Cristiano Ronaldo fitness a key point in Manchester City vs. Real Madrid semi
A place in the Champions League final is at stake. Who will make it to the San Siro -- semifinal debutants Manchester City or 10-time winners Real Madrid?
David Mooney (City) and Ed Alvarez (Madrid) debate the last four showdown.
Who has the edge ahead of this one?
David Mooney: Manchester City have never really got going throughout the Premier League 2015-16 but Manuel Pellegrini's side have really excelled in Europe. It feels like their breakthrough season in the competition.
Ed Alvarez: The semifinals couldn't have arrived at a better moment for Real Madrid. Since Zinedine Zidane's team won at the Camp Nou three weeks ago, they have finally started to play at the level that was expected from such a talented squad. The French coach has found a solid lineup and has also instilled a sizeable dose of motivation into the side. The positive results have fuelled a great atmosphere.
How key is Cristiano Ronaldo's fitness?
DM: This could be a crucial factor in the tie. Madrid could be without one of their most influential players and missing Ronaldo would be huge. He was the man who turned the tie at the Bernabeu in 2012 when City lost 3-2 and he's got more goals than he's made appearances for the Spanish side. With City's struggling defence, it'd be a relief to see him miss out.
EA: Two stats show how instrumental Ronaldo is for Real Madrid, as well as how the team fare without him. In the last seven seasons, Real have scored 2.95 goals per match when he played and 2.47 when he was absent. As David mentioned, Ronaldo scores more than one goal per match, so numbers say the team only picks up half of that when he is not available. On top of his scoring, the Portuguese has recovered his ability to tear teams apart on the left flank. Although Real Madrid's bench is strong, Ronaldo is irreplaceable.
Who would make for a better finalist?
DM: This is new ground for City and it would be fresh for the competition to see them go all the way to the final. Whether or not it's romantic that Pellegrini's side are progressing is a different matter, especially given the money that's needed to be spent to do it, but it would be a fairytale ending for the season, especially with it being the manager's last year in charge. What better legacy could he leave than overcoming the odds and getting past his old team to win the competition?
EA: Real Madrid have played 13 Champions League or European Cup finals, winning 10 of them. In terms of credentials to play a final of the tournament, those are second to none. In addition to that, making the final with the scorer of that stunning winning goal back in 2002 in the dugout and the competition's top scorer ever on the pitch -- Ronaldo has scored 93 times in this competition -- and a whopping 16 this season -- seems fair.
Has Pellegrini been unfairly treated at both clubs?
DM: For his time at City, the answer is both yes and no. In his first season, he didn't get the credit he deserved for turning around a divided dressing room and pulling the squad together to win the club's first league and cup double. However, since then, he's underwhelmed. City shouldn't be scrambling to make the top four and they shouldn't be out of the title race by February.
EA: In Madrid, absolutely yes. In his first and only season with Real Madrid, he took the team to 96 points in La Liga. In the history of the league, only Jose Mourinho's side two years later and two Barcelona teams have earned more points. That Pellegrini squad also scored more than 100 goals in La Liga for the first time since 1990. He paid the price for a shocking Copa del Rey elimination to Alcorcon, at that point in the Spanish equivalent to the third division, which prompted a sector of the media to go after him mercilessly.
Let's also remember that Pellegrini competed with the best Barcelona side in history. Many still wonder what would have happened had he kept his job for one more season.
Who needs a place in the final more -- Pellegrini or Zidane?
DM: This has to be Pellegrini. Zidane is still in the infancy of his managerial career and building a great reputation, having turned around Madrid's fortunes. Pellegrini, meanwhile, has been going downhill at City for two of his three seasons. The Chilean needs to make the final to protect his legacy with his club.
EA: I agree with David. Zidane has already shown enough promise to keep his job next season. However, Pellegrini's unclear future at this point would become less daunting if he takes City to the Champions League final. He would leave on a very high note.
DM: 1-1. It won't be an easy match for City and they might struggle if they concede an away goal.
EA: 2-2. Both teams have average defences. The match should become a frantic, two-way contest, with plenty of scoring chances and a great watch for the neutrals.