Real Madrid v Manchester City: Visitors can edge low scoring game
Dan Fitch is expecting Manchester City's defence to perform when they visit Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16.
Real Madrid 2.90 v Manchester City 2.50; The Draw 3.90 Wednesday 26 February, 20:00 Live on BT Sport 2
Madrid suffer February blues
It's been a difficult couple of weeks for Real Madrid and it threatens to get tougher on Wednesday night.
A 21-match unbeaten run came to an end earlier this month with a surprise Copa del Rey defeat at home to Real Sociedad, in which Madrid were 3-0 down and then 4-1 behind, before rallying to end the game in a more acceptable 4-3 loss. Since that defeat their La Liga form has also suffered. A victory over Osasuna was followed by a home draw with Celta Vigo and at the weekend they lost 1-0 to a Levante team that had been struggling for form.
These results have seen Real Madrid lose their lead at the top of La Liga and they now trail Barcelona by two points, after a weekend in which Lionel Messi scored four of Barca's five goals against Eibar. In the post-Ronaldo era, Real Madrid lack such a talismanic figure and though still a good team, their chances of finishing the season as Europe's best team, seem remote.
Eden Hazard was meant to be the player to fill the gap left by Ronaldo this season, but he suffered an injury to Levante that will keep him out of action for some time. He will join Marco Asensio on the sidelines, while Gareth Bale is also a doubt having been ill over the weekend.
Is this the last chance for the Guardiola generation?
Winning the Champions League was always going to be a priority for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City this season. Their possible two-year ban from the competition makes that even more the case.
City will appeal but they will have to prepare for a ban of some sort, which could prompt some of their best players to consider their futures at the club. This could therefore be the last opportunity for Guardiola to win the Champions League with this group of players, who have performed so well over the past two seasons.
Since the ban Manchester City have won both of their matches without conceding a goal, beating third placed Leicester 1-0 on Saturday. The situation is a difficult one, yet it could be the very sort of motivating factor needed for a club that has curiously never really flourished in the Champions League since being bought by Sheikh Mansour in 2008.
Raheem Sterling could be back after a period on the sidelines with injury. This game looks like it's come too soon for the long-term casualty Leroy Sane, but the winger is back in training.
Play safe if backing away win
It's Manchester City that are the favourites at 2.48, with Real Madrid at 2.92 and the draw at 3.90.
With City being the shortest priced team to win the Champions League at 5.20, it's no surprise to see them favoured to gain an advantage in this first-leg, even if you don't agree with the assessment. If you're going to back them, it would make sense to play safe in the Draw No Bet market at 1.84. Real Madrid may not be playing well, but they have a wealth of experience in this competition.
Laporte makes big difference to City defence
There are expected to be goals, with over 2.5 priced at 1.66, ahead of under 2.5 at 2.36.
Earlier on in the season that might have been a fair assumption. City's defence has often been ragged and Real Madrid were scoring regularly.
At this point in time, things have shifted a little. Manchester City have welcomed back Aymeric Laporte to their back four and in the two games he's played since returning from injury, the team have yet to concede. With Real Madrid struggling to break down Levante at the weekend, this could defy the odds and be a low scoring affair.