Man City v Real Madrid: Back City to scrape a first-leg lead

Paul Higham expects a few goals in Man City v Real Madrid with Pep Guardiola's side backed to grab a first-leg lead.

Pep still in pursuit of the big one

Manchester City are edging closer to a magical double, sitting a point clear in the Premier League and into the semi-finals of the Champions League - they're favourites for both competitions as they line up for the first leg against Real Madrid.

After the street fight against Atletico this will be much more of a footballing contest, although both these sides can mix it in the 'dark arts' as City showed by more then holding their own against Diego Simeone's side.

Many say this is the one Pep Guardiola really wants to win as he 'has' to win the Champions League without Lionel Messi for his legacy.

That's largely nonsense as he'll go down as a great coach regardless, but he knows full well that it will be brought up if he doesn't land this with all the resources City have thrown at him.

City won their Last 16 tie two years ago with a pair of 2-1 wins in each leg, and after six Champions League meetings it's now two wins each with two draws - so delicately poised.

Real racing to Spanish title

Real Madrid are cruising to the Spanish title and had the weekend off to prepare for the trip to the Etihad, but they may have to tackle City without David Alaba who picked up a hamstring injury last week against Osasuna.

Carlo Ancelotti has lost four of his six games against Guardiola, although all of those came with Everton and his two wins came in the 2014 Champions League semi-finals when his Real Madrid side beat Bayern Munich 5-0 over two legs.

Real also beat City in the 2016 semi-finals when nicking a 1-0 won at the Bernabeu following a 0-0 in Manchester - a result they'd take again but one that doesn't really seem likely between these two.

City fancied for the win and goals

Man City are 1.4 favourites both in this 90-minute first leg and also the same price to make it through to the Champions League final in Paris next month.

Real Madrid are 2.8 to win the tie so not without a chance, but they're a whopping 7.0 to repeat their first leg victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The draw on the night in Manchester is 4.6 and with Real's attacking threat it's certainly worth considering.

Over 2.5 goals is heavily fancied at 1.67 so even though it's just the first leg, with styles making fights these two might not be able to help themselves from going for goals from the off.

Real have scored three goals in three of their last four away games, including at Stamford Bridge, so the danger is obvious and the experience of the last round may even tempt Guardiola to play it a bit safer in the first leg, knowing his side can prosper in the Spanish capital.

Any kind of lead would do for the former Barcelona coach to take back to the home of his old rivals.

Stopping Benzema the key for City

It's not breaking news that Karim Benzema is Real Madrid's star man, but there's still some around that continue to underrate the Frenchman despite his astounding scoring exploits.

Benzema has 12 goals in nine Champions League games this season, including that hat-trick at Stamford Bridge, and it's hard to see him going through two games against City without scoring.

Benzema is 3.1 to score at the Etihad and the away leg, playing on the break, could actually benefit him in the scoring stakes. He's also got three goals in the four-and-a-half games he's played against City, including two in three appearances at the Etihad.

Vinicius Junior has been the architect with his running ability as he's created 21 chances through dribbling with the ball in the Champions League this season, while 36-year-old Luka Modric has still got it as he showed with an assist in both legs against Chelsea.

They're both big prices for an assist here, with Vinicius 8.5 and Modric 9.0 to set-up a goal.

Guardiola's selection in attack remains a guessing game, as he used two completely different line-ups in the last two league games, with Gabriel Jesus scoring four against Watford and also bagging in the last two meetings with Madrid to press his claims for a start.

Jesus is 2.75 to score another, with Raheem Sterling 2.7 to score his 25th Champions League goal.

Kevin De Bruyne will start as Man City's undoubted star man this season, and he's made three assists in his last two games, having previously scored in four in a row, including the only goal of the tie against Atletico.

De Bruyne is just 2.5 for an assist and 3.3 for a goal, while he's 1.73 for either if you wanted to add him to a Bet Builder for the big game.

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