Cristiano Ronaldo's Return To The Theatre Of Dreams

 @christianvansly
on March 04 2013 12:02 PM

Team News

Manchester United

 

Robin van Persie is known for losing his temper quite easily. The Dutch player will need to keep his cool on Tuesday as one booking would put him under a ban. The situation is similar for Rafael who was tasked by Alex Ferguson to mark Cristiano Ronaldo in the first leg of this tie at the Santiago Bernabeu. The same goes for influential defender Sergio Ramos and midfielder Xabi Alonso of Real Madrid. These four key players will need to play with caution.

Shinji Kagawa proved his intent to feature against Los Blancos with a hat-trick against Norwich City on Saturday. He made history by becoming the first Asian to net three goals in one match in the English Premier League. If played on Tuesday, he may cause troubles with his pace and desire to make a big impact on the international stage since quitting German football last summer.

All is well with Manchester United who are fresh from a 4-0 demolition of Norwich at Old Trafford. The Red Devils, who have a date with Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on March 10, are on a streak of 18 matches without defeat since featuring a second string side that lost 1-0 to CFR Cluj in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.  More remarkably, Manchester united are the kings of comebacks, having lost only six of the 18 matches in which they have trailed this season. 

One thing Fergie and his men may want to avoid is deciding the tie through penalties. Records remind that the Red Devils have already wasted five of their nine spot kicks this season with Wayne Rooney, Chicharito, Nani and Robin van Persie being the culprits.

Phil Jones (ankle), who impressed in the first leg, is a doubt to feature on Tuesday, though Tom Cleverley is expected to come in for the Red Devils in midfield. 

However, Rio Ferdinand is expected to return to the side after missing the win over Norwich at the weekend with illness.

Jonny Evans is likely to once again partner the Englishman in defence, with Nemanja Vidic who played at the weekend, missing out.

Real Madrid

 

Madrid's two victories over Barcelona this week have shocked the world and certainly altered the perception of many regarding Jose Mourinho's squad. Prior to this week, Madrid was only second best to Blaugrana. However, the two victories have altered the perception of the team and its state heading into Tuesday big match with Manchester United in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16.

The team's two victories showcased tremendous organization (an element often lacking in the disappointing season) and offensive drive, confidence, and poise. These performances have started to make Madrid a clear-cut front-runner against Manchester on Tuesday. Heading into 2013, many felt that Madrid's locker room drama and poor record would lead to the team's implosion during crucial matches in the Champions League and Copa Del Rey; now it seems that the squad's confidence is being praised. "Psychologically the team has strengthened after the Clasicos but we will go to Manchester convinced we can go through. We know we can go through," said defender Sergio Ramos, the goal scorer of the winning tally in the Saturday match with Barcelona.

"Many said our season could end this week but it didn't affect us. We come out of those two matches a lot more motivated and with much bigger desire," added Madrid's assistant coach Aitor Karanka about the team peaking at the right time. "It's clear that these five days with these two games are the best we have felt all season."

Even Manchester United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson is shocked by Madrid's turnaround. "I was shocked [about Madrid defeating Barcelona]. Madrid were magnificent, absolutely brilliant, they won well," said the veteran manager. He added, "I said when we first got the draw that they are one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe...That's what we are up against and we need to make sure that the counter-attack doesn't kill us."

Jose Mourinho has first-choice goalkeeper Iker Casillas back in his squad for the game at Old Trafford for the first time since January 23, but it remains unlikely that the Spain international will feature.

Marcelo is also back in contention after recovering from injury and will push Fabio Coentrao for a place at left-back.

The Real Madrid boss rested plenty of key players in the win over Barcelona at the weekend. Alvaro Arbeloa, Sami Khedira, Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo will all return to the starting line-up.

Probable Lineups

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea (GK); Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra; Carrick, Cleverley; Welbeck, Rooney, Kagawa; Van Persie

Real Madrid(4-2-3-1): Casillas (GK); Arbeloa, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao; Khedira, Alonso; Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo; Benzema

Recent Form

Manchester United: D/W/W/W/W/W

Real Madrid: W/L/W/W/W/W

Live Streaming

Location: Old Trafford, Manchester, London, England

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Prediction

Real Madrid 2-2 Manchester United

 

The tie is evenly poised at 1-1. A high-scoring draw would suffice the visitors who are obliged to score to stand a chance of going through. Manchester United are majestic on home soil but will they do enough to stay in the UEFA Champions League? Both Los Blancos and the Red Devils have shown weakness at the back. This could do for a great night of drama and goals at the Theatre of Dreams.

Make your predictions in the comments below.

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