Manchester City are “more than a match” for Real Madrid but they must be wary of Karim Benzema’s threat in the final third, says Joleon Lescott.
City will welcome Madrid to Etihad Stadium on Friday for the second-leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie, with the aggregate score currently standing at 2-1.
Pep Guardiola’s men earned a famous win at Santiago Bernabeu in February thanks to goals from Gabriel Jesus and Kevin de Bruyne, and only need a draw in Manchester to progress to the quarter-finals.
The Blancos put that disappointment behind them to clinch a 34th La Liga title last month after an impressive run of form post-coronavirus lockdown, as they won 10 of their final 11 fixtures to dethrone Barcelona.
Madrid are still confident of a comeback against City as they bid for a domestic and European double, with Casemiro pointing out that Zinedine Zidane’s men could benefit from the reverse fixture being played behind closed doors.
Lescott acknowledges the fact that the Spanish champions will provide a stern challenge even without their suspended captain Sergio Ramos, with it his belief that Benzema is the man to watch for his old club.
The former City defender says it will be crucial for Guardiola’s men to keep the Frenchman quiet on the night, but also believes they are capable of producing another stellar performance against Madrid to progress to the last eight.
“Sergio Ramos is going to be a big miss for Real Madrid and they could look back on his red card as the defining moment in these games,” Lescott told Football Index.
“Eden Hazard might well be back, but Benzema is still Real Madrid’s biggest threat. I don’t think Benzema gets enough credit for the number of goals he has scored consistently over a long period of time for the club.
“I think Varane is the best central defender in the world, alongside [Aymeric] Laporte and [Virgil] Van Dijk. Real Madrid have a lot of talent and accomplished world stars throughout their team, but Manchester City are more than a match for them.
“No-one will want to face Manchester City in the Champions League and that’s a big compliment for any team in an elite competition.”
Lescott thinks City will ultimately prove too strong for Zidane’s outfit despite the fact that they have benefitted from three weeks off since their last outing against Leganes.
“I see Manchester City beating Real Madrid again and progressing to the next round of the Champions League,” he said. “It’s going to be tough, but the result in the first leg means Real Madrid know they need to score at least twice to stand a chance. I think that plays into Manchester City’s hands.
“It’s going to be a very different game to the first leg because Real Madrid are now in a much better place with more confidence having just won La Liga and playing well since the restart. The Real Madrid players have benefitted from a holiday before this game too.”
Lescott added on City needing to win the Champions League to salvage their season: “I think by the standards that Manchester City and Guardiola, in particular, have set, the club needs to win the Champions League for this season to be considered a success.
“Manchester City have become accustomed to winning the Premier League and dominating the domestic cups, but they’ve fallen well short of Liverpool in the league and lost disappointingly to Arsenal in the FA Cup.
“The Champions League is a massive competition for Manchester City, If they were to go on and win the Champions League, that would be huge and we’d suddenly be looking at arguably the best season in the club’s history.”