REAL MADRID - MANCHESTER CITY

Real Madrid's Zidane is infallible in the Champions League

He has progressed in the nine knock-out ties of UEFA's top club competition as manager of Los Blancos seeing off sides such as Napoli, Bayern, Atlético, PSG, Juventus, and City.

Real Madrid's Zidane is infallible in the Champions League

Zinedine Zidane is the straw that Real Madrid are clutching at right now in their eagerness to rescue a positive smile before the imminent visit of Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

Madrid vs City: a changed landscape

When the Champions League Last 16 draw was made in December, Los Blancos fans were looking forward to crossing swords with the Premier League champions. By then they had already been taken off their title-retaining stride by rivals United and their Spanish coach seemed to be showing signs of fatigue. Madrid, in contrast, were fresh from an impressive showing against PSG at the Bernabéu and winning in Bruges with room to spare, thanks to goals from Vinicius, Rodrygo and Modric. It seemed then a very palatable fixture, and one that carried the bonus of eliminating Guardiola's team. This has always had an extra emotional boost to Real Madrid, following his time as a Barça player, and then increased rivalry after his spell as coach of the culés.

Hello old friend | Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane celebrates with Old Big Ears.

Hello old friend | Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane celebrates with Old Big Ears.

But the reaction from City (despite being too far from the Premier League summit, but having consolidated second place) and their recent strong performances contrasting with the five points that Madrid has dropped in LaLiga against Celta and Levante, could see the wounds of the Copa exit to La Real torn apart if the Spanish side are knocked out on the Paseo de la Castellana. But those clouds that float over the Bernabéu on the eve of the massive duel with City allow cracks for rays of light to break through, as hope persists based on their manager's history in the top club competition on the continent.

Zidane already won it as a player in Glasgow (the ninth, La Novena, clinched by the perfectly timed volley from his left boot) and then as an assistant to Ancelotti La Décima was secured. What then came put his name into the managerial record books. As first team coach he has been infallible, taking his side through all nine knockout ties that he has been involved in. Never being eliminated, and winning three consecutive crowns.

Zidane's trail of UCL victims

The French coach conquered Europe back to back to back: La Undécima in Milan against Atlético, La Duodécima in Cardiff versus Juventus, and La Tredécima against Liverpool in Kiev. The victims along the way were Napoli, Wolfsburg and, curiously enough, City (then managed by Pellegrini) for the 11th; Napoli (again), Bayern Munich and Atlético for number 12; and PSG, Juventus and Bayern Munich for the incredible 13th.

As City's Raheem Sterling recenly told AS, "What Zidane's done isn't down to luck, it's a formula." The fans put their trust in Zizou...