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Manuel Akanji at left-back, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden out wide — Predicted XI: Real Madrid vs Manchester City (UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final first-leg)



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Manchester City travel to Spain on Tuesday evening to square off with Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final first-leg. 

The two sides come into the affair in fine form. Manchester City are unbeaten in 25 games in all competitions, sitting one point behind Premier League leaders Arsenal, while La Liga frontrunners Real Madrid have only lost one game since the turn of the year. 

Injuries could define the first-leg clash at the Santiago Bernabéu however, as the Etihad outfit will come into the affair without Kyle Walker and Nathan Ake, while Josko Gvardiol is reportedly a doubt for the midweek affair. 

Real Madrid, however, are suffering from a defensive fitness crisis of their own, as David Alaba is out and Eder Militao is set to be a game-time decision for Los Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian manager could be forced into playing Aurélien Tchouaméni at centre-back.

With those fitness issues in mind, let’s take a look at how Pep Guardiola could set up his side in Spain’s capital Tuesday evening.  

Predicted XI

Ederson should return to the starting line-up after passing late fitness tests. Stefan Ortega has been solid in his stead, but Guardiola will be relying on the Brazilian’s passing range to unlock the hosts. 

The defence just about picks itself, and we begin with Rico Lewis in at right-back to cover for Kyle Walker. 

Meanwhile, John Stones’ return is a major boost to City, and he will join Ruben Dias in the centre of the park. 

Out on the left defensive flank, Manuel Akanji will fill in for Nathan Ake and the half-fit Josko Gvardiol, though it is not his natural side. 

Rodri and Bernardo Silva should make up the midfield for City. With the likes of Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde in the Madrid midfield, City will need their tempo-setters. 

Jack Grealish could just be the key man for City in these big games, and his return to form and fitness in recent weeks is of vital importance to Pep Guardiola and his options. Grealish should take up his usual spot out on the right. 

On the other flank is, of course, the red-hot Phil Foden.

With Foden out wide, that can only mean one thing – Kevin De Bruyne, a man who has provided many big moments in Madrid, will sit off the striker and look to pull the strings in attack. 

Ahead of the Belgian will be Erling Haaland. The 23-year-old did not score in the two legs against Real Madrid last season, and he should be keen on breaking that duck. 

Starting XI: Ederson; Lewis, Stones, Dias, Akanji; Rodri, Bernardo, De Bruyne; Foden, Haaland, Grealish.

Substitutes: Ortega Moreno, Carson, Gomez, Gvardiol, Kovacic, Nunes, Susoho, Doku, Bobb, Alvarez.