Betfair Ambassador Dimitar Berbatov discusses Manchester City's trip to Real Madrid in the Champions League and Chelsea v Bayern Munich...
"You can’t call Guardiola a failure but how he judges himself is a different matter. Deep down, he will know his City mission isn’t 100% complete if they fail to win Europe’s biggest prize."
When two big teams play each other there is no fear on either side. Instead, there's just mutual respect between the players. Real Madrid and Manchester City both have great players and, in Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola, they both have great managers.
Both teams are second in their respective leagues. They're equals and I expect a close tactical battle when they meet in the Champions League at the Bernabeu on Wednesday. It's going to be very tight and the team that wins will be the one that doesn't make mistakes.
As a former-Manchester United player, you might expect me to be supporting Madrid in this one but that isn't really how I watch football these days. I've completed my grade A coaching badges so I watch football from a technical perspective, analysing how teams are set up, how they transition and how, on Wednesday, these two great coaches react during the game.
Which isn't to stay I don't still get passionate about football. I mean, how f***ing unlucky were West Ham not to beat Liverpool at Anfield on Monday? I really thought it was going to happen and I was gutted when Sadio Mane grabbed the winner for the Reds. Anyway, back to the Champions League.
Bale can show he's one of world's best
The best way for Madrid to stop City is to cut off the supply line from Kevin de Bruyne to Sergio Augero. City's weakness is at the back and Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho need to keep close tabs on the in-form Karim Benzema. Luka Modric and Tony Kroos will also be key for Madrid and, if City are any way short of their best in defence, they will struggle to contain them.
Then there's Gareth Bale. I hope he plays as he obviously enjoys playing against Premier League clubs, having scored twice in the final against Liverpool a couple of years ago. But even if Bale scored a hat-trick every week he'd still be criticised by some Madrid fans. I hope Zidane gives the Welshman the opportunity to show that he's still one of the best forwards in the world but his brilliance will never be enough to shut some people up.
Guardiola is no failure
Guardiola has achieved an enormous amount with City, two Premier League titles, including a 100 point season, as well as other domestic silverware. The City board brought Guardiola in to win the Champions League but, if he fails to do that again this season, I don't think his time there has been a failure.
City have not been as good this season as they were for the past two campaigns and their squad needs to be refreshed in the summer. But they're still the favourites to win the Champions League in 2020 and I think that's deserved.
Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, you can't call Guardiola a failure, especially as he's already won the Champions League twice. How Guardiola judges himself, though, is a different matter. Deep down, he will know his City mission isn't 100% complete if they fail to win Europe's biggest prize.
Hazard should do whatever it takes to solve injury
One man who won't play for Madrid against City is Eden Hazard. He's had a difficult first season since making his dream move from Chelsea. After fracturing his ankle again at the weekend, the Belgian is in a terrible situation. I sympathise with him so much. It's awful to get injured when you've only just come back, as happened to Hazard, especially when that stops you showing your new club what you can really do.
Hazard faces a big decision now, especially as surgery on his ankle could rule him out of playing for Belgium at this summer's Euros. But he should do whatever it takes to solve the ankle problem and be prepared for an extended spell of recuperation. That way, he can concentrate on the future and not have to worry about whether there will be a recurrence of this injury.
Unpredictable Chelsea will struggle against Bayern
The last week underlined how unpredictable this Chelsea are this season. They were abject in defeat to United then much better when beating Spurs on Saturday. So which version of Frank Lampard's young team will turn up when they face Bayern Munich at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night?
I have no idea and, as it's Bayern, I'm reminded of Gary Lineker's old saying: "Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win."
The Bundesliga champions are a tough team to play against, as Tottenham learned in their 7-2 defeat to them in the Group Stage, and you can always expect Bayern to raise their game for a tie like this one. I can see the Germans taking a narrow victory back to Bavaria.
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