Real Madrid V Manchester United: Tune Back Here For Live Match Commentary.
It's the game we've all been waiting for and it's finally among us. Real Madrid host Manchester United in the first leg of the last 16 in this seasons Champions League. Both sides are desperate for European success this season, with Madrid looking to win 'La Decima'. Los Blancos haven't won the Champions League since 2002, and will no doubt prioritize this seasons campaign as high as ever, with their current domestic struggles putting La Liga to one side.
Manchester United are the complete opposite of Real Madrid. Sir Alex Ferguson's men sit 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with their victory over Everton last weekend. Mourinho was in attendance for the game, and was rumored to have paid Sir Alex a visit before kick off. The two have come out in the media recently and highlighted their close relationship, something that has stretched back from Mourinho's time at Porto.
Although the pair have such a strong relationship, Mourinho feels that his relationship with Sir Alex is strong enough for the loser to feel a small degree of please at the other man's success! Mourinho said: "I feel privileged about that because he is such an important person in the football world, and more importantly, a good person."
Sir Alex admitted to changing his first team selection for the game against Everton after Manchester City's defeat, and you can be sure it'll be a similiar side who line up against Madrid this evening. Manchester United arguably have the edge with their current form, the Red Devils have taken 16 points from a possible 18, and look to have one if not both hands wrapped on the Premier League trophy. With one trophy seemingly already won, Fergie can now pay his attentions to the FA Cup and Champions League.
Mourinho and Real Madrid have all but given up their quest to retain their domestic crown. A flamboyant Barcelona side have stormed ahead this season and look increasingly likely to re-claim their title. Madrid do however have a semi-final tie against Barcelona to play, and are most definitely still in the hunt for the holy grail that is the Champions League.
Probable Line-Up: Real Madrid
Real Madrid have spent much of, if not all their time under Mourinho with the 4-2-3-1 formation. Iker Casillas is still out for the game, so Diego Lopez will start in goal. Arebloa will start at right back, with Ramos and possibly Pepe at centre back. The Portuguese had a 25 minute cameo against Sevilla on the weekend and will be crucial for Madrid in defense. Marcelo or Coentrao will line up at left back. The impressive duo of Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira will sit deep in the two holding midfield roles for Madrid, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo will start on the left, with Mesut Ozil in the centre and if fit, Angel Di Maria on the right. Karim Benzema is rumored to get the nod over Gonzalo Higuain.
Probable Line-Up: Manchester United
We can be sure that Fergie will play a similiar side that he did against Everton. Although there have been rumours that Jonny Evans and Phil Jones picked up minor knocks. However, if we go against the assumption's as neither have been confirmed, we can be sure the pair will at least be on the bench. David De Gea will start in goal, with the ever improving Rafael at right back. Rio Ferdinand was rested against Everton last weekend, but will no doubt be brought back into the side to partner club captain Nemanja Vidic, with Patrice Evra at left back. Michael Carrick will partner Tom Cleverley in midfield, although Phil Jones may be called upon to man mark Cristiano Ronaldo in a similiar fashion to Gareth Bale and Marouane Fellaini. Antonio Valencia will get a place on the right hand side of midfield, his physicality will be key in the defensive duties against the Madrid attack. Shinji Kagawa or Ashley Young could be called upon for the left wing. Young will no doubt bring in some discipline on the left hand side, with the Englishman known for his defensive duties as well as the attacking side of his game. Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie will be upfront for Manchester United, but you can expect the Englishman to drop deep like he has a lot this season.
Real Madrid will be favorites for the first tie in Madrid, however with an away goal an incentive for Manchester United, expect the English side to attack Madrid on the counter. Fergie and his men will need to get some sort of result at Madrid, be that a goal-scoring draw or an unlikely victory. Away goals always have a massive impact in European fixtures, and it will no doubt be very similiar in this game.
Manchester United will be out to prove a point against Madrid, with English clubs facing the possibility of not being in a quarter final fixture for the first time since the 95/96 season. Fergie will know that whilst he has Robin van Persie firing on all cylinders his side have a chance, but it'll be tough.