Champions League

Real Madrid vs Manchester City: preview, team news, starting XIs

Pep Guardiola and Manchester City pay a visit to the Bernabéu where they will take on Zinedine Zidane's Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Real Madrid vs Manchester City: preview, team news, predicted XIs

Real Madrid vs Manchester City latest news

Real Madrid start with Vinicius and without Bale.

Both Manchester City striker's Sergio 'Kun' Agüero and Raheem Sterling will start on the bench tonight.

Real Madrid vs Manchester City preview

Manchester City’s dreams of Champions League glory are being fought on two fronts this week; in the courts and on the pitch. The Premier League champions launched an official appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport against a two-year ban from European competition imposed for alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play regulations, an issue that will not be resolved overnight. City’s path to Istanbul in May will be decided in just 180 minutes against Real Madrid with the opening leg at the Bernabéu key to Pep Guardiola’s chances of finally breaking the European ceiling that has been hanging over his head since he left Barcelona.

When the dust settles on the Bernabéu on Wednesday evening, Guardiola will be 90 minutes closer to learning his fate in what could, depending on the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, be his final opportunity to land Europe’s elite club prize with City. With the Premier League title all-but gone, the winner of two Champions Leagues titles at Camp Nou can throw all of his resources at a Madrid side who still have domestic concerns to consider. The availability of Raheem Sterling, who has bagged 10 goals in his last 13 Champions League appearances, is a huge boost for Guardiola as is the gradual reconstruction of his stricken defence, which has kept back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time since October.

Guardiola has faced Madrid twice over two legs in the Champions League semi-finals, getting the better of José Mourinho’s side 3-1 on aggregate in 2010-11 but being thumped 5-0 by Carlo Ancelotti’s Real in 2013-14. His opposite number, Zinedine Zidane, has never been eliminated in a Champions League knock-out tie.

Guardiola’s affinity for springing tactical surprises is one of his greatest weapons and with the tools at his disposal it will be difficult for Zidane to second-guess his game plan. The Madrid manager has to construct a front line without Eden Hazard, whose return to fitness will have been the bedrock of the Frenchman’s original blueprint, and could turn to Gareth Bale to form an attacking partnership with Karim Benzema. City’s midfield dominance will be a cause of concern for Zidane, whose strongest line is in the middle. That could lead to a change of formation for the home side, whose 4-3-3 will be like inviting Guardiola to read a Mr. Man book. Isco may come into the reckoning as a foil for Benzema in a free role, with Fede Valverde and Casemiro likely to be deployed in tandem to screen a far from rock solid back four while also providing some couter-attacking impetus from deep.

Real Madrid confirmed starting line-up vs Manchester City

Courtois; Mendy, Ramos, Varane, Carvajal; Casemiro, Valverde, Modric; Isco Benzema, Bale.

Manchester City confirmed starting line-up vs Real Madrid

Ederson. Walker, Laporte, Otamendi, Mendy, Rodrigo, Gundogan, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Jesus

Subs: Bravo, Sterling, Agüero, Silva, Fernandinho, Cancelo, Foden

Real Madrid vs Manchester City: injuries and suspensions

Zidane is without Hazard and long-term absentee Marco Asensio, while Guardiola is missing only Leroy Sané, who is nearing a return from a cruciate ligament injury.