Think back three weeks ago and I wrote a match preview on the eve of the “perfect match”; and the game certainly didn’t disappoint. The two teams battled it out on a cool Wednesday evening in Madrid. With end to end action, the two giants couldn’t be separated and the game finished 1-1, a reasonable result for both clubs although united must have felt happier than their Spanish counterparts.
So three weeks on and I again cannot justify a guaranteed result tomorrow night. Manchester United know that they will qualify into the quarter finals if they do not concede- but this is hugely unlikely due to the sheer power, speed and quality of the Real Madrid counter attacking mentality. Jose Mourniho wasn’t too unhappy by the result, and knows a win would be enough to see the most successful team in European competition go through to the last 8. Mourniho will also bear in mind that the away goals rule applies and if Madrid score twice, United will have to win the game to win the tie. To score 3 goals against the Spanish champions is a very daunting challenge and one United will hope to avoid.
Sir Alex Ferguson will be without Phil Jones tomorrow night, a man who was so crucial for the red devils in the first leg. This will mean that Johnny Evans or Chris Smalling will probably partner Rio Ferdinand at centre back. A man who must be credited for his outstanding performance in the Bernabeu is Spanish Goalkeeper David De Gea. He made some fantastic saves to keep United from losing the first match and you would have to feel that the Spaniard will be busy again at Old Trafford.
Real Madrid will be boosted by the return of captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas. The Spain no.1 is recovering from a broken hand he suffered in a La Liga clash. I expect to see a similar side to the one that played in the first game, possibly a start for Higuain in place of Karim Benzema. But one man who will play for sure is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese will again be hoping to spoil United’s dream by scoring at his former home. The Spanish giants will also have a morale boost after defeating fierce rivals FC Barcelona twice in a week. There is a sense this Madrid side will be tougher than the one that Ferguson and his men faced three weeks ago.
The score is currently 1-1, so a 0-0 would see United through, but like I said before, I think a 0-0 is out of the equation when you analyse the attacking quality of both sides. Old Trafford will be buzzing tomorrow evening and this may impact the players- especially the Man United players- to help guide them to victory. I think personally you can cancel out extra time and penalties as well due to the fact I think tomorrow will be more of a goal fest and 1-1 will not be the final score.
Finally, I would like to mention that Ryan Giggs is set to make his 1000th appearance in professional football. This is an outstanding achievement made the Welshman. Now 39, the winger has just signed a new one-year-contract that will keep him playing into his 40s. He is the only player to have appeared and scored in every season of the Premier League since its establishment in 1992. He is also won the most honours in the history of any British footballer. He has a creditable 24 trophies to his name with Manchester United, including 12 Premier Leagues, 4 FA Cups, 4 League cups, 2 Champions Leagues and a Club World Cup. I don’t think we will see another player hit this landmark. Congratulations Mr Giggs.
My Prediction: Manchester United 3-2 Real Madrid (4-3 on Aggregate)