A lot of focus as the UEFA Champions League returns will be on two key players as far as the game pitting Real Madrid against Manchester City is concerned – Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester City’s Yaya Toure.
The two teams will face off in the second leg of the semi finals, heading to the match on Wednesday 4 May on a clean slate after playing to a barren draw in the first leg.
Both Yaya Toure and Ronaldo were absent in the game at the Etihad Stadium in which Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart proved the difference with top drawer saves.
It remains to be seen how these two players will influence the match when handed the chance, if fit.
Cristiano Ronaldo has returned to training after recovering from a hamstring injury and the Real Madrid forward could be fit for the Wednesday game.
Ronaldo has not featured since 20 April, but could return for the second leg after he trained with his team-mates during the first half of Sunday’s session before working out on the pitch alone as reported on the club website.
The club site also reports that Karim Benzema who was withdrawn in the first leg also continued his recovery from a hamstring injury and Álvaro Arbeloa – who has not played since early April – completed some running exercises.
Real Madrid has lacked the spark without Cristiano Ronaldo, with Gareth Bale taking the mantle of leadership and winning the last two La Liga matches almost single handedly for the team.
Heading to the match, the only thing Real Madrid will have is the home advantage and after failing to score away, they will definitely be under more pressure.
Manchester City, on their part, will want to give their all for this match to secure a place in their first ever final. The last time they played at the Bernabeu, Jose Mourinho was the Real Madrid manager and it did not go too well for them as Real ran out 3 – 2 winners with two late goals.
This time the side from Manchester is stronger and better organized and the reported return to fitness of Yaya Toure will pass as a major boost and he will seamlessly slot into David Silva’s place with the Spaniard injured.
Toure’s return, coupled with Silva’s absence will obviously translate to Fernando anchoring the midfield to allow Fernandinho and Toure to venture forward with a potent attacking threat.
Yaya venturing forward will most definitely bring him face to face with Casemiro while the Luka Modrid and Toni Kroos are expected to play as part of the midfield after Kroos was rested on Saturday while Modric was withdrawn in the win over Real Sociedad.
Bale will once again be expected to play a key role in the game and should Ronaldo and Benzema retun in time, the Manchester City defence will have its work cut out.
For Real, manager Zinedine Zidane may choose to stick with the central defence pairing of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos but Marcelo, who was rested for the Sociedad match is a sure starter.
It will mean Real are well prepared to deal with the threat of Nigerian forward Kelechi Iheanacho who has hit form lately and De Bruyne, who is expected to push more forward with Yaya Toure’s return.