Only a win will do for Real Madrid when they play Manchester City at the Bernabeu on Wednesday in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Gareth Bale has done a fine job of leading the line for Real in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in recent weeks and, while they haven’t been at their free-scoring best, the Welsh forward has taken it upon himself to keep the results ticking over, scoring four goals in his last four games.
However, there will be significantly less pressure on his shoulders after the revelation that Ronaldo would be fit for the encounter, meaning all eyes will once again be fixated on the Portugal international.
Sergio Aguero is undoubtedly the key man for City. The Argentina international has 28 goals from 39 games in all competitions and comfortably leads the club’s scoring charts.
Young Nigerian forward Kelechi Iheanacho has been in magnificent form in recent weeks, but it remains to be seen if he has done enough to earn his place in the starting line-up in such a crucial fixture.
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Despite the absence of two first-choice attacking players, Los Blancos have managed to maintain their unbeaten run, which now stretches to seven games in all competitions.
They were unable to grab an away goal in the first leg in England last week, but the return of Ronaldo will be a big boost for the squad ahead of this fixture.
“Cristiano is 100 per cent, but Benzema and Casemiro are different,” Real manager Zinedine Zidane told a media conference ahead of the game.
“I’d have liked to have Casemiro and Benzema, but it is not like that, others will play and they will do well. Karim today still had an issue, and we did not want to take any risks.”
City had the worst possible preparation for the match by being comprehensively beaten 4-2 by Southampton on Sunday and they will have to bounce back fast if they are to get the result they are looking for at the Bernabeu.
Citizens boss Manuel Pellegrini has promised his side will not be going to Spain looking to hang on for a goalless draw.
“We will not go to the Bernabeu trying for a goalless draw. We will try to get high, press and score a goal because a draw will favour us if we score,” he told El Mundo Deportivo.
Ronaldo is definitely available for the hosts after reportedly completing a full training session on Monday ahead of the match, but Benzema could only partake in a light running exercise and remains in doubt, while Casemiro has also been rated 50-50.
For the visitors, Yaya Toure is back in contention after returning to training following a thigh injury, while David Silva (hamstring) will definitely miss out.