Manchester City faces their biggest moment of the season after multiple investigations concluded that the club was in violation of UEFA "Financial Fair Play" rules. That means the Citizens will be banned from the UEFA Champions League for the next two years, so if they are going to win their first title in the competition, they will need to defeat 13-time champions Real Madrid over two legs in their Round of 16 matchups, starting on Wednesday.
The match also features a subplot in which two of the most respected managers in the game will square off for the first time in a competitive contest. Manchester City's Pep Guardiola, who has won the Champions League twice -- both times as boss at Barcelona -- faces Real Madrid's French manager Zinedine Zidane. Despite how Zidane has won three Champions League titles with Los Blancos, he downplayed the confrontation between the sideline legends, according to a report by ESPN.
"It's just Madrid-Manchester City, it's not Zidane-Guardiola," the Real Madrid boss said on Tuesday, as quoted by ESPN. "It's a game of football, it's an attractive game. These are the games we want to play."
For Guardiola's club, a third straight domestic title now appears out of the question, as Liverpool is outpacing City by 22 points with only 11 games to play. Real Madrid fell out of the Spanish La Liga top spot last weekend, suffering a shock loss to Levante.
ESPN UK previews the upcoming showdown in the video below.The Levante match was a double loss for Real Madrid, however. In only his second contest back from injury, Belgian striker Eden Hazard suffered a fractured ankle and is likely to miss the remainder of the season, according to the BBC. Signed on a deal worth approximately $115 million, Hazard has been a bust, suffering a thigh injury on the day before the season started, then a broken ankle in November during a Champions League match.
Perhaps due to Real Madrid's recent struggles on the domestic front, coupled with the blow of yet another Hazard setback, Los Blancos enters the Round of 16 first leg as slight underdogs, despite playing at home.
According to money line odds published by Action Network, Manchester City comes in at +132, meaning that a bet of $100 pays off $132, in the event they win. But Real Madrid's odds are set at +188 — with odds of a draw at +270.
The Real Madrid vs. Manchester City UEFA Champions League showdown kicks off at 9 p.m. Central European Standard Time at the iconic Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid on Wednesday. In the United States, where the cable network TNT will televise the match nationally, that kickoff time will be 3 p.m. EST, noon PST.