Two months have passed since the last group stage matches of the Champions League, and we are now preparing for the first matches of the round of 16 in this prestigious European competition. Tonight at 9:00 p.m., we have two matches featuring three Croatian national team members – Mateo Kovačić (29) and Josko Guardiol (22) playing for Manchester City, and Luka Modric (39) wearing the Real Madrid jersey. Both teams are playing away matches.
Pep Guardiola’s team continued their journey towards defending the trophy after securing six wins in the group stage, including victories against RB Leipzig, Young Boys and Red Stars. Despite facing a shortage of players for quite some time, Guardiola now has a full team at his disposal, which is quite advantageous considering the upcoming FA Cup, the double weeks in the Premiership, and the Champions League.
Though bookmakers consider them huge favorites, Guardiola has warned his team that they “must be ready to suffer” during their match in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Guardiola explained, “We are feeling confident in the Premiership and the Champions League. We want to go all the way again. We have great characters and personalities in the dressing room who are capable of reacting positively in difficult moments. When I arrived eight years ago, I wondered if this competition was too much for us. We did have some difficult moments and defeats, but we have grown and managed to reach two finals and one semi-final in the last three years. Experience tells me that the first match of the round of 16 is always difficult, we have to be ready to suffer.”
Even though local media suggested that the Croatian national team members would not be part of the team as they were not seen in the first 15 minutes of training, Guardiola confirmed that Kovačić and Guardiol are with the team. They just needed a little more rest, but they will be included in the squad.
The odds are heavily in favor of Manchester City in Denmark, with a victory for Pep’s team at only 1.25. The odds for a draw are 6.9, and 15 for Copenhagen. The odds for City to reach the quarterfinals are 1.06 (Copenhagen 21), 1.33 for Real, and 3.5 for Leipzig. City is also the first favorite to win the Champions League, with odds up to 3. Real are seen as the third favorite by bookmakers, with odds between 6 and 6.50. Bayern is ahead of them.
Bellingham is injured, will Ancelotti bring in Modric?
Like City, Madrid secured victories in all six of their group stage matches against Union of Berlin, Bang and Naples. The Croatian national football team’s captain collected minutes in these matches, but coach Carlo Ancelotti did not mention him in the pregame press conference.
Ancelotti said, “We never think of those who can’t play, I think it’s fair to think of those who are here. Jude Bellingham is not with us, but we have won four out of the four games in which he was not there. Brahim and Joselu have been very good replacements.” He did not mention Luka Modrić.
The odds for a Real victory are 2.25, 3.8 for a draw, and 3.15 for a Leipzig win. Bookmakers see Real as the third favorite, with odds between 6 and 6.50. Bayern is ahead of them.
Real Madrid is performing better than ever in La Liga this season, with only one defeat. They recently beat Round 4-0 and are now five points ahead of their closest competitor. Many fans are hopeful that they will reclaim the Champions League throne.
In the last two games, Luka Modrić came off the bench, but in the Champions League, he often played the entire match. He could be in the starting 11 tonight. Both matches start at 21:00. Leipzig’s match can be watched on Arena Sport 1, while Copenhagen’s match can be viewed on Arena Sport 3.