5 Real Madrid players who could be MOTM vs. Manchester City in the first leg

Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois
Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois (Photo by Antonio Borga/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images) /

GK Thibaut Courtois

If Karim Benzema is the favorite to win the Ballon d’Or, then Thibaut Courtois is likewise the clear favorite to win the Lev Yashin award in 2022 after being insultingly snubbed in 2021. Courtois is easily the best goalkeeper in the world, as he has proven time after time this season with clutch saves from penalties, on long shots, or right at his face (El Derbi).

Just as Benzema’s goals are to thank for Real advancing past PSG in a fiery Round of 16 matchup, Los Blancos would not have made it to face Courtois’ former club without the Belgian’s jaw-dropping heroics to deny Kylian Mbappe multiple goals (and Lionel Messi a penalty) in the first leg at the Parc des Princes.

If Real Madrid are to make it out of the Etihad with a win or even a draw, you get the feeling that Courtois will be central to that effort. Riyad Mahrez and Co. will surely keep him busy.

CM Toni Kroos

Toni Kroos won’t be the only midfielder to make the list of possible Man of the Match winners for Real Madrid this Tuesday night, but he is first on my mind for a reason. The German’s ability to control a football match is second to none, as Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla found out the hard way in recent weeks when Kroos dismantled Real’s former title challengers in systemic fashion to spearhead an unforgettable second-half comeback.

World-class in every sense, Kroos already removed the sourness of his second leg performance against Chelsea. He will be itching to teach Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City a lesson about control in midfield, though it won’t be easy.

Kroos holds the key to Real’s performance in the first leg at the Etihad. If he balls out, Real Madrid stand a very good chance of winning and setting themselves up for a trip to the final.