim Benzema has proved now for a number of years that he is exceptional at the top level. The Frenchman has bagged a frightening 240 goals in 498 games for ?Real Madrid in all competitions, which is evidence of his limitless qualities. A proficient finisher, with incredible strength and range to his game, Benzema has been key to Real Madrid’s success on both domestic and European fronts. 

Raheem Sterling (LW) – Since joining Manchester City, Raheem Sterling has developed into one of the most exciting forwards in world football. Now 25, his game has matured and he has proved vital to the Blues’ recent successes, particularly in the Premier League. He has scored 10+ goals in the Premier League in each of the last three seasons for City, and will look to carry such form into the Champions League knockout rounds this season.


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Gary Neville Believes Mohamed Salah Sees Liverpool as ‘Stepping Stone’ for Real Madrid or Barcelona

?Gary Neville believes Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is using the Reds as a ‘stepping stone’ for a potential move to either Real Madrid or Barcelona.

The Egyptian forward is enjoying another productive season under Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, scoring 15 and setting up six in 24 Premier League appearances. 

Mohamed Salah

Since his move to Merseyside in the summer of 2017, only Lionel Messi (125) has more goal contributions in Europe’s top five leagues than Salah (92).

Nevertheless, despite the 27-year-old playing a key role in Liverpool’s Champions League success last season, as well as their 22-point lead at the top of the Premier League this time around, Neville still thinks Salah could be tempted away from Anfield.

Speaking on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football as Liverpool came back to beat West Ham 3-2 at Anfield, the former United defender said: “I said 18 months ago I thought Mo Salah would leave Liverpool.

“I think it’s a little bit more simple in the sense of why Liverpool fans maybe don’t demonstrate that love for Salah, and it’s affinity and loyalty.

Gary Neville

“I think there’s a feeling that he wants to go and play at Real Madrid, he’ll go to Barcelona, he’ll make the big move.

“That’s not a criticism of Mo Salah. I played with David Beckham, I played with Ruud van Nistelrooy, played with ?Cristiano Ronaldo – they wanted to aspire to win the Ballon d’Or, they wanted to be at Real Madrid, they wanted to be up in lights and play at the biggest clubs in the world.

“I think he is ultimately using Liverpool potentially as a stepping stone for his career.

“He has aspirations to be [higher]. Let’s be honest, Real Madrid and Barcelona for a lot of players is the pinnacle.”

Mohamed Salah

While it may be wishful thinking on Neville’s behalf due to his Manchester United loyalties, every major club has lost players to the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid in the past, Liverpool included. 

And although the Reds are currently regarded as a superior side to the two Spanish superpowers, the significant attraction of playing at the Santiago Bernabeu or Camp Nou just can’t be underestimated.

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