Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo travel to Old Trafford tonight to face Manchester United in the second-leg of their Champions League last-sixteen tie.
With the first leg finishing 1-1 in Madrid, it’s advantage Manchester United as we gear up for the most eagerly anticipated fixture of the year.
Manchester United have been firing on all cylinders recently and lead the Premier League by a whopping 12 points. They dished out a 4-0 drubbing to Norwich on Saturday, with Shinji Kagawa scoring a hat-trick. Having performed valiantly in the Bernabeu, Manchester United will be confident of progressing to the quarter-finals. With the last two ties between these sides resulting in 12 goals, an exciting game is in prospect.
Ominously for Manchester United, Real Madrid look to be hitting form at the right time. Inconsistent for the majority of the season, Los Blancos recorded two superb victories over Barcelona in their last two outings. The first, a victory at the Camp Nou, was a comprehensive 3-1 victory in which they completely outplayed their rivals. Confidence will be at a premium in the Madrid dressing room and this should be reflected by their on-pitch display.
Madrid have only advanced once in the Champions League after recording a home draw in the first leg, but that was against Manchester United in 1999-2000. Remarkably, Manchester United, for all their excellent performances this year, have only registered two clean sheets in ten home game’s during this year’s competition.
Phil Jones is a huge loss to Manchester United, as he has struggled to shake off an ankle injury and will miss the game. Jones man-marked Ronaldo in the first-leg, but his absence leaves Alex Ferguson with a tough decision on who to task with the challenge to snap at the Portuguese’s heels.
Ryan Giggs missed the 4-0 win over Norwich but is expected to feature tonight, in what will be a landmark 1000th appearance for the evergreen ‘Welsh Wizard’. Rio Ferdinand is available after beating the flu, and Robin Van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Patrice Evra are expected to overcome minor knocks. Shinji Kagawa scored a hat-trick against Norwich at the weekend and is pushing for a starting place. Rumours are circulating that Wayne Rooney may start from the bench, but Ferguson has refused to comment.
Iker Casillas returns to the Real Madrid squad for the first time since fracturing his hand in January, but Diego Lopez is expected to start. Marcelo has recovered from injury and it will be a straight shoot-out between the Brazilian and Fabio Coentrao for the left-back position. Raphael Varane will continue in the heart of the Madrid defence, but Pepe should start on the bench.
Kaka did not do enough against Barcelona to warrant a starting spot but could play some part as he continues his return to form. Gonzalo Higuain is pushing for a starting place, but Mourinho should favour Karim Benzema following his goal against Barcelona at the Bernabeu on Saturday.
Players to Watch
39-year-old Ryan Giggs will make his 1000th appearance in senior football tonight and it could not happen on a more fitting stage. Success has followed the Manchester United stalwart throughout his career and the two-time Champions League winner could have a big part to play on Tuesday night. Giggs has performed brilliantly in recent weeks and has the ability to unlock the Madrid defence with his pinpoint accuracy.
Cristiano Ronaldo makes an emotional return to Old Trafford for the first time since his move in 2009 and is currently one of the greatest players on the planet. He scored 7 goals in 23 Champions League games at Old Trafford, but has already amassed 8 goals for Real Madrid during this year’s European campaign. With no Phil Jones available, Ronaldo could be afforded a lot of space and will punish United if given a sniff.
Both teams are evenly-matched for and it is hard to call. However, goals are a certainty and over 3.5 goals at 6/4 is good value. A draw is available at 16/5 and is also advised.
Match Betting Home Draw Away
Ronaldo to score 3 or more goals – 18/1
Ronaldo to get a Red Card – 40/1
Ronaldo V RVP
Ronaldo V Rooney
Ronaldo V Manchester United
Manchester United 4/6
Ryan Giggs to score anytime – 11/2