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Three key battles that will determine Manchester City vs Real Madrid

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Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid are going into their second leg tie against Manchester City with a one-goal deficit.

Between the defeat and tomorrow night’s game, Real Madrid were crowned champions of Spain. Their 4-0 victory over Espanyol ensured that they would reclaim their La Liga title, securing a record 35th league triumph.

Meanwhile, in the far West of Europe, the defending Premier League champions and current league leaders Man City also won 0-4. Their victory came up against a struggling Leeds United side at Elland Road, restoring their advantage at the top of the table.

Fine margins win matches such as that between Real Madrid and Man City. Kevin de Bruyne and Karim Benzema are the stars of their respective teams, and they performed exceedingly well in the first leg at the Etihad.

Join Madrid Universal as we explore three individual battles that will define the game.

Casemiro vs Kevin de Bruyne

If an individual was missed in the clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid last week, it was Carlos Casemiro. The Brazilian’s presence in the centre of midfield always gives Real Madrid an advantage; however, in his absence, his team lacked the necessary structure to fend off their rivals’ attacks.

Now back in his team’s dynamics, Casemiro is fully rested and ready to take on the Citizens on his home turf. One of the most significant battles he will face tomorrow night will be against Kevin de Bruyne. 

Casemiro returns to midfield. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Belgian international is arguably the best midfielder in the world, and neutralising him will go a long way in securing a victory.

Casemiro is one of the best players in the world when it comes to disrupting the flow of a game. And he will be entrusted to do the same against de Bruyne.

Because he is known for his hard-hitting fouls, Casemiro should offer the same sort of vigour tomorrow night. The Belgian can do almost anything from effectively anywhere. 

On the flip side, the Bruyne could take advantage of the fact that Casemiro is far from being the most eccentric passer in the world. The Brazil international often struggles to circulate possession making mistakes that someone playing his position usually should not.

The season has been rather bleak for the Real Madrid number 14, and if he successfully evades the attacks, the Man City captain could have a field day.

Out of possession, de Bruyne can nimbly force errors from Casemiro. His lack mentioned above of comfort on the ball can prove to be his downfall tomorrow night. 

A major threat on and off the ball. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

De Bruyne’s pressing, coupled with Manchester city’s collective understanding of positional play, means that mistakes from Casemiro on the ball could result in an easy overturn of possession, consequently leading to the collective downfall of Real Madrid.

The winner of this clash of titans grants the other clear access to their respective attack. Therefore, it will be crucial for both players to be at their optimal best if they are to avoid conceding goals.

Phil Foden vs Dani Carvajal

There are few, if any, that can say that Dani Carvajal has had a good season. The Spanish right-back has periodically struggled to maintain both fitness and form. 

In a significant chunk of his games in the current campaign, the Brazilian has made errors completely atypical of someone with his experience.

Phil Foden, meanwhile, is having a phenomenal season with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The English International is essentially an all-in-one player. 

Carvajal has a huge task on his hands. (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

He adds to the overall creativity of the City squad by virtue of his dribbling, shooting, passing or movements into space. It should be no surprise that his manager perceives him to be the single most talented individual he has ever coached.

If Foden receives this much praise, Real Madrid’s reverence should be more substantial. He is simply a footballer that cannot be let out of someone’s sight, lest he wreaks havoc on one’s defence. 

Last season, Liverpool were the unlucky victim of his mouth-watering football, and if Real Madrid do not take care, they could be the next on his ever-expanding list.

Carvajal has struggled immensely over the entire season, but if Real Madrid are to achieve success tomorrow night, he will have to banish the demons that have plagued him thus far.

This particular duel will be the key to Manchester City getting through on goal or Real Madrid keeping a clean sheet. Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus will have less of an opportunity in front of goal if their strength from the wings is shut down

Vinicius Jr vs Kyle Walker

Without a doubt, Vinicius Junior is having the best season he could ever have asked for. The Brazilian International has outdone himself from last season more than three times over. 

In the previous campaign, he scored just six goals, and in the current season, he has already gotten to 18 while having almost quadrupled his assist tally from his previous campaign to 15.

Vinicius had a field day in the first leg match against Manchester City. On the left flank, Pep Guardiola opted to play Fernandinho, given the injuries sustained by both Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker. 

Vini was a menace all night long. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

En route to a goal in that match, the Brazilian international made a filthy nutmeg on his national team counterpart and followed it up with a neat finish to reduce the deficit against the reigning Premier League champions.

Reports have claimed Kyle Walker is almost fully recovered from his recent injury and might play against Real Madrid on Wednesday. Pep Guardiola confirmed that he trained with the group on Tuesday and will travel to Madrid with the Citizens.

If indeed, he does face off against the Brazilian, then the entire dynamic of the match changes. And depending on his level of fitness, Walker is one of the paciest fullbacks in the world. 

Pure speed. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

The Englishman’s recovery pace will be vital against an explosive winger like Vinicius. Kyle Walker winning this duel will essentially mean that Karim Benzema will have a little less help.

As recently as this Saturday, the two combined for the Frenchman’s 26th league goal of the season, and Benzema has been electric on his own, so neutralising any support for him will go a long way in increasing City’s odds of a final berth in Paris.

If the Galacticos want to make a title charge in search of the 14th Champions League crown, they will have to bank on the City number two’s performance not being at its highest level and that of their Brazilian being at its very best.

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Features

Real Madrid World Cup Spotlight: Vinicius, Rodrygo, Militao advance to the Round of 16

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Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The second round of group-stage fixtures in Qatar came to a close on Monday in what was a day of very high-quality football. The first two games alone accounted for 11 goals in what was the highest tally in a day in this edition.

The first game saw Serbia and Cameroon face off in an epic clash that saw no end of twists and turns. The game ended 3-3 with the teams sharing the points.

The next game saw South Korea go 2-0 down quickly against Ghana before coming back in the second half. However, the African side scored once again on demand to steer themselves to a win.

Brazil needed a late winner from Casemiro to break the deadlock against Switzerland in the third game and secured their spot in the Round of 16.

The last game between Portugal and Uruguay was expected to be a match of equals. That perception quickly changed when the Europeans produced a dominant performance and killed off the game with two goals.

Madrid Universal brings you an overview of the performances of Real Madrid players on Monday.

Vinicius Jr (Brazil vs Switzerland)

Over the past few years, Vinicius Jr has carved out a reputation for being a thorn in defenders’ feet, be it with his world-class dribbling or his antics. As one of the best young wingers in business, he stands out in chance creation even when faced against the best in the business.

However, it appeared like Silvan Widmer had Vinicius in his pockets for large parts of the game. The two created a fabulous battle down Brazil’s left-wing but it was often the Real Madrid player who came second best.

The youngster scored a goal in the 66th minute with a perfectly placed shot after beating his man. However, it was ruled out for an offside intervention after the VAR review.

Apart from sporadic moments of magic, Vinicius did not offer much. He had just one shot on target, completed just one of his five attempted dribbles and missed one big chance. Moreover, he did not complete a single cross accurately and lost more than 50% of his duels. But he was involved in the buildup to the goal.

Eder Militao (Brazil vs Switzerland)

After spending 90 minutes on the bench against Serbia, Militao received his first World Cup start on Monday night. However, the manager deployed him as the right-back as opposed to his usual position in central defence.

Despite playing in a foreign position, the Brazilian was convincing in defence and stopped the likes of Ruben Vargas and Ricardo Rodriguez.

Understandably, Militao did not look to burst into the final third and create chances like a traditional full-back but was still heavily linked in the build-up play. He completed 87% of his attempted passes, five out of eight long balls and even provided a key pass.

Rodrygo Goes (Brazil vs Switzerland)

Rodrygo impressed after coming on from the bench (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images)

After Brazil’s underwhelming first half, the manager turned to Rodrygo at the start of the second period. The youngster came on for Lucas Paqueta at halftime in an attempt to ramp up Selecao’s threat in the final third and the decision paid off.

It was the young sensation who assisted Casemiro’s goal in the 83rd minute. Receiving the ball from Vinicius, Rodrygo just flicked the ball away from defenders and into the feet of Casemiro to set up an ideal half-volley.

Apart from his assist, the Real Madrid man came painfully close to scoring in the 94th minute only to be denied by Manuel Akanji. He had one shot on target, one blocked, and a key pass.

Federico Valverde (Uruguay vs Portugal)

Uruguay have perhaps been the most disappointing team in the World Cup this year. The squad is filled with quality players from Rodrigo Bentancur and Darwin Nunez to Luis Suarez, Federico Valverde and Diego Godin.

The South Americans once again dished out an average game against Portugal, but it was Valverde who seemed the most inspiring in the Uruguayan team.

The in-form midfielder did not pose much threat to the goal on the night but worked like a machine off the ball. He recorded three interceptions, and two tackles, and won two tackles against Fernando Santos’ side in addition to a key pass and a big chance created. 

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