This week sees the return of the Champions League and with it the much anticipated match up between Real Madrid and Manchester United. It is very early in the competition for two such massive sides to be meeting but due to Madrid’s poor early season form they only managed to qualify second in their group. Despite Manchester United’s much more dominating league position Madrid are a team that can pose a danger at any time. It will be a tense first leg at the Bernabeu with United under more pressure to score, needing a vital away goal.This will be a tough task however as Madrid are a brilliant counter attacking side. The more United attack the more exposed they will be. For this reason all indications are that the first leg will be a cagey affair with both teams eager to deny the other an early advantage.
It is common wisdom that playing the first leg away is an advantage. I disagree. The home team has only to deny any away goals and they are in a much stronger position. They have the tough away leg knowing exactly what they need to accomplish. If United fail to score it will be a very very tough task at Old Trafford. I expect there to be few chances but Robin Van Persie and co need to make them count.
Real Madrid are without their Captain and Goalkeeper as Casillas has broken his hand. This will hopefully hinder the Spanish side. However otherwise Mourinho has a nearly full squad to choose from. The likes of Higuain, Kaka and Modric are likely to only warm the bench in a fearsome display of strength in depth.
Manchester United travel to Madrid with an unusually full squad. Jones and Evans both seemed to pick up minor knocks in the last match but a quick recovery seems likely. The other absentee is Ashley Young who is reportedly training but has not featured for about a month.
Predicted Madrid Team
Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Coentrao,
di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo
Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra
Kagawa, Carrick, Rooney, Cleverly, Welbeck
Amos, Jones, Smalling, Scholes, Anderson, Valencia, Hernandez
I expect Ferguson to revert to his normal more defensive formation he reserves for tough away fixtures. This will involve asking Rooney to once again drop back into midfield in order to accomodate both the Englishman and Robin Van Persie. Although there has been much media speculation about the inclusion of Phil Jones, I don not belive he has the pace to man mark Ronaldo. Instead Carrick and Cleverly will provide defensive cover whilst the rest of the midfield will press and restrict the madrid midfield. Kagawa and Welbeck will work hard in this pressing game and will hopefully also be able to provide support further up the field.
This is a similar tactic employed by Sir Alex Ferguson in the match against Spurs. Gareth Bale was restricted that day and United will look to combat Ronaldo the same way.
The defence pretty much picks itself. Evans has been the standout defender this season and Vidic played a full 90 minutes on Sunday. Ferdinand was rested against Everton so that he could be at his peak against Madrid.
Amongst the substitutes Amos has been selected on the bench for the last two matches in place of Lindegaard. There hasn’t been a comment upon the reason for this change. Hernandez is the player who can come on and change the game and he will be itching to prove what he can do. Scholes has not played for a while but if United get a lead then he has the ability to come on and settle the match down.
Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra,
Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Young,
Rooney, Van Persie
Lindegaard, Smalling, Giggs, Valencia, Cleverley, Welbeck, Hernandez
After unfortunately missing the weekend’s win at home to Everton, I cannot comment on how our side played, but I heard we played well, with notable performances from Rafael and Vidic, and an awful miss from Van Persie.
Looking to the crucial away leg of our Champions League tie with Real Madrid, and I’m predicting a slightly different team will step out to face the Spanish Champions, with most of the changes coming in midfield.
The fact that Cleverley played the whole match suggested to me that Anderson, a player who tends to play without Cleverley by his side (presumably due to their collective lack of experience), will start alongside Carrick, who only came on after Phil Jones got injured. I also think Giggs will not be able to cope with the pace of the match and so Young will play in his place. Controversially, I’ve picked Nani as our other winger. I think he put in a good shift last week, and as a result will have earned a chance to prove he should stay at this great club. Up top, it’s pretty obvious really, Rooney and Van Persie both have to play. They’re probably the two best strikers we’ve had since Cantona, and both in good form, so that’s a no-brainer for me. Finally, I expect Ferdinand to return alongside Vidic, who has been playing well. Evra and Rafael make up the full back slots, and regardless of my opinions on him and how I fully expect him to make at least one poor mistake in the game, there simply is no other option in goal than David De Gea.
We’ve disagreed on nearly everything. What do you think?