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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola referred to Real Madrid as the ‘kings of Europe’, while Real boss Zinedine Zidane said his opposite number is the best in the business.
Both head coaches were speaking ahead of one of the standout ties of the Champions League last 16 which sees the favourites to win the competition come up against its most successful club.
While taking his coaching badges in 2014 and 2015 Zidane visited a number of clubs to see how their coaches planned sessions, how they implemented their tactical ideas, and what these were.
One of the clubs he monitored at this time was Guardiola’s Bayern Munich team at their training complex on Säbener Strasse.
This will be the first time the illustrious pair have faced each other in the dugout in a competitive game.
Zidane is grateful for the advice Guardiola gave him back in 2015, but with three European Cup wins in three years in his first seasons managing Real, he has already eclipsed the Catalan who has two in his 12 years as a manager.
“[Guardiola] gave me a lot of advice and we had many talks. He was very honest during the time I spent with him and I learnt a lot.
“But I will not tell you that everyone does it in their own way but he was very sincere and open about how he worked.
“For me he is the best. These are two great teams and I am convinced this will be a beautiful match.”
Guardiola and City’s media officer have spent much of the past few weeks fielding and fending off questions on their UEFA ban rather than discussing the football.
The Catalan has answered a fair few of them, but once things returned to matters on the pitch he spoke of the qualities needed to progress in this competition against such quality opposition, which includes getting a few decisions in your favour.
“You need to play well, first of all,” said Guardiola. “You have to be strong and be quality and be many things. And you need luck, yes.
“In the knockout stage, the decisions at certain points are important. But we cannot control that. What we can control is to play as well as possible and then we will see. It is what it is.
“You have to overcome things, like we did against Leicester. We missed a penalty again but the reaction after that was exceptional. In this kind of competition that’s what we need.
“We have to have incredible concentration in our game plan and what we have to do and of course, try to be a little lucky in the decisions we cannot control.”
Real Madrid could be without Eden Hazard for the rest of the season after the Belgian fractured his ankle in a 1-0 defeat by Levante.
Marco Asensio is a long-term absentee after rupturing knee ligaments in a preseason game against Arsenal.
City’s English winger Raheem Sterling has been linked with Real Madrid this past week, and may return to the fold after missing the last two Premier League games.
“Raheem is fit,” said Guardiola. “His natural physical condition, his regeneration, is amazing. He said to us he could play the West Ham game or the previous one against Leicester.
“The doctor said be careful because of the time. Muscular injuries are always three weeks or month and after 15 days he wanted to play. That is a good sign.
“He is fit. He is ready.”
David Silva is also in contention after recovering from a knee problem. Leroy Sane remains sidelined with a knee injury similar to Asensio’s.
Real Madrid starting XI
Courtois; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, F Mendy; Casemrio, Modric, Valverde; Vinicius, Benzema, Isco.
Man City starting XI
Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, B Mendy; Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Bernardo; Jesus.
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