Manchester City have let countless opportunities slip away during Champions League play and now their backs are against the wall with two matches left in group play. Anything less than a victory against Real Madrid and City will be eliminated.
Knowing where City stands, the La Liga champions should expect to see plenty of desperation from their Premier League counterparts on Wednesday. It's going to take a lot of discipline, especially early in the match, for Madrid to survive the siege.
The key for Los Blancos is employing a conservative approach early. City is going to be in all-out attack mode from the opening whistle trying to gain an early edge, so Madrid can't afford to get caught outnumbered at the back.
If they survive that first wave of pressure, the Spanish side should be in terrific shape. They controlled the first match between the two clubs, winning the possession battle and creating more scoring chances in a 3-2 triumph.
The match also showed how explosive these two teams can be. It was scoreless for the first 67 minutes before a span of five goals in 22 minutes. So if Madrid isn't sound in the defensive third early, City could snag a couple quick ones.
That's why it's such an advantage to have a reliable veteran goalkeeper like Iker Casillas. He's been through these type of pressure-packed matches many times in his storied career and will be prepared for whatever City throws his way.
Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez each scored twice over the weekend against Aston Villa. Manager Roberto Mancini will likely turn to the in-form duo again, hoping lightning strikes twice in less than a week to get City back in the mix.
The best chances for Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, who both scored in the first meeting, will likely come on the counterattack. With the Citizens pressing up front, there should be several chances to break out in response.
All told, fans should be in for an exciting back-and-forth clash. While City is desperate to stay alive, Madrid would love to eliminate one of the top pre-tournament contenders before the knockout stages. So there's a lot of motivation on both sides.
Unfortunately for the Premier League leaders, a draw seems like the most probable outcome.
Prediction: Manchester City 2, Real Madrid 2
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