Real Madrid vs. Manchester City: 5 players who will decide the first leg

Real Madrid, Toni Kroos (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Toni Kroos (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) /
3 of 3
Real Madrid, Toni Kroos
Real Madrid, Toni Kroos (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) /

Manchester City CF Phil Foden

Phil Foden is one of the most highly-rated young players in world football, as he broke out last season with crucial Champions League knockout performances. Pep Guardiola has always spoken highly of Foden as one of the best young talents he’s ever coached, and he has turned Foden into one of the most versatile attacking players in the Premier League.

Real Madrid must be up to the task of stopping him, and that task will get much harder if neither David Alaba nor Casemiro can play in the defense. Foden has eight goals and three assists in the Premier League this season with four total goal contributions in the Champions League.

The kind of tactical chesspiece Guardiola loves, Foden’s movement off the ball could be what does Real in, just as the Merengues struggled at times to cope with the movement of Thomas Tuchel’s side in the quarterfinals.

Real Madrid CM Toni Kroos

If Real Madrid are to avoid getting overrun by Kevin de Bruyne, Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan, and the Manchester City midfield, then they will need a big performance from Toni Kroos. The German struggled in the second leg against Chelsea and was taken off for Eduardo Camavinga, but he quickly redeemed himself (as if he needed to) with a masterclass against Sevilla to buoy Los Blancos to a 3-2 comeback.

Kroos is a different level of midfield controller to anyone else he is erroneously compared to. A lot of Real’s hopes rest on Kroos’ shoulders, or, maybe more appropriately, satisfying pings and quick thinking in the face of the press.

Next. 3 matchups to watch for Real Madrid vs. Manchester City. dark

The Real Champs
The Real Champs /

Want your voice heard? Join the The Real Champs team!

Write for us!

Progressing the ball and getting out of tight spaces won’t be easy against City, so Kroos holds the keys to dictating the tempo, finding teammates in areas where they can then be dangerous, and turning defense into attack in an instant. Real Madrid must be perfect when transitioning, because they will not be allowed many opportunities. Kroos will be vital in that effort.