Gary Lineker sees hope for Manchester City when they take on Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg on Tuesday night but admits he has doubts about how Manuel Pellegrini’s defence will cope with the know-how of the Spanish club.
“I’m really looking forward to going to those two games,” Lineker, who will be presenting the tie on television, told The Independent. “City have got a chance against Madrid. They are not the best team in the world at the moment. True, they’ve got one of the best players in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo showed what a great talent he is with his hat-trick against Wolfsburg [in the quarter-final second leg]. So, it will be tough but I would fancy them more against Real than against, say, Bayern Munich.
“Real have been a bit erratic this season. City have a chance but they are second favourites because Madrid are a lot more experienced and you do worry about City defensively, especially against the likes of Ronaldo.”
In the other semi-final, Lineker, who won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1989 with Barcelona, admits he has a respect for Atletico Madrid who play Bayern on Wednesday and sees similarities with another of his former clubs. “Atletico are so strong,” Lineker said. “They are the Spanish Leicester really! Not quite, but they play the way Leicester have the second half of the season: compact and they hit teams on the break – so there are similarities. Diego Simone [the manager] is good fun too, really good value and tactically he is brilliant. He has done really well.”
Although Lineker is impressed with Atletico wasn’t he disappointed to see them knock out his former club in the previous round? “Yeah, I’m always sad to see Barcelona go out,” Lineker said. “I love watching those three [Messi, Neymar, Suarez] up front.
“They just had a real dip in form at the wrong time… Suddenly they are not certainties for the league anymore, the gap on the others has closed and they have gone out of the Champions League. Three weeks ago, everyone was saying this is the greatest team ever. But that’s football. It is so unpredictable.”
Can he explain the dip? “Not really. Tiredness, confidence? Some players go on international duty in South America and they come back feeling it. Who knows? It’s form and form is fickle.”
Gary Lineker is an ambassador for Walkers who are launching Spell & Go, where people collect letters with packs of crisps to be in with a chance of winning one of 20,000 holidays