Manchester United will host Marseille at Old Trafford for the second leg of the UEFA Champions League last-16 round tie on Tuesday.
Having drawn 0-0 at the Stade Velodrome three weeks back, United have put themselves in a precarious position. They need a win to go through. Anything less than that will see them eliminated, as they failed to score an away goal at the Velodrome thereby depriving themselves of a safety net for this fixture. A score draw would see Marseille go through, while a goalless draw will take the tie to extra-time and even penalties.
Though the first-leg was followed by a 4-0 demolition of Wigan, the Red Devils then lost two consecutive games at Chelsea and Liverpool, rendering a severe blow to their Premiership title ambitions. It saw Arsenal cut United's lead at the top to three points, despite having played a game less. It was not a pleasant week for their manager Sir Alex Ferguson for one more reason - he was charged with improper conduct after blasting the referee after the Chelsea game. He then refused to address the media before and after the Liverpool, but resurfaced prior to the FA Cup quarter-final clash against Arsenal.
United got back to winning ways with a comprehensive 2-0 win over Arsenal, which advanced them to the semi-finals of the FA Cup on Saturday. Ferguson named seven defenders in his starting eleven for the tie, and it paid dividends. The Brazilian twins, Rafael and Fabio, were the major positives to emerge for United, both displaying attacking know-how down the flanks.
The win could well provide the spark that United need to finish the season strongly. However, they have to stay on their guard against Marseille. The French side will look to strike on the counter, and conceding a goal could prove costly for United as the away goals rule frequently prove to be the difference at this stage. If history is anything to go by, then United can afford to ease a bit as no French team has won at Old Trafford in the past 12 attempts. United's defensive record, the best in the competition this season, also make the English side the favorites.
Breaking down Marseille will prove some doing though, as they haven't conceded in 512 minutes of Champions League football. With the return of their playmaker Mathieu Valbuena after an injury, Didier Deschamps' will be confident that his side, who incidentally were the first winners of the Champions League trophy in 1993, can upset United and book their spot in the quarter-finals.
Despite their performance in the first leg, or a lack of it, Manchester United are favorites at home and should see ease themselves through with an unperturbed 2-0 win.