Manchester City’s 2-1 win over Real Madrid wasn’t too much of a shock. To some, it was considering the whole background of the European ban but how the Los Blancos were 1-0 up in the game. But in context, it wasn’t as much a surprise as it would have been if Toni Kroos had played. After all, the German’s absence costed Zinedine Zidane’s men dearly. Pretty much every football odds analysis website would tell you that Madrid are better with the German in the side.
It came as a shock to perhaps just about everyone. Kroos seems to have come back to his best this season and has been one of the most important players this season. But in a game that relied on controlling transitions in attack than possession, Real not having Kroos left them often struggling to create and dominate.
It was strange that City didn’t dominate possession. They had two false nines operating between the lines and resorted to heavy pressing in midfield. David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne played almost like floating forwards, with Gabriel Jesus playing on the left. The idea was to overload the midfield- like Guardiola did against Manchester United in the League Cup. The result means Real have a huge task ahead of them at the Etihad – and if you believe they can turn it around then many online bookmakers are offering decent odds. You can find easy registration here for the best available.
Real’s midfield was often struggling to deal with the numbers City had. They were constantly getting hustled and harried. Because of that, Luka Modric had a poor game. The Croatian didn’t win a single tackle and couldn’t complete a single dribble out of crowded midfield areas. He got dribbled past once, completing only 42 passes.
It was a true reflection of how he isn’t quite the player he used to be. He’s lost the pace about himself and like his compatriot Ivan Rakitic, has become prone to errors when put under pressure. City played on exactly that.
Kroos, on the other hand, has been doing otherwise. He’s one of the best midfielders in the game, when it comes to passing and his vision. This season has seen him pick up a tally of 68.2 passes per game with an accuracy of 93.5 percent. That is a very good number and defines the former Bayern Munich man.
He’s completed 2.2 key passes per game too, completing as many as 76 percent of his duels in the season. He’s much younger than Modric and offers that spark that the former Tottenham man doesn’t in the current scenario.
Federico Valverde didn’t have the best of games too. It wasn’t the worst but the Uruguayan was dribbled past three times, even though he won just as many tackles in the game. It was a gritty show from him but he wasn’t too involved in carrying it forward from crowded areas.
While if there’s something going behind the scenes is anyone’s guess, but it wasn’t the right decision to leave Kroos out. Guardiola is known to be a manager who relies on having more numbers in the crucial midfield area. City had as many as five midfielders playing in the game and that led to domination in the heart of the park.
And Zidane’s men lost the game in those attacking transitions. City were quicker and more aggressive in winning the ball back and releasing their positionally flexible players. Kroos being there would have had a big impact on the result and Zidane has to take the blame for the loss.