It has been about three weeks since Premier League side Manchester United traveled to the Bernabeu to get an away goal in the 1-1 draw to Real Madrid. In that time United has continued their run in the EPL and FA Cup with 3 wins between the two competitions. Real Madrid has become a resurgent side in that time with 3 of their own wins including back to back wins against Barcelona in the Cope Del Rey and La Liga.
All of this has only lent more drama in the buildup to Tuesday’s match for which Jose Mourinho insists “the world will stop.” As if it weren’t already dramatic enough. Two of the biggest clubs in world club football facing off, Ronaldo making his return to Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson clashing once again, and Ryan Giggs set to make his 1000th appearance for Manchester United.
What happened in the first leg?
In the first leg there was a whole lot of tactical battling going on. What ended up happening was that both teams basically cancelled each other out. Real Madrid dominated most of the stats with 61% of possession giving them 28 shots and 8 shots on goal. This compared to United’s 39% possession and 13 shots with 6 on goal. Both teams ended up with a goal apiece coming off of headers. One could say that Manchester United came away with the better result since they got an away goal, however, never discount Real Madrid’s chances of getting their own away goal.
What to expect?
While in Spain Manchester United was content to sit back and allow Real to have large amounts of possession then push forward on the counter attack, very similar to what has brought a lot of success for the Madrid side this season. I doubt that this will happen so much in Manchester.
I would imagine the possession stats will be much closer, but also wouldn’t be surprised if it still favors Real Madrid, just to keep them from their favored quick counter. Manchester United do not have the same speed as Real Madrid and will mostly go with a similar setup to what they did in Saturday’s match against Norwich City. Utilizing a combination of styles including spreading the play out wide with the attacking forwards making runs into the box. With the return of Shinji Kagawa they now have a potent attacking midfielder who has done a great job working off the ball.
Real Madrid have largely relied on Ronaldo for their goal scoring threats, but more recently they have seen Angel di Maria really playing well. His speed will be a major threat down the wings. Their speed in general will be a major concern for United’s defense and Real Madrid have proven that they can get goals from any number of players other than Ronaldo.
I don’t know if it’s more Fergie mind games or not, but Phil Jones has been ruled out of being played. He was a crucial part of their first match with his role being to mark Ronaldo man-to-man for the entirety of the match. He and Paul Scholes are the only 2 listed as out for this match while Mourinho will still be without Iker Casillas in goal.
Manchester United: 4-2-3-1
De Gea; Rafael; Ferdinand; Evans; Evra; Carrick; Smalling; Welbeck; Kagawa; Rooney; Van Persie
Subs: Lindegaard; Valencia; Anderson; Hernandez; Giggs; Cleverly; Vidic
Real Madrid: 4-2-3-1
Lopez; Pepe; Ramos; Varane; Coentrao; Khedira; Alonso; Di Maria; Ozil; Ronaldo; Benzema
Subs: Adan; Arbeloa; Kaka; Carvalho; Essien; Modric; Higuain
I believe that United will start with Smalling in midfield to man mark Ronaldo and bring on Cleverly and Giggs in the second half (around the 60th minute). I also think they will start with Evans in the back because of his speed. Saving a player like Cleverly for later in the match means they will have his forward creativity for later on, though it is also quite likely that he will start. It’s also a possibility that Valencia starts on the wing to provide defensive support against Di Maria.
For Real Madrid, I don’t see them making many changes from the previous fixture with perhaps the exception of bringing in Pepe to give them more forward attacking options.
Predictions for this match have been wide and varied with most pundits rather split on the result, but mainly favoring Real Madrid. This is a match that makes predicting extremely difficult. I could easily see this going into extra time level at 1-1 (2-2 aggregate) and going so far as penalties. It could just as easily end 1-0 to either team and even 0-0. My prediction is a 2-1 win for Manchester United. I will admit that in part this is due to my EPL bias as well as the Manchester United fan bias. With that said, I do think that they have a very good shot at winning this. Keeping a clean sheet is going to be hard, but Old Trafford is going to be jumping and United has been playing well across the entirety of the pitch.
I am definitely looking forward to this one. My DVR is all set and I’ll have to wait till later in the evening after getting home from work to watch it. I will be providing my post match analysis and highlights after I’m able to watch the match, but that probably won’t be till quite late in the evening (as late as midnight). The match is being broadcast live on FOX Soccer Channel at 2:30 pm ET with a replay at 11:00 pm ET.
Let me know what your views and predictions are. Will Real Madrid be too strong? Will Manchester United be the only Premier League team to advance to the quarter-finals?