European Heavyweights Lock Horns

Image courtesy of sport.uk.msn.com
Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the first leg. Image courtesy of sport.uk.msn.com

Manchester United  and Real Madrid  go into their second leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie at Old Trafford on Wednesday morning (AEST) all square, after the sides played out a 1-1  draw in Spain a fortnight ago. Both clubs scored good League wins on the weekend and will be primed for this titanic battle in the north of England with a host of stars returning.

The Red Devils scored an easy 4-0  win over Norwich City in the Premier League on Saturday, with Shinji Kagawa netting a hat trick, but he may not figure in the Champions League with Sir Alex Ferguson set to recall several of his first choice team for that match. Ryan Giggs didn’t figure against the Canaries but will make his 1000th appearance for United against Real, while Rio Ferdinand, Rafael and Ashley Young are amongst the other players in contention for a recall. Robin van Persie was substituted after an hour on the weekend but is fit to play.

World Cup winning captain Iker Casillas has been named in Real Madrid’s 24 man squad for the first time since his team’s 5-0 win over Valencia on January 20 after recovering from a hand injury and will return in goal. Like their opponents, the La Liga side rested several stars for its 2-1  victory over Barcelona on the weekend including Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Mesut Oezil and Gonzalo Higuain, although Ronaldo came off the bench.

History suggests that there is a good chance the winner of this tie will win the Champions League. These clubs have met in four European Cup ties and the winner has gone on to lift the trophy on three occasions. The Spaniards won in 2002/03, 1999/2000 and 1956/57 while the lone tie between the sides that Manchester United won was in the 1967/68 semi-finals.

Jose Mourinho has a good record against the three time European champions, having won five of ten meetings against the Red Devils when in charge of Chelsea, with four matches ending in a draw  and the other in defeat. His Porto FC shocked the football world by knocking the much better credentialed Reds out of the Champions League at this stage in the 2003/04 season with a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

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