Manchester City host Real Madrid on Wednesday night at the Etihad Stadium in a match which could possibly decide whether they get knocked out of European competitions or still get to play in the Europa League. The Citizens still have a mathematical chance of finishing second but that’s unlikely to happen. With Madrid and City both finding their form in recent games, both teams are eager to put back their recent “Euro crisis” and focus on winning. When Los Blancos come calling, are the Citizens ready for them? A Battle of Britain in football will ensue as Mou and Co. will be looking to exploit City’s aerial weakness…
City have been struggling to defend set pieces recently as they have conceded an alarming number of goals from them. Mancini’s zonal marking system doesn’t seem to be suiting the City players as time and again one or the other player has failed to clear the ball from his zone. Ajax have exploited City’s blundering defense extremely well and thus they are better off than City in Group D.
Mancini’s boys become totally static when they should be attacking the ball as it comes in their zone. It’s the failure on part of the players as sometimes they look confused while defending set pieces and hoping that their teammate would clear the danger. Mancini needs to reorganize his players a little for such situations or they will pay for their mistakes. Siem de Jong twice scored from corners at the Etihad and Niklas Moisander put Ajax 2-1 up at the Amsterdam Arena.
During all the three goals, there was lack of movement in the City box. Players were standing idly instead of clearing the danger. The same thing happened when Steven Caulker made City pay after they conceded lots of free kicks on the flanks against Tottenham in the Premier League a couple of weeks back.
Real Madrid are extremely dangerous from set pieces and corners. Sergio Ramos regularly hits the target from such plays, his goal against Bilbao on Saturday being the latest. ‘El Matador’ of the Galacticos, he always seems to find space inside the box and wins headers for his team. He is going to be a real threat and possibly Mancini will have him man marked during set plays.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe too can pack a punch while heading as the latter equalized for Madrid against Dortmund with a thumping header and the Portuguese captain is an ever present threat. City also have players who are good in the air like Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli but usually the former two start. Dzeko did score at the Bernabeu but Mancini will prefer Sergio Aguero to start alongside Carlos Tevez and Balotelli seems to have fallen further down the pecking order thanks to his erratic performances. Kompany needs to find his form from last season as he has looked a shadow of his former self.
With David Silva and Aguero back in the starting lineup, City will be playing in the comforts of the Etihad, a place where they remain unbeaten for almost two years now. Mancini’s boys can probably match Madrid in open play at home but they remain vulnerable to aerial threats.
The midfield battle remains important as Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry should be bossing the centre of the park. It’s no easy task if you are up against the likes of Mesut Ozil, Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric/Michael Essien. Will City overcome Madrid in the “Battle of Britain?”
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