Zidane vs Guardiola: a battle of eulogies

Barcelona carved out a decent result in Naples, but at such an excessive cost that it could be considered a Pyrrhic draw. Quique Setién will be without Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal for the return leg at Camp Nou after they picked up a booking and a red card respectively at the San Paolo, and it remains unclear whether Gerard Piqué will be fit for the Clásico after turning an ankle towards the end of Tuesday’s game. It doesn’t appear as though it will be anything serious, but the Real Madrid clash is five days away. Otherwise, Leo Messi again had a forgettable game on the big stage. The stadium that bore witness to the feats of Maradona wouldn’t contemplate any from the Barcelona forward. It was a game that revived the sensation that Messi performs below his own standards in the important away evenings in the Champions League.

On Wednesday it is the turn of Manchester City to visit the Bernabéu, with Pep Guardiola at the helm. The build-up to the game served to underline the mutual respect between the former Barça coach and his counterpart Zinedine Zidane, to the extent that their platitudes were practically delivered by Interflora. But beyond the niceties there is a game that will doubtless be a high-voltage encounter and one from which Madrid need to recuperate some credit. Zidane’s side have dropped five points in the league and lost the leadership to Barcelona and they are once again without Eden Hazard, just at the point when the Belgian was most needed. It is likely that Gareth Bale will play in his place, on the basis that if there is anything that can still spur him to a performance it is games of this stature.

Real Madrid should not underestimate Guardiola's City

City gave up the Premier League title for lost some time ago, although it not the fault of Guardiola or his side per se but that of Liverpool, and I’ll explain why. City’s average rate of points gained is similar to that of Barcelona and Real Madrid, but Liverpool have won every single league game this season except one, and there is nothing any rival can do about that. But seeing City pegged back in the Premier League should not serve to mislead anybody and much less in the knowledge that Raheem Sterling will be fit to play. Sergio Agüero is still one of the most lethal strikers in the game, Kevin de Bruyne pulls the strings like a puppeteer, the midfield is a well-oiled machine and Guardiola has defensive reinforcements, who have been missed, returning from injury. It will be a Champions League night to remember, one of those that the Bernabéu loves so much.