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Season defining tie as Real Madrid face Man City in CL

Madrid, Feb 25 (IANS) Real Madrid will entertain Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday night.

The game comes just before Real Madrid face FC Barcelona on the same ground in what looks as if it could be a season-defining week for Zinedine Zidane’s side, just as they look to be going through a slight dip in form, reports Xinhua news agency.

Real Madrid was held 2-2 at home by Celta Vigo 10 days ago and lost 1-0 to Levante at the weekend: a result that saw Barca leapfrog them in the table. Those setbacks would be forgotten with two wins, while two disappointments would risk seeing the season end in failure.

Zidane is without Eden Hazard for the foreseeable future after the winger broke his right tibia against Levante and Gareth Bale’s lack of form means Vinicius Jr could find a place in the starting 11.

Ferland Mendy, who was rested in the past two league games, should return at left-back alongside Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal in defence, while Casemiro, Tony Kroos, Isco and Luka Modric or Fede Valverde will be in midfield, while Karim Benzema leads the Real Madrid attack.

Manchester City travel in the wake of the UEFA decision to ban the club from European competition for two seasons due to breaches of financial fair play regulations and that means it could be the last chance for some players to win the Champions League with the club.

Coach Pep Guardiola has said he will stay at Manchester City whatever happens, while at the same time adding that if he fails in Europe again, he could be sacked anyhow.

Manchester City didn’t look overly affected by the ban as they won 1-0 away to third-placed Leicester City at the weekend and the return of Aymeric Laporte has certainly helped to shore up a defence which has been too prone to errors this season – although Vinicius may still fancy his chances of taking of Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker.

David Silva’s muscle problems could see him start on the bench on Wednesday in a game where Manchester City will look to dominate possession, while Real Madrid will seek to pressure them high up the field and look to force errors in a game that looks to be finely balanced.

–IANS

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