With the first leg of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals set to kick off on Tuesday, I'll help you stay up to speed with the latest team news ahead of the big clash between Manchester United and defending champions Bayern Munich.
While the Red Devils are historically one of the biggest clubs in all of world football, the 2013-14 season has not been kind to Manchester United. David Moyes has struggled in his first season at the helm, and the club has fallen down the Premier League table.
The hosts nearly bowed out of the tournament at the hand of Greek champions Olympiacos in the previous round, with some late heroics from star forward Robin van Persie saving the team from further embarrassment.
As reported by WhoScored.com, van Persie is one of several key players who won't be available for the club on Tuesday. The injured Dutchman will join Patrice Evra (suspension) and Juan Mata (cup-tied to Chelsea) in the stands as his team takes on the Bavarian giants.
Bayern have some injury concerns as well, as both Holger Badstuber and Dante have been sidelined with injuries, leaving a gaping hole in the centre of the Bavarian defense.
Javi Martinez or Daniel Van Buyten could fill in at centre-back, and while both are solid players in their own right, neither can measure up to regular starter Dante.
United have done their very best to appear confident going into this bout, but BBC Sport believes not even the club itself truly believes in its chances:
Similarly, Mario Basler, who scored against the Devils in the 1999 Champions League final, believes his former club should win this game comfortably, as he told the Bundesliga's official website:
United versus Bayern is a great match-up with a lot of history, but I think the result will be more clear-cut in favour of Bayern this year. I’m expecting them to win.
Every team that reaches the quarter-final is dangerous, but Bayern are still the clear favourites for me, even though United’s squad is strong. Bayern will focus on their own game.
A lot will depend on the form of the two teams on the day, but I don’t think Bayern will lose to United, not by any stretch of the imagination.
Bayern are so consistent and don’t underestimate any opponent. They just focus on their own strengths.
Bayern sure seem to have momentum on their side, comfortable progressing through all stages of the Champions League and having already locked up the Bundesliga title, which allowed the club to rest some of its key starters going into this match, including wing-back Philipp Lahm.
Speaking of momentum, Daniel Storey shared the results of the last 18 matches for both clubs, and the result looks ugly:
But in addition to Dante and Badstuber, Thiago Alcantara will also miss this contest with a reportedly torn knee-ligament, according to the Bundesliga's official website, possibly forcing Pep Guardiola into sliding Martinez further forward again and leaving the German back line with a worrying lack of depth.
Bayern may be the heavy favourite going into this doubleheader, but over the course of two matches, anything can happen. If Manchester United can put together a solid result at Old Trafford on Tuesday, the semi-finals could still be a possibility.
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