In a very critical time, Zinedine Zidane took over the managerial duties of Real Madrid way back in 2015-16. As soon as he took over, Real Madrid won the Champions League three times in a row. In the summer of 2018, he left Real, but returned again to stabilize the house of Real Madrid in the 2018-19 season. He bloomed flowers again – the Royal Whites won the La Liga title by beating the arch-rivals Barcelona.

The next mission was the Champions League and against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, surely, it would be an uphill task because, City had the advantage of two away goals, and then, they would be playing at their own backyard. Moreover, Real would be without the services of their skipper Sergio Ramos, who received a red card at Bernabeu.

But with someone like Zidane around, who have not lost in a knockout game of the Champions  League, a dramatic turnaround was expected.

In the end, it turned out to be a disastrous display by the Los Blancos at the Eithad Stadium, who had no clue against the attacking display of City’s frontline.

City completed 10, 068 passes before this game in the final third of the game. They are just like an Armageddon offensively in the final third and only Liverpool and Southampton could resist their such display this season.

Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus all gel together and come forward like hungry wolves to tear the opposition defence into pieces. Most of their attacks come from the right side and they outweighed the opposition with pace and dribble.

Again, no one exploits the half spaces better than Pep Guardiola.

You leave those spaces, you would definitely get killed.

Zidane was needed to follow what Carlo Ancelotti did against Pep’s Bayern Munich in the 2013-14 season. A pragmatic approach to fill the spaces and then capture the opposition on the counter because this approach of Pep has a drawback – it leaves the defence unguarded.

Sadly, Zidane made a mess tonight and Raphael Varane made it look the worst. His defensive disasterclass set jitters in the Real unit – two assists were provided to Jesus and Sterling and the match was done and dusted. Just when both teams were trying to put themselves on the front foot, Varane committed a blunder – Sterling hit the nets and City gained the momentum – Real had been toyed for the opening 20 minutes.

Even though Karim Benzema equalized, still, City kept Real at bay! The boys with the Blue Shirt scripted attacks after attacks and had Thibaut Courtois not been there, it would have been a humiliating night for Zidane and co!

The backline of Real Madrid was at sixes and sevens. The absence of Ramos was evident.

The midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Casemiro looked lost and out of idea.

Zidane should have opted for a 4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1 formation rather than 4-3-3. Compactness was much needed against Pep.

Not playing Fede Valverde was a big mistake. He should have formed the base with Casemiro and the choice should have been made between Kroos and Modric.

Benzema as the lone striker aided b Rodrygo Goes or Marco Asensio on the right and Vinicius Junior on the left.

And then, go for substitutions according to the demand of the situation.

Starting up with Eden Hazard on the left was the biggest mistake of tonight. And continuing with him for the greater part of the second half was nothing but a howler – clearly, Hazard is not a Real Madrid material.

Hazard failed to exploit the left flank and was a lost soul. He simply disturbed the balance of the combination and not replacing him with Vinicius Junior remains a surprising matter!

If you make so many mistakes, surely, Pep would not spare you.

And he punished Real Madrid and made them look a bunch of schoolboys.

Pep used Kyle Walker to neutralize the threats from Hazard and Walker was the best performer tonight, which earned him the Man of the Match Award. Hazard did not get a look-in and his storming runs unhinged the Los Blancos big time.

Then another bright spot in the City armour was Gabriel Jesus. The man, who went through a lean-patch after the World Cup in Russia spent time with Pep to rediscover himself. Pep never lost faith in him and the results are showing.

As in the first-leg, Jesus his socks off on the left in the first half, then changed to centre-forward at the interval and bagged a crucial goal. This time it was a stupendously deft finish to that crucified Madrid – robbed Varane to tee up the first, and brilliantly finished the second for another quality display.

And nothing to say about Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.

Both were simply outstanding!

Real Madrid couldn’t lay a finger on de Bruyne all night long as he was constantly moving the ball into dangerous areas and keeping his side on the front-foot. Everything good City did run through him as he held court over the Etihad. Kept trying to score from corners.

Whereas, Sterling tortured the Madrid defence with his pressing and movement. Could have scored a second when played in. Moved to the left second-half and looked a true danger every time he touched the ball.

City had been the worthy winners and are looking dangerous in each match they are playing.


Real Madrid would only sit back and remember those past glories not so long ago.

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