After last week’s stalemate there’s nothing to divide these teams as we head back to the Bernabeu and with domestic success set to evade both sides this match is a defining moment within their campaigns. It’s certainly on a tightrope with the six Champions League semi-finals since 2001 to have been drawn nil-nil in the first leg split evenly 3-3 between the home and away teams as to who went through.
However, if Man City are to advance they will have to do something that no other side has managed in this season’s Champions League, and that is to score in the Bernabeu. They will also have to stop Real from adding to the 18 goals they’ve scored in five home games in the competition this season. Since 2010/11, Real have won 30 of 35 home UCL games with just two defeats and a goal difference of +81. However, if we just look at matches against teams we have ranked 5th-15th within that (we have City ranked 8th) they are W8-D3-L0 (all score draws) but only W3-D2-L0 in knockout games. So the knockout nature might create a more nervous atmosphere and lead to a closer game, but it is nonetheless an impressive record.
While Real are also on a 10 game winning streak in La Liga City have been underperforming in the Premier League for most of the season. A 4-2 defeat at Southampton at the weekend means that any dropped points against Arsenal this weekend would result in them finishing outside the top four should Man Utd win their remaining three games. In contrast to their league form they’ve been excellent on the continent.
But we shouldn’t bank on a clean sheet here; they’ve managed just two in their last 19 European away games (one of those was against Viktoria Plzen) and 14 of their last 20 European trips have had at least three goals including exactly four strikes in the away legs of both the past two rounds. Moreover, they’ve travelled to 10 teams in the top five in our rankings since 2011/12 and have lost seven times, with half the matches having at least three goals as they failed to keep a single clean sheet.
There are some question marks for Madrid as both Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have been struggling with injuries. Ronaldo looks set to be fit though and the Frenchman may well also make it. Regardless, Gareth Bale is in superb form and Real’s win rate in La Liga has actually increased from 74% in the 53 starts Benzema has made since the start of last season to 81% in the 21 he’s missed, with their loss rate falling from 17% to just 5% in his absence.
For City, they will be without David Silva and there should be several changes from the weekend capitulation. However, it’s hard to see them being able to compete with Real. If we look again at Champions League second legs following a nil-nil since 2001, but this time expand our sample to all UCL knockout rounds and where the home team was the higher ranked, we see that the results favour the home side W13-D2-L3 and they advanced in 15 out of 18 ties. Furthermore, English teams have lost eight of their last 10 trips to Spain’s Big Two and six of those matches had at least four goals.
So Real look a fair price at 1.53 and we wouldn’t put anyone off backing them on the Asian Handicap, as if City have to chase the game Real can punish them on the break. However, given City’s defensive vulnerabilities and Real’s attacking prowess we prefer the goals markets with four or more what we’ll be looking for.
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