One of the most anticipated matchups in the Champions League knockout round is Manchester United (Man. United) verses Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in Madrid on February 13. With less than 3 weeks to go before the matchup, Real Madrid is playing some of its best football in a long time.
The Man. United vs. Madrid draw will see Cristiano Ronaldo playing against his former club; also two high-profile managers with a mutual respect for each other—Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho will once again face each other.
The defending Spanish League Champions Madrid has been struggling in La Liga but proponents believe the club will turn the corner in the Champions League and get back to their winning ways.
As a prelude to this anticipated matchup here's how the teams fare so far:
Since the beginning of the New Year, Real Madrid has not lost a match. Madrid’s only tie (0-0) came against Osasuna on January 12. In 2013, the club has already scored 15 goals in 5 games thanks to the great play of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo who has 7 goals so far this year. Ronaldo had two goals against Real Sociedad; scored a hat-trick two days after Madrid loss the Ballon d' Or; and last weekend had two additional goals and an assist against Valencia. Madrid has also been getting balance scoring from Angel Di Maria, Sami Khedira, and Karim Benzema.
United on the other hand is at the top of the table in the English Premier League (EPL) and has been kicking on all cylinders since the acquisition of Robin van Persie last summer. Since the beginning of the New Year, United has won three games and drew twice (scoring 10 goals and conceding just 4 thanks to the reliable trio of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, and Javier Hernandez).
After being left out of the starting eleven in a 3-2 loss to Malaga last December, captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas returned to the lineup and Madrid has not lost a game since his return to the pitch. On the flip side, Manchester United has cooled off as the offense has not been as crisp as before. The biggest issue that United has to face is in goal. There is a rumor that Man. United plans to trading starting goalie David De Gea as well as his backup.
The defense on both teams is mediocre at best. Nonetheless, come February 13, my prediction is that Man. United will triumph over Madrid at the Bernabeu.
Madrid has been disappointing this season in La Liga (sitting in third place behind Atletico whom they trail by seven points and a huge 15 points deficit behind first place Barcelona). Anyone who believes Real Madrid will all of a sudden flip a switch, and turn the corner the remainder of their season is straight-up delusional.
I believe that United has the clear-cut advantage to this head-to-head matchup. No knock on Jose Mourinho, but Man. United is better coached and Sir Alex Ferguson has his club believing that they are the team of destiny.
Also, United has the advantage over Real Madrid because as the top seed in Group D they get to host the second leg of the draw at home.
The two teams will play again in the second leg of the Champions League at Old Trafford on March 5.
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