The biggest matchup in the upcoming Champions League Round of 16 is the battle between Manchester United and Real Madrid. The dominant storyline in this match is the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to face off against his former club. As expected, Ronaldo made his thoughts about the impending tilt clear and he thinks that Madrid is the better club.
"I believe things will go well. In my opinion Read Madrid have a better team, but we have to show that on the pitch because United are a very united team and always have been in recent years," Ronaldo told the official UEFA Champions League magazine. "They're a team that always do well, every year they're at the top and therefore a team we respect a lot. It will be an extremely difficult match, especially in Manchester."
Ronaldo even added that he foresaw the matchup. "I actually said beforehand that I believed we would draw Manchester United... I've wanted to face them for some time. I have great memories from my time there." He mentioned that the match would be emotional for him because "I was there for six years. I have a lot of friends there, people I will see with great pleasure, it will be a match with a lot of emotions."
Ronaldo previously stated that he will not celebrate if he scores against Manchester United. It was rumored that he might make a move to his former club in January but he asserted his commitment to Madrid.
While Ronaldo's claim is call to rally his troops, there are questions as to whether his club is in fact the better side. Manchester United has been virtually unstoppable in the premier league this season and might have a perfect Champions League record if manager Sir Alex Ferguson had not fielded a B-team in its final two matches. Meanwhile Madrid started 2013 well but has faltered against some of the weaker Spanish league sides including Osasuna and Granada. Many pundits would connect these poor performances with Coach Jose Mourinho's statements that the league championship was no longer attainable.
The two squads are slated to face off in Madrid on Feb. 12 for the first leg of the Round of 16.
Jose Mourinho will be without club captain and first-choice goalkeeper Iker Casillas (fractured hand) and so is expected to continue with January recruit Diego Lopez for Wednesday's fixture.
Portugal centre-back Pepe returned after a month out with a substitute appearance against Sevilla on Saturday and is likely to start against Sir Alex Ferguson's side.
Angel Di Maria (thigh) is ruled out for both legs but Jose Mourinho could have Xabi Alonso back after he returned to training this week.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson rested Rio Ferdinand at the weekend, with the experienced defender expected to come into the team alongside Nemanja Vidic in central defense. Michael Carrick will also start, while Danny Welbeck should be given the nod in a wider position in order to combat the pace of Madrid on the counter.
Real Madrid: D/W/D/L/W
Manchester United: D/W/W/W/W
Real Madrid: Diego Lopez (GK); Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao; Khedira, Alonso; Benzema, Ozil, Ronaldo; Higuain
Manchester United: David De Gea (GK); Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Cleverly; Welbeck, Kagawa, Rooney; Van Persie
Where To Watch
Location: Santiago Bernabéu (Real Madrid)
Date: Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Time: 2:45 p.m ET, 11:45 PT
Check local times here: http://www.livesoccertv.com/match/638141/real-madrid-vs-manchester-united/
Real Madrid 2-2 Manchester United
This matchup is a great one and is hard to decide. I believe both teams will shine and in the end, will tie.
Make your predictions in the comments below.