REAL MADRID-MANCHESTER CITY

Real Madrid welcome back Cristiano for Man City clash

The Portuguese ace has recovered in time to help los blancos reach a fourteenth European Cup final. Benzema and Casemiro are out, while Yayá Toure comes back into the fray.

Sixteen years ago a young man by the name of Jimmy Grimble was gifted a magical pair of boots that helped him live out his ultimate fantasy, to play at Maine Road, the then Manchester City ground. By becoming his school’s boy wonder on the pitch, Jimmy was able to impress his peers and gain the respect of his bullying classmates. Needless to say, Jimmy was a fictional character. A Walt Disney invention. A fairytale story during a time when the Red Devils were the dominant force in the Northern English city. That was a very different Man City. Before Mansour bin Zayed poured billions into the club, the Citizens were low on the continental radar. Nowadays Man City sit high on the Forbes rich list ranking as well as the UEFA coefficient table.

Back in the summer of 2012, Javi García, Nastasic and Jack Rodwell were the Premier League outfit’s three marquee signings. All three have since left the club. A year later Jovetic and Negredo were recruited by the Emirati-owned team. Again, both players are no longer on the books. In 2014, Bony and Mangala were brought in and are now spending more time on the bench than on the pitch. Frivolous spending has becoming the running theme but the blue half of Manchester have still been able to celebrate two league titles, one FA Cup and two League Cups and are 90 minutes away from reaching an unprecedented Champions League final.

Cristiano’s back for tonight’s must-win clash after undergoing stem cell treatment to recover from his bicycle-kick-induced hamstring strain. The Portuguese’s inclusion is a massive boost for Real Madrid: 93 Champions League goals, 16 this season, breaking the deadlock on 33 occasions, eight consecutive games on the scoresheet, 15 headed goals… Ronaldo is a huge addition to the starting line-up in the absence of Karim Benzema. Zidane will also be without Casemiro, a potentially big lose for los blancos who lack balance between defence and attack whenever the Brazilian doesn’t play.

Zizou has two positions to fill and five candidates to choose from. All signs point to Lucas Vázquez assuming the mantle up front with Bale and Cristiano. The Galician forward started at the Etihad and has featured in the last five matches. That would leave Jesé on the subs’ bench. Isco, James and Kovacic, in order of probability, are the three midfielders vying to step in for Casemiro.

City rested nine starters against Southampton on the weekend, and lost 4-2 as a result. David Silva is unavailable but Yayá Toure is back. However, Pellegrini’s troops will be building their play around two men: Kevin de Bruyne and Kun Agüero.