Cristiano Ronaldo will be back in Manchester and will be pleasing supporters of his old club, but doing so in a different way. The Real Madrid star will come through with another top-class performance and that will shut the door on Manchester City’s hopes of advancing to the Champions League knockout stage.
After spending six seasons with Manchester United, the locals know him well. United is already through to the next round, and the only pleasure still to be gained from the remaining fixture for them would be seeing their arch rivals go out early for the second straight year.
This is exactly what will happen, as City need a victory to stay in the hunt for one of the top two spots, and the former United winger will be far too potent and dangerous to allow them to earn the three points they need.
Ronaldo has continued his goal-per-match pace this season with 12 goals in 12 La Liga matches. In the Champions League, he has five goals in four ties, and put his name on the score sheet in all but one of these contests.
In the previous meeting between these two teams at the Bernabeu, Ronaldo put on a fantastic performance. Joe Hart needed to pull off a few magic tricks to keep him out of the net early in the match, but the City shot-stopper ran out of luck in the waning minutes of the game, and Madrid’s star scored the game-winner in the 3-2 victory.
While any victory is clearly the result of more than just one player, Ronaldo will once again be the primary reason for another disappointing result from the Citizens.
He may only have one goal in his last four matches, but a return to Manchester, a matchup against a team he dominated two months ago and a chance to bring stability to Madrid’s Champions League campaign will all provide motivation to return to goal-scoring form.
City are likely to play without any true wide players, leaving plenty of space for Ronaldo on the wing. In addition, The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson notes that City left-back Gael Clichy will likely miss the match due to injury.
While Ronaldo most often attacks up the opposite flank, Clichy’s absence will still weaken the City back line, and the Portuguese winger often moves around the pitch throughout the match. If Roberto Mancini’s men could not contain Ronaldo when the defense was at full strength, it has little hope of accomplishing this difficult task without their first-choice left-back.
This match is set up perfectly for Ronaldo to come through with another fantastic performance, and unfortunately for City, that will mean another early exit in the Champions League.