"It's the game the whole world is waiting for," said Jose Mourinho. He's not wrong. Real Madrid host Manchester United in a Champions League crunch tie tomorrow evening (Wednesday 13 February) that has football fans across the globe salivating. Can Ferguson's men contain their seemingly unstoppable former team mate Cristiano Ronaldo? Can Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie continue their rich vein of form against the champions of La Liga? Here are five things to watch for in what promises to be a footballing spectacle to remember...
Ferguson vs Mourinho
"I'll have to get a good bottle of wine in," laughed Ferguson when the draw was announced, a nod to the customary drink he shares with opposing managers after games. Inside, he may not have been laughing. Mourinho is one of his greatest adversaries and there's been little to seperate the pair across their 14 encounters to date with six wins each and two draws. There's a healthy respect between the pair but both managers will be desperate to break their current deadlock with a win.
Expect goals goals goals...
With three of the world's top five strikers set to feature, it goes without saying that we should expect a high scoring pair of matches really. But history also suggests we should expect goals - the eight European encounters between Real Madrid and Manchester Utd to date have produced 31 goals, averaging 3.9 a game. Factor in also that Real Madrid have only failed to score once in their last 31 Champions League games, not to mention the drama of their last meeting in 2003, a 6-5 aggregate win to Madrid, and you've got a goalfest on your hands.
This first fixture is key for United
Manchester United have never won away against Real, drawing twice and losing twice. It's been 33 games since Los Galacticos were last beaten at home by - who else? - Pep Guardiola's Barcelona in 2012 so a win for United would deal a significant psychological blow. With Madrid midfield dynamo Xabi Alonso likely to miss out with a groin strain and Iker Casillas sidelined, it's not beyond the realms of possibility. After all, Real Madrid have conceded nine goals in the Champions League this season, the most among the 16 teams qualified for the knockout stages and have failed to keep a clean sheet so far.
La Liga vs the Premier League
One team is 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League. The other is languishing 16 points off the pace in La Liga. But Madrid go into this tie favourites to win with bookies offering 4/6 odds on a home victory which speaks volumes about the Premier League's reputation in comparison to La Liga. Both Manchester United and their derby rivals City were put out of Europe by Spanish teams last year so it's a matter of national pride - the reputation of English football rests on your shoulders, Rooney and co...
How do you solve a problem like Cristiano Ronaldo?
The famous number 7 went into Real's last game carrying a knock but that didn't stop him scoring his 20th hat trick since joining the side three years ago. Is there any stopping Ronaldo? One thing's for sure - it'll be thrilling watching United try.
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