Real Madrid vs. Manchester City: Top Players to Watch in Critical Matchup

Jessica MarieCorrespondent IISeptember 18, 2012

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid looks on during his team's training session at Valdebebas training ground on September 17, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

It's been a rough start for Real Madrid in La Liga this season, and it doesn't get any easier with a Champions League matchup against Manchester City on tap for Tuesday.

Madrid, which has started off the season with just a single win in four games, must now contend with a Manchester City team that is coming off a Premier League title and has started its own season with two wins and two draws.

A win could be the spark Madrid needs to get its season rolling in the right direction. A loss could be another dagger in a campaign that already, in its brevity, has been full of them.

Here are the most significant players to watch in Tuesday's matchup.

Xabi Alonso

Ever since joining Real Madrid, Alonso has been consumed with the idea of ending the Champions League drought that has been afflicting this team, according to the Sunday Telegraph's Jason Burt. He knows, therefore, how important it is for Madrid to get a statement win against Manchester City on Tuesday.

A Champions League win means so much to him—and to Madrid in general—that at this point, it's even more of a focus than simply winning the La Liga title.

As Alonso told Burt:

I wouldn’t say it’s become an obsession. But it’s definitely something we need to do, something we want to do and something we can do. … It’s our biggest challenge now, our biggest target. La Liga is always important but, for us, the Champions League has become more important.

Not only does he have the focus to make it happen—his playmaking skills will be crucial as well.

Carlos Tevez

It hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows for the Manchester City star, who infamously wouldn't play last year in the Champions League against Bayern Munich, according to the Telegraph.

But this season is a new story—and one that has proven to be mutually beneficial for the team and the player over the first few games. Tevez has netted three goals for City, and moreover, he's displayed the kind of attitude manager Roberto Mancini wants to see from his stars.

Mancini told the Telegraph:

Carlos is improved with his behavior. He worked serious in preseason. I think he is another player with us.

If he keeps scoring the way he's scoring now, he could be a key component of a win over Madrid. 

Iker Casillas

No matter how bad Madrid has been to open this season, it still has one of the premiere goalkeepers in the world in Casillas. He hasn't been as strong in La Liga play as he was during this summer's Euro Championship, but with him in net, Madrid will always have a chance, at the very least.

The captain has been with Madrid for 13 years and has played in 630 official matches, according to ESPN Soccernet. He's been a part of two Champions League titles, five La Liga titles, a World Cup and two Euro Championships.

Casillas is nothing if not reliable. If Real is going to turn things around, it will start with him.