- injury knocks out Toure
Strong indication emerged last night that coach Zinedine Zidane intends to select Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema against Manchester City after the forwards recovered from injury.
Ronaldo sat out the 3-2 Liga win at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday due to a thigh complaint, while Benzema limped out of the contest shortly before half-time after taking a blow to the knee.
Both players were named in Madrid’s travelling party and, speaking ahead of his team’s Monday training session in Manchester, Zidane stated his confidence that they would recover in time.
“The idea is that we want them to play tomorrow, of course, but we have the last training session now and we will see,” he said.
“They’re absolutely fine at the moment, they’ve recovered really, really well.
“We’ll test everything but the idea is that they’ll play.”
Zidane added: “I think they’ve got to be 100 per cent fit and I think they will be. They’re fine today.
“They are players who look after themselves physically. My idea is that they are both going to be fit to play.”
Madrid’s Clasico win over Barcelona at the start of April served to derail their bitter rivals and Zidane’s men are now unexpectedly in the thick of a three-way title race domestically.
The former France star believes this has brought the best out of his squad ahead of their latest assignment in England.
“We’re here now in a decent vein of form, probably the best of the season – even in games like the last ones where we lost Cristiano and Karim,” he said.
“We have to play against the opposition that we face. I’m convinced we can do a good job if we stay united.”
City are playing in their first Champions League semi-final versus the 10-time European champions but Zidane expects a close contested affair against a team he worries has the capability to hurt his own
“I see this as 50-50 to each team. Our plan is to go out on the field and score a goal. Our mentality is to win,” he added, with memories of a first-leg 2-0 quarter-final defeat at Wolfsburg still fresh – Madrid’s only slip-up in the past 12 matches.
“City, if you leave them space, they can hurt you in that space. Their players get between the lines and cause you problems. What we have to do tomorrow is stop that happening and stop them hurting us in those areas.”
Meanwhile, Manchester City will be without their midfield powerhouse, Yaya Toure, after he failed to recover from a leg injury sustained at the weekend.
The Ivorian suffered a muscle injury in the 4-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday and will not feature against the 10-times European champions at the Etihad Stadium.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini said former Barcelona player Toure could also be struggling to make next week’s second leg.
“Yaya is going to be out, I think. He hasn’t recovered from the muscle injury,” Pellegrini told a news conference yesterday.
“Tomorrow the two players not on the squad list are (Samir) Nasri, who is not registered, and Yaya who is injured.”
City were beaten by Real’s arch-rivals Barcelona at the last-16 stage in the past two seasons, having a player sent off during the tie on both occasions.
Pellegrini said maintaining discipline would be key if they are to overcome Zinedine Zidane’s side.
“We need a hot heart and a cold mind — against Barcelona we played with one player less both times. It’s very difficult with ten players. We need our emotions under control tomorrow.”
While City must do without Toure, captain Vincent Kompany declared himself 100 percent fit having recovered from another calf muscle problem.
“Everything went well (in training) and, as always, unfortunately when you’re injured you have to work a lot harder than the rest and that’s what I did,” he said.
Manchester City and Real Madrid’s only previous competitive encounter was in the 2012-13 Champions League group stages. The Merengues won 3-2 at the Bernabeu before a 1-1 draw at Etihad Stadium.
For the sixth time in a row, Real Madrid will play the first-leg of a Champions League knockout tie away from home.
Manchester City has reached the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history. It has only won one of its four home games in the knockout stages, against PSG in this season’s quarter-finals (D1 L2).
Manchester City has only kept one clean sheet in its 10 Champions League games against Spanish opposition – a 3-0 away win against Villarreal in November 2011.
Manchester City is the only team left in the semi-finals who has averaged under 50% possession in the Champions League this season (48.6%).
Real Madrid has reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in each of the past six seasons, the longest current run. It is also its 27th appearance in the final four of the Champions League or European Cup, more than any other team.