Real Madrid will host Manchester United, the current leaders of the English Premier League, at the Santiago Bernabeu in Spain on Wednesday Feb. 13 in one of the most anticipated matchups in the European Champions League for several years. The two-legged knockout stage game will feature some of the world’s best footballing talent and should be quite intriguing.
Bet365.com has the latest odds of a Real Madrid win at 8/13 with a Man United victory at 4/1 and a draw at 3/1.
While each team has plenty of attacking options it looks like the club with the hottest goalkeeper and best defence will likely advance to the quarterfinal stage. Of course, the big story here is that Madrid’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo will be taking on his former team, which now features the likes of Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez, and Danny Welbeck joining Wayne Rooney in the attack. While Ronaldo is the runaway scoring leader for Madrid, all for of United’s strikers can be dangerous.
Both teams have been struggling defensively so far this season, but that doesn’t really concern them since they score goals by the bunches. United and Madrid managed just a single clean sheet between the two teams during the group stage this season. This came when United beat Turkish side Galatasaray 1-0 back in September at home. In six group games each, United allowed six goals against while Madrid let in nine.
It looks like United has the edge defensively according to those numbers and manager Alex Ferguson should try to exploit Madrid’s weaker Back four. However, if the past is anything to go by, Ferguson may make a mistake by playing too defensive. His best game plan would be to attack and try to keep the Spanish side pinned back in their own end. He’ll be making a mistake if he goes with just one striker. If you have van Persie and Rooney in the same side it would be foolish not to utilize both of them.
Rooney has scored 10 goals in his last 10 games and also found the back of the net for England in their 2-1 win over Brazil last Wednesday at Wembley. Meanwhile, Van Persie has hammered in 21 goals in all 31 competitions this year. Madrid manager Jose Mourinho will undoubtedly be starting Ronaldo and hopes his fellow Portuguese countryman can continue his red-hot scoring ways. The former United star has a total of 32 goals on the season so far in 30 matches played.
Mourinho will be without his regular number one goalkeeper as Spanish international Iker Casillas has been sidelined due to a broken thumb. However, Mourinho benched the keeper for a couple of games before he was injured. He could certainly use his captain against United though, especially since his team has endured a disappointing season so far. Madrid has managed just two wins in their past five outings and have won just half of their past 14 contests. However, they’re undefeated in their last 33 home games.
United is leading the Premier League by 12 points over Manchester City and have won 11 out of their past 14 games. In eight previous meetings, Madrid has three wins against United along with three draws, while United has won just twice. Madrid will have defender Pepe back and it looks like Xabi Alonso and Raphael Varane should be able to play too. United are hoping that defenders Jonny Evans and Phil Jones can participate, but midfielder Darren Fletcher is out for the season.
If Ferguson goes with a defensive squad here, United won’t win the game. However, if he’s positive they could go home with at least a draw.