Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Manchester United v Real Madrid Preview

Tonight should be a great night for football fans as two of Europe's giants go head to head in the Champions League.  Manchester United and Real Madrid are arguably Europe's biggest clubs but there's only room for one of them in the Quarter-Finals of Europe's elite competition.  They drew 1-1 three weeks ago in Madrid to set up what should be a breathtaking night at Old Trafford. 

The game is packed with some of the best players in the world with players like Nemanja Vidic, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie going head to head with Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo.  It's not just on the pitch that world class competitors will be going head to head.  There will be another heavyweight battle in the dugouts as Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho do battle.  These two are right at the top in the management game and although there is a mutual respect between them, both are ultra competitive and would love to add the others scalp to their already overloaded CV's. 

I am a complete neutral in this one and have no love for either club.  In England and Spain I follow Leeds United and Barcelona so I am used to cheering against both sides.  Having said that, as a football fan I have a lot of respect for the players and coaches on show as there's not many better in the game.  All I can hope for is a good game, played in the right way by two world class sides with two world class coaches. 

My biggest fear is that the two sides will take a cautious approach and cancel each other out.  As much attacking quality as there is between the teams, the two coaches are more than capable of setting up their teams not to lose.  Fortunately, the 1-1 draw in the first leg means that a dull game would benefit Manchester United more and I simply cannot see Sir Alex setting up his team to play defensively against anyone at Old Trafford.  I have no doubt however that Mourinho will have a plan in place to spoil the game if his side score the first goal. 

Tactically, I would expect to see them both line up in the 4-2-3-1 formation.  United are without Phil Jones and I would expect Tom Cleverley to take his place alongside Michael Carrick in midfield.  Kagawa, Rooney and Welbeck should line up across the attacking midfield area supporting Robin Van Persie in attack.  Defensively, I would expect to see De Gea in nets behind a back four of Rafael, Evra and two from Ferdinand, Vidic and Evans.  For Real, I would expect to see Lopez in goal behind Arbeloa, Varane, Ramos and Coentrao.  In midfield Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira should provide the muscle to allow Ronaldo, Ozil and Di Maria to join Benzema in attack. 

I can see this game being one of the classics but as far as predictions go, I'll leave that to someone else.  It's almost impossible to call.  United could simply roll over a Madrid side who have struggled on their travels all year or Madrid could outclass United with their technical superiority.  Equally Ramos could throw the head up and get himself sent off or Ronaldo could once again grace a stage he has many happy memories of and send Madrid into the last eight.  You want a prediction?  Get a coin and flip it.  Heads says United win and tails says Real win.  It really is that tight. 

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