Real Madrid versus Manchester United is nearly upon us. Weeks of anticipation will finally be realised when the elite clubs meet at the Bernabeu on Wednesday evening.
The Champions League Round of 16 draw is undoubtedly the tie of the round, so it's time to focus on the latest buildup up as we approach kick off.
Both Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson had plenty to say in their pre-match press conferences. The Real Madrid boss indicates he will return to Premier League management when his Spanish chapter concludes.
When asked if he will replace Ferguson at United, Mourinho's response couldn't be more typical of the joker's reputation: "I don't believe so. I think we have to end our career at the same time. [Ferguson] at 90 and me at 70," said the former Chelsea boss (via BBC Sport).
Ferguson was in optimistic mood ahead of the clash. He indicated Manchester United must go and attack Real Madrid and need to get through the first leg with something to grasp. The Scot also revealed his disappointment at meeting the Spanish giants so early in the competition, revealing his desire to play Mourinho's men at the Wembley final in May (via BBC Sport).
Real Madrid Team News
Jose Mourinho is expected to restore Pepe to Madrid's back four, even after the impressive performances of Raphael Varane (via The Daily Mirror). The 19-year-old player will be all too familiar to Ferguson, who failed to land his signature back in 2011 (via talkSPORT).
As noted at the end of January, Iker Casillas will miss the encounter with a fractured bone in his hand (via ESPN). Former Sevilla keeper Diego Lopez is likely to start in goal ahead of Adan (via The Independent).
The 31-year-old is a top quality asset and already boasts two clean sheets against United from his Villarreal days. Lopez is also something of a specialist penalty stopper. Combined with United's poor spot-kick record this season, Madrid will feel confident of halting any such opportunities.
Manchester United Team News
Phil Jones is available after shrugging off a niggling injury. The Englishman could be deployed as Cristiano Ronaldo's shadow after successfully shackling Marouane Fellaini in the recent fixture against Everton.
Paul Scholes, Ashley Young and Jonny Evans also trained ahead of the game (via The Independent). Ferguson pretty much has a full squad to choose from for the first time this season.
The Twittersphere is going into overdrive for the upcoming match. Various Real Madrid, Manchester United and Ronaldo trends continue to pop up throughout the day.
Bleacher Report's staff are ready for the match, including world football lead writer Will Tidey, who is awaiting a red-nosed visitor outside his window (and no, it's not Peter Schmeichel):
Feels like Christmas. Day of the freckled demon and goose-stepping galatico is upon us.— Will Tidey (@willtidey) February 13, 2013
Phil McNulty, chief football writer at BBC Sport, suggests Sir Alex Ferguson also possesses a childlike excitement for the battle:
Sir Alex Ferguson has been everywhere & done it all - but no mistaking his excitement last night about facing Real Madrid in The Bernabeu.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) February 13, 2013
Former United right back and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville is understandably looking forward to the match, but is keen to remind everyone another game is also going ahead today:
Just an aside.I know you will be watching RM/MU but if you're a fan of all football make sure you Sky plus Shak D v Dort. Hell of a game!— G.Neville (@GNev2) February 13, 2013
This is sure to be an enthralling match across both legs. Manchester United must take something positive back to Old Trafford—even if it's an away goal within touching distance of Madrid's total. Can the Red Devils halt former employee Cristiano Ronaldo? Will he be upstaged by Robin van Persie? We shall find out soon.
Be sure to stick around on Bleacher Report for more buildup, live text commentary and post-match analysis surrounding both of tonight's massive Champions League clashes.