Players of Real Madrid warm up

Champions League: 3 Things to Look Forward to as Real Madrid Host Manchester City

Real Madrid welcome Manchester City to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

The Los Blancos have been crowned European champions 13 times in their history, more than any other team, and face a Manchester City side that have never made it past the semi-finals of Europe's top tournament. Madrid have enjoyed a fine season, although Zinedine Zidane and co. come into the game on the back of a shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of Levante in the La Liga.

City, on the other hand, have had a turbulent season so far, and are set to concede the Premier League title to Liverpool and have also been handed a two-year European ban by UEFA. Madrid were victorious, the last time they clashed with City in a competitive setting, beating the Cityzens 1-0 in the 2015-16 Champions League semi-finals.

Here are the three things to look forward to as Real Madrid host Manchester City in the Champions League.

3. Major injury concerns for Madrid

Madrid were dealt a big injury blow in the week as Eden Hazard, who has only just returned from a long-term layoff, was ruled out for potentially the rest of the season with a broken ankle. Zidane will also miss out on the services of Marco Asensio due to a long-term knee injury. James Rodriguez has rejoined training after recovering from a hip injury, but has not made the 19-man squad to face Manchester City.

Deciding who replaces Hazard will be a key decision for Zidane. Gareth Bale, who is back in contention after recovering from gastroenteritis, should get the nod ahead of Vinicius Jr. and Lucas Vazquez. Zidane may give the nod to Federico Valverde over Luka Modric in central midfield and left-back Ferland Mendy is also in contention for a recall.

2. Pressure mounting on City

As things stand, due to their Champions League ban, Manchester City will not have another chance to crack the Champions League until 2022-23, by which point a number of key players - and boss Pep Guardiola - will likely have moved on. Guardiola's men have got their Premier League campaign back on track with wins over West Ham United and Leicester City over the past week. 

However, Liverpool are all set to lift the trophy, and the only way this campaign can now be considered a success is if City can go all the way in Europe. Among the English sides, only Liverpool and Arsenal have managed to claim the scalp of Real Madrid in front of their own fans. However, City have a woeful record in Spain, with just two wins in 10 visits. 

Sergio Aguero has never been on the winning side facing Madrid in 14 attempts. He scored three goals in eleven appearances for Atletico Madrid prior to joining City, and is currently on a run of four games without a goal.  

1. Zidane vs. Guardiola - Who can come out on top?

Madrid have won the Champions League 13 times in total, with three of those triumphs coming during Zidane's first spell in charge between 2015 and 2018. The Frenchman decided to leave the club after their last European Cup final win over Liverpool in Kiev, but returned to familiar surroundings in March 2019. Madrid were knocked out of the competition in the first knockout phase at the hands of Ajax last term, with Santiago Solari ultimately paying for the defeat with his job. 

Guardiola, on the other hand, has plenty to show for, but European glory with City still eludes him. The Spaniard has now gone nine years since the second and most recent of his continental triumphs, meanwhile, and he recently admitted that he will be considered a failure if his time at the Etihad Stadium ends without him lifting the famous trophy. 

Real Madrid are, no doubt, favourites to win this tie, but City, on their best day, can be lethal, to say the least, which makes for an extremely interesting clash between the two heavyweights.