Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 September 2020

Rodri calls on Manchester City to prove they are Europe's best ahead of Real Madrid Champions League clash

Former Atletico midfielder wary of Los Blancos despite his team holding 2-1 advantage going into last-16 second leg at Etihad Staidum

Rodri has challenged Manchester City to prove they are the best side in Europe and show the big-game mentality to eliminate the 13-time Champions League winners Real Madrid.

City go into Friday's second leg with a 2-1 advantage they earned at the Bernabeu in February but the former Atletico Madrid midfielder has warned that Real can come back from much greater deficit, while manager Pep Guardiola is worried by his side’s habit of conceding goals in quick succession in their previous European exits.

Real have won three of the last four Champions Leagues and reclaimed the Spanish title last month but Rodri believes City, who will be without the injured Sergio Aguero, have the finer group of players.

But he admits actions speak louder than words and called upon his team-mates to justify his confidence in them as they face a team with the personality of serial champions.

Rodri said: “We need to show we can win this Champions League and not just this match. We need to show we are better than anyone and the way we know this team is the only way we can get success.

"If we pass this round, beating this kind of team is a big confidence for us.

“I think we have a better squad and if we do things well, things will be good for us. That's a general opinion of mine but words are worthless if you can't demonstrate that and prove it.

“I will say we are a side full of goals with talented players in every area of the field but it’s useless if we don’t show it on the pitch.

"We have to match them with experience and mentality in these big games. They have huge personality. They are the biggest team in this competition.”

Before the first leg, former Barcelona manager and captain Guardiola described Real as “the kings of Europe” and Rodri, who played for another of their rivals in Atletico, agreed.

“I have the same feeling,” he said. “Real Madrid are more than a team. They have that way of playing that means you can never relax. Even if you are winning 3-0, 4-0, they come back.”

Real’s European record stands in contrast to City’s, with a solitary Champions League semi-final to their name, but Rodri underlined their ambition to conquer Europe. “It is a tournament we haven’t achieved in this team,” he said. “It is our dream.”

Real manager Zinedine Zidane is set to make a late decision whether to start with Eden Hazard, who has been struggling with an ankle injury.

“We are the sort of team that wants to play against opponents when they have their best players on the field,” said Rodri. “We are aware of the dangers Hazard can bring and we are ready for him.”

Real will however be without Sergio Ramos, who is suspended after his first-leg red card, and Gareth Bale, who was not even selected in the squad to travel.

Eric Garcia has turned down a contract offer at Manchester City and has been linked with a move to Barcelona. Reuters
Eric Garcia has turned down a contract offer at Manchester City and is being linked with a move to Barcelona. Reuters

City are still without the former Atletico forward Aguero, who has undergone knee surgery. Guardiola is unsure if the Argentinian will be fit for the knockout tournament in Lisbon that follows. “Hopefully, but right now, I don’t know,” he said. “He is still in Barcelona. He is getting better.”

In a different way, City could lose Eric Garcia. The 19-year-old defender, whose deal expires next summer, has rejected an improved and extended offer and has been linked with his native Barcelona.

“He announces that he doesn’t want to extend his contract with Manchester City,” Guardiola said. “I imagine he wants to play in another place.”

A recurring theme in City’s three Champions League exits under him has been huge costly spells in games. Monaco scored two goals in nine minutes in 2017, Liverpool three in 19 in 2018 and Tottenham two in four last year.

Guardiola has talked to his players about avoiding a repeat. “We have spoken about it many times and we know it,” he said. “If we want to step forward and win this competition we have to be better in this area.

"More than conceding a goal is the way we concede a goal. If they are brilliant, we have to accept it but most of the goals, we have to avoid them.”

Updated: August 6, 2020 07:08 PM

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