Manchester United vs. Real Madrid: Predicting the Starting Lineups
Sir Alex Ferguson's team warmed up for the Champions League Round of 16 second leg with a 4-0 Premier League win over Norwich. In Spain, Jose Mourinho's men wrapped up a second victory over Barcelona in the space of four days.
The score is locked at 1-1. Cristiano Ronaldo responded to Danny Welbeck's opener at the Bernabeu and will be hoping to eliminate his old team with a virtuoso performance in front of a 76,000 capacity crowd. Can the former Red Devil break the hearts of the club that propelled him toward international superstardom?
Manchester United Team News
United fans will be hoping Phil Jones can recover from injury and limit the threat of Ronaldo once more. At this stage, the combative Englishman has "a fighting chance" of starting on Tuesday night, per Ferguson (via ESPN). His presence was key in Spain and could have a major bearing on the outcome of the match.
It will be a straight battle between Paul Scholes, Anderson and Tom Cleverley if Jones isn't fit. Anderson was extremely poor against Norwich and hasn't done enough to force himself into the starting lineup. Cleverley's energy is likely to be favoured, especially as Scholes was left in Manchester for the first leg.
Ferguson has rotated players of late and given everybody the chance to prove their worth ahead of Madrid's arrival. Shinji Kagawa played poorly in the first leg—but after a terrific hat trick in the demolition of Norwich—is likely to retain his starting place in the Champions League lineup.
Ryan Giggs is almost guaranteed to make his 1,000th career appearance in front of millions across the world. Ferguson rested the veteran Welshman against Norwich and is likely to bring him into the latter stages of the match, perhaps for Kagawa (via The Daily Mail). Giggs often looks sharper from the bench and could make a real difference as the encounter comes to a close.
Danny Welbeck has been impressive of late and could start on United's right flank. The hard-working forward scored an important goal in the opening match and has the energy to galvanise United's attacking and defensive play. Despite an improved display against Norwich, Antonio Valencia could provide fresh legs off the bench if United run into a trouble.
Plenty of key players were rested in the Premier League clash with Chris Hughton's Canaries. Rafael will certainly replace Chris Smalling at right-back, while Nemanja Vidic is expected to lose his place to Rio Ferdinand. Ferguson has already suggested the two defenders are unlikely to play together often, and after a brilliant performance in Madrid, Ferdinand should get the nod (via Sky Sports).
Predicted Starting XI: De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Welbeck, Carrick, Jones, Kagawa; Rooney, Van Persie.
Real Madrid Team News
Jose Mourinho will be in dreamland right now. Not only have Madrid beaten Barcelona twice in two matches; the second victory came with a severely depleted team. Many stars were rested against the Catalan giants and will be itching to get on the Old Trafford pitch.
Iker Casillas has been injured since the end of January but is in the squad travelling to England. Whether or not Mourinho will start him ahead of Diego Lopez—who made a fantastic save in the first match—is up for debate.
Who will emerge victorious at Old Trafford?
Marcelo is also included and could jump ahead of Fabio Coentrao for a starting place (via Real Madrid.com). The Brazilian has been injured since October and is likely to receive a place on the bench (via The Guardian).
Michael Essien, Luka Modric, Pepe, Jose Callejon and Alvaro Morata are expected to drop out of the side that beat Barcelona in the recent La Liga clash. Alvaro Arbeloa, Sami Khedira, Angel di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo will all return.
Predicted Starting XI: Lopez; Arbeloa, Ramos, Varane, Coentrao; Khedira, Alonso, Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo; Benzema.
Sir Alex Ferguson believes Real Madrid have peaked too soon ahead of this momentous fixture (via ESPN). Will the Scottish manager be proven correct and end Mourinho's quest for a third Champions League trophy? Will Madrid destroy United's hopes of a famous treble?
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