Manchester City have blown away a golden chance to put Real Madrid on the back foot in the battle to claim a spot in the Milan final of the 2016 UEFA Champions League.
Playing against a depleted Real side that was missing their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo and a half fit Karim Benzema, many would have thought that City will seize the moment to put themselves on the ascendancy ahead of the second leg clash at the Santiago Bernabeau.
Unfortunately, instead of City to go all out to explore the susceptible Real defense, the Etihad Landlords opted to be cautious in their approach not to allow any away goal from the visiting giants.
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While the Citizens may have succeeded in not conceding a goal at home, they may be torn apart in the reverse fixture which hopefully Coach Zinedine Zidane should have a fully fit Ronaldo and Benzema to unleash on the ‘inexperienced’ City team who are making it this far in European club competition for the first time in their history.
For City, the regret has to be that they did not take advantage or respond as might have been anticipated. Their performance never went any higher than six out of 10 and, ultimately, it leaves Madrid in the stronger position, albeit a marginal advantage.
City played conservatively and were looking very satisfied with a barren draw, which is understandable given the way they have capitulated in European knockout ties previously, but the stats suggest they may regret not pushing harder for the win when they had the chance.
First of all, of the 29 teams to draw a first leg at home 0-0 in the Champions League, only nine have progressed, which is a modest 31%.
Secondly, there is the daunting prospect of Ronaldo returning for Real. A quick look at how the team gets on with and without him suggests Zidane’s team are more potent, harder to score against, and more likely to win with Ronaldo in the team.
Ronaldo also has a typically explosive record in matches when he has returned from an absence, and assuming he is rested for Saturday’s match against Real Sociedad, means City can expect a big reaction from the forward on next Wednesday. In his last 10 ‘comeback’ matches, Ronaldo has 11 goals and five assists.
Real also have a formidable record at home in Europe this season, which reads: Played 5, won 5, scored , conceded 0.
City are still realistic in this tie but they could be haunted on the long run for not going out of their way for a win over their opponents when they had the chance.