CM Toni Kroos
Toni Kroos was visibly frustrated with Carlo Ancelotti’s decision to substitute him in the second leg against Chelsea, but he was, in truth, playing poorly and had to be taken off for Eduardo Camavinga in order to save the tie. Carlo was proven right, in the end.
But for his part, Kroos erased the struggles of that second leg with a magnificent second-half performance at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan the following weekend in a memorable 3-2 comeback win over now-former title rivals Sevilla.
Real Madrid will hope Kroos can control the world-class Manchester City midfield in some way. Tactically, Kroos will be one of Los Blancos’ biggest keys to victory at the Etihad.
Casemiro’s status for Tuesday night’s fixture may be in the most doubt among the trio of injured Real Madrid starters. If he cannot start, Real can feel secure in Eduardo Camavinga’s ability, given the high level of his recent performances.
However, there is no replacing Casemiro. His ability to read the game, break-up play, and make fantastic defensive decisions could be the difference in Real Madrid pulling ahead and keeping City at bay. Of course, he is the least secure player on the ball – even moreso than Mendy – and could be the liability that Guardiola exploits the most tactically. A lot hinges on Casemiro in this tie, both in terms of his fitness and his consistency.
CM Luka Modric
There are no concerns about Luka Modric. Along with Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois, Modric has been THE difference-maker for Real Madrid in the Champions League. Nobody will forget his marvelous outside-the-boot assist for Rodrygo Goes in the second leg against Chelsea that kept Real’s Champions League hopes alive.
Modric’s defensive coverage, dribbling ability, work in tight spaces, and creativity will be vital in Real Madrid getting off to an ideal start in the tie at the Etihad. The Magician must be at his sparkling best, but we all know these are the stages he shines brightest on. He can add another marquee, big-game performance to his impressive career list by silencing the Etihad and teaching even the tactical mastermind Guardiola a lesson in midfield excellence.