Champions League

Manchester City v Real Madrid: Zidane expects Ronaldo and Benzema to feature

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane expects Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema to line up against Manchester City in Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final at the Etihad Stadium.

Ronaldo sat out the 3-2 Liga win at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday due to a thigh complaint, while Benzema limped out of the contest shortly before half-time after taking a blow to the knee.

Both players were named in Madrid’s travelling party and, speaking ahead of his team’s Monday training session in Manchester, Zidane stated his confidence that they would recover in time.

“The idea is that we want them to play tomorrow, of course,  but we have the last training session now and we will see,” he said.

“They’re absolutely fine at the moment, they’ve recovered really, really well.

“We’ll test everything but the idea is that they’ll play.”

Zidane added: “I think they’ve got to be 100 per cent fit and I think they will be. They’re fine today.

“They are players who look after themselves physically. My idea is that they are both going to be fit to play.”

Madrid’s Clasico win over Barcelona at the start of April served to derail their bitter rivals and Zidane’s men are now unexpectedly in the thick of a three-way title race domestically.

The former France star believes this has brought the best out of his squad ahead of their latest assignment in England.

“We’re here now in a decent vein of form, probably the best of the season – even in games like the last ones where we lost Cristiano and Karim,” he said.

“We’re all coming here in good form and with just about everyone fit.

“We have to play against the opposition that we face. I’m convinced we can do a good job if we stay united.”

City are playing in their first Champions League semi-final versus the 10-time European champions but Zidane expects a close contested affair against a team he worries has the capability to hurt his own

“I see this as 50-50 to each team. Our plan is to go out on the field and score a goal. Our mentality is to win,” he added, with memories of a first-leg 2-0 quarter-final defeat at Wolfsburg still fresh – Madrid’s only slip-up in the past 12 matches.

“City, if you leave them space, they can hurt you in that space. Their players get between the lines and cause you problems. What we have to do tomorrow is stop that happening and stop them hurting us in those areas.”

Yaya Toure picked up a thigh injury in the 4-0 win over Stoke City and will face a fitness test for City, but Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne should both return after being rested for Saturday’s game. Raheem Sterling should also be available.

Madrid drew 1-1 with City on their only previous competitive visit to the Etihad back in the group stages of the 2012-13 season.


Key Opta Stats:

– Manchester City have kept a clean sheet in each of their last two Champions League games at the Etihad (v Dynamo Kiev and PSG). They had only kept one clean sheet in their previous 17 home games in the competition.

– City are the only team left in the semi-finals who have averaged under 50 per cent possession in the Champions League this season (48.6 per cent).

– Real Madrid have kept more clean sheets than any other team in this season’s Champions League (eight in 10 games). They have also won more games than any other team in this campaign (8).

– Cristiano Ronaldo has scored/assisted 77 per cent of Real Madrid’s goals in this season’s competition (20 out of 26). He is only a goal away from tying the record for most goals in a Champions League campaign, a record he currently holds (17 in 2013-14).

– Sergio Aguero has failed to score in his last three Champions League games, his longest drought in the competition since his run of five games without a goal between November 2011 and October 2012. He has not had a shot on target for 342 minutes.

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