Real Madrid: This defender will be key to defeating Manchester City

If Real Madrid are to hold Manchester City to a clean sheet and score two goals, they will need Eder Militao to shine.

Real Madrid collapsed against Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 matchup in late February. Their defense wilted in the final minutes of the match, and now Los Blancos face a 2-1 deficit for their second leg tilt.

Wherever the match takes place – there are now doubts about it happening at the Etihad Stadium – Real Madrid will need a backup center back to take on the pressure of facing Sergio Aguero and Manchester City’s scary attack.

Sergio Ramos will be suspended for the second leg after his yellow card at the Santiago Bernabeu, so the young Eder Militao will step in next to Raphael Varane as the starter.

Militao has Champions League experience. He made it to the knockout stages with FC Porto in 2018-2019. He suffered in a 3-0 loss at the Parc des Princes against PSG. Even at 22, Militao has seen a lot at center back.

But he will be in a much more high-pressure game on Aug. 7. Militao will be going up against one of the world’s best front lines, as Manchester City can boast an attacking trio of the legendary Aguero, the impeccable Raheem Sterling, and the technically prolific Riyad Mahrez.

All three of those men can interchange fluidly, working with a midfield whose attacking intent is almost unrivaled in European football.

Guardiola will point to the untested Militao as a young, inexperienced weak link in the Real Madrid defense who his team can ruthlessly exploit with their experienced, established world-class forwards.

But Militao is no pushover. He has shown time and time again this season that he can stand up to many tests. He’s been part of clean sheets against Athletic Bilbao twice, Getafe twice, Osasuna, and Deportivo Alaves. And he seems to be in sync with Raphael Varane, so their partnership will be much different than against PSG in September. Real Madrid, champions of La Liga, are a much different team from then and even from February when they first played City.

Militao’s had defining performances, too. He stymied Inaki Williams twice in a must-win matchup at San Mames, saving his teammates from allowing more frustrating counterattacking goals. You know, the type of goals that doomed Real against both PSG and City in the 2019-2020 Champions League campaign.

With his calm passing, intelligent reading of the game, aerial ability, astuteness in the tackle, and speed, Militao has the total package. He’s not your average 22-year-old rookie playing center back for Real Madrid.

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And that’s what Real have to bank on. This match is a huge moment for Militao in his young Madrid career. It is an opportunity for Militao to make a name for himself on a world stage and to stand tall against three titanic forwards whose skill, savvy, and efficiency are difficult to match. In many ways, this game could hinge on how he fares in decisive moments.

Moments like the two goal-saving one-on-one battles he won at San Mames.