Cristiano Ronaldo Must Upstage Robin Van Persie to Advance Real Madrid in UCL
All eyes around the football world will be on Old Trafford Tuesday as Manchester United and Real Madrid fight for a spot in the Champions League quarterfinals. More specifically, everyone will be watching Robin van Persie and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Although the pitch will be littered with supremely talented players as two of the top clubs in Europe face off, the two that will demand the most attention are Van Persie and Ronaldo. As they go, so do the offenses of their respective clubs.
It's a homecoming of sorts for Ronaldo, who spent six seasons with the Red Devils, establishing himself as one of the best goal scorers in the world in the process. He found the net 118 times in a United jersey, including 68 over the final two campaigns before his move to Madrid.
In order for the Blancos to advance, the Portugal international will have to outshine United's newest star striker. Van Persie is second in the Premier League with 19 goals after making a smooth transition from Arsenal right before the season began.
Ronaldo is no stranger to marquee matchups, of course. Every time Real Madrid goes up against rival Barcelona in an El Clasico match, he's expected to keep pace with Lionel Messi, who continues to score goals at an unmatched rate.
Those experiences should help the 28-year-old superstar, who certainly has a boatload of pressure on his shoulders between the return to Old Trafford, the matchup with Van Persie and helping Madrid advance to the next round.
The first leg finished in a 1-1 draw and the Madrid goal was unsurprisingly provided by Ronaldo, who struck 10 minutes after Danny Welbeck had given the visitors a lead.
Ronaldo and Co. must get off to a much better start on the road. The key is trying to open the match up early by pushing the pace. United doesn't want to get into a shootout. They want another match like the first leg, where the entire 90 minutes is played at a controlled pace.
Which star will give his side the edge?
If Ronaldo, along with Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria and Karim Benzema, are able to change the complexion of the match to make it more of a back-and-forth encounter, the edge shifts to Madrid.
While the onus for setting the tone is on the entire Madrid lineup, ultimately, the blame will always fall on Ronaldo if things don't work out. That's just part of being a star player. So he needs to do everything in his power to assert himself right away.
After all, the more time he spends attacking down the wing, the less time Van Persie gets to work his magic around the Madrid box.
Both sides are going to generate chances, but Madrid's chances of advancing go up if they avoid the typical road-match mentality and stick with the approach that allowed them to beat Barcelona twice in the past week.
It should be a tremendous match between two clubs certainly capable of winning the Champions League should they move on. The stage is set for Ronaldo or Van Persie to steal the spotlight.
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