Manchester United vs Real Madrid
UEFA Champions League, Round of 16, Second Leg (March 5th, 2013 – 19:45 KO)
Sir Alex Ferguson on the dangers Real Madrid will pose: “We know that Madrid are one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe. That is why our preparations are centred around making sure their counter-attack doesn’t kill us.”
Sir Alex Ferguson on the night itself: “It will be a fantastic game between two of the biggest clubs in the world. Emotions will be high, it will be a tremendous match – it can’t be anything else. The atmosphere will be electric. I think both teams will score but, hopefully, we’ll score more than them.”
Rested for the weekend’s 4-0 victory over Norwich, Rafael and Rio Ferdinand will come back into the side. They will be joined at the back by Patrice Evra and, most likely, considering the pace contained within the Real Madrid side, Jonny Evans. David de Gea, who has started the most games in this season’s competition for the reds, including a brilliant performance in the first leg, will start in goal. Elsewhere, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are certainties to make the XI, with the biggest selection headache likely to come in who will fill the wide areas. Nani has found decent form and was left out against Norwich, while Danny Welbeck and Ryan Giggs’ recent performances could earn them a place in the side. Ashley Young is also available and could be considered due to his defensive diligence. The biggest loss/inclusion will come in the form of Phil Jones. So colossal in the first leg, his availability could be crucial. If he does not make it, expect Tom Cleverley to come in (although, I have a sneaky suspicion he will play). After his hat-trick at the weekend, Shinji Kagawa, despite struggling in the first leg, could have played himself into the side.
Predicted United line-up: De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Welbeck, Jones, Carrick, Kagawa, Rooney, van Persie
ECL home record: P3 W2 D0 L1 F4 A3
ECL home form: W W L
Home record vs Real Madrid: P4 W2 D1 L1 F9 A8
Midfielder schemer Mesut Ozil ahead of the second leg: “It’s going to be a difficult match against a really good squad, but… If you can win in Barcelona you can win in Manchester”
After back-to-back victories over Barcelona, Real Madrid travel to Manchester brimming with confidence. Iker Casillas, who has been absent from the side since January 20th with a hand injury, has been included in their 24-man travelling squad. I’m not convinced he will be fit enough to start, though. The likes of Mesut Ozil and Xabi Alonso, rested at the weekend, are guaranteed starters. As is, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo, returning to Old Trafford for the first time since his world-record transfer to the Spanish capital. The Portuguese Phenom is certain to receive a wonderful reception – before the real business begins, at least. Alvaro Arbeloa and Sami Khedira, also rested for the 2-1 victory over Barcelona, will likely be drafted back in to the side. Otherwise, Jose Mourinho has a fully-fit squad to choose from. His major decision may well come in who he decides to starts up front, where only one of Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema will start. Benzema started the first leg, where he did not impress, while Higuain was rested at the weekend, perhaps with this match in mind.
Predicted Real Madrid line-up: Lopez, Arbeloa, Ramos, Varane, Coentrao, Khedira, Alonso, Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo, Higuain
ECL away record: P3 W1 D1 L1 F6 A4
ECL away form: W L D
Previous meetings at Old Trafford
United 4-3 Real Madrid (23-04-03), United 2-3 Real Madrid (19-04-00), United 1-0 Real Madrid (24-04-68), United 2-2 Real Madrid (25-04-57)
Cüneyt Çakır. The 36-year-old Turkish official has taken charge of 3 Champions League matches this season, brandishing 12 yellow cards and 0 reds. While he has awarded 3 penalties domestically, he has yet to award one in this season’s ECL. Interestingly, he has already officiated 2 Chelsea matches in 2012/13 – one in the ECL and one in the FIFA Club World Cup, where he sent off Gary Cahill.
2012/13 head-to-head (ECL)
Goals: (United) 10 – Madrid (16)
Conceded: 7 – 10
Disciplinary: 10 yellows, 0 reds – 7 yellows, 1 red
Shots per game: 14 – 22
Average possession: 57.3% – 52.4%
Pass success rate: 87.7% – 83.3%
Top scorer: Javier Hernandez, Robin van Persie (3) – Cristiano Ronaldo (7)
Assists: Wayne Rooney (4) – Angel Di Maria (5)
Best passer: Tom Cleverley (71.8/92.3%) – Xabi Alonso (75.0/84.4%)
Most appearances: David de Gea (6) – Cristiano Ronaldo (7)
Real Madrid have yet to keep a clean sheet in this season’s UEFA Champions League.
Despite averaging a goal a game, Cristiano Ronaldo has also hit 15 shots off target – the competition’s highest.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be the only player on the pitch who has played every minute of every match in the UEFA Champions League this season.
Real Madrid has scored 7 or their 16 goals from outside the penalty area – the highest number in the competition. United have scored 1.
United have scored 4 headed goals in the UEFA Champions League so far – no club has scored more.
United have kept only two clean sheets in their last 10 home UEFA Champions League games.
Only four managers have taken charge of 100+ UEFA Champions League matches – Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho are two of them.
The two managers cannot be separated at Old Trafford, either – there have been 2 wins a piece and 2 draws between them, with 7 goals both scored and conceded.
United have come from behind to win 3 UEFA Champions League matches this season – no team has completed more comebacks.
Score prediction: United 2-1 Real Madrid