AC Milan and Manchester United will lock horns once again on Tuesday as the Champions League returns from its winter hiatus.
There are few inter-continental rivalries which flare up the same passion among fans as their local derbies. In recent times, Chelsea-Barcelona has probably become as important for the Blues as a game against Arsenal.
For Manchester United, their eternal European nemesis has to be AC Milan as the Rossoneri have dumped the Red Devils out of the competition four times over the years.
The last victory in particular, will still be fondly remembered by Milan fans as Kaka single-handedly demolished United on a rain-soaked night at the San Siro.
The fixture will have even more significance this term as it will mark the return of David Beckham to his old stomping ground and his old gaffer.
Rarely has a player so passionate about a team been dumped so unceremoniously and one can expect a truly emotional reunion at Old Trafford.
The encounter between the managers will also be equally enthralling as the highly experienced Sir Alex Ferguson will engage in a battle of wits with the rookie Leonardo.
The footballing philosophies of both coaches also vary tremendously as the Brazilian knows only way of playing and that is going ahead.
Domestically United are doing a lot better than Milan at the moment and they have won four of their last five games and scored 16 goals in the process. Milan, on the other hand, have won only one of their last five games and found the back of the net on just four occasions.
We take a look at the areas that both teams need to look out for in this clash to ensure they come out on top.
The obvious problem for United will be their defence. The Red Devils have been terribly unfortunate with injuries this term which has forced Sir Alex to play his second-choice defenders on many occasions. The fitness of Nemanja Vidic is still a question mark prior to this game.
Rio Ferdinand is expected to return for Tuesday’s clash but he will lack match practice. The new England captain received a four-match ban upon his return from a lengthy injury lay-off and it will be interesting to see if he is sharp enough to deal with the foxy Pato.
Pato made his own comeback to the Rossoneri lineup this week and was instrumental in the team’s victory over Udinese on Friday evening. ‘The Duck’ is a very fast and equally lethal in front of goal, so United will have to keep their eyes on him at all times.
At the weekend, Ryan Giggs fractured his arm and the Welshman will be out of action for four weeks. In all likelihood, Fergie will deploy the 4-5-1 with Nani and Antonio Valencia filling the wide roles in the midfield.
And finally, United will have to wait and see which Ronaldinho turns up for the clash. This season, the two-time World Player of the Year has often looked like he is returning to his best, only to disappoint at crucial junctures.
Ronaldinho was magnificent on Friday night and another mesmerising performance by him on Tuesday may see the trademark smile permanently plastered on every Milan fan's face.
For Milan, the main concern will be stopping Wayne Rooney. Rooney has been in the form of his life at United this season and if the Rossoneri fail to keep a lid on him, expect the England international to find the back of the net.
Thiago Silva suffered an injury in their last game but it seems like he will be fit in time for the game. He will be in charge of the Milan defence along with Alessandro Nesta, and the two will need to devise a way to keep United's attackers at bay.
The other concern for Milan will be the full-backs...Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonini. Both are young and inexperienced on such a big stage and they will have to put in the shift of their lifetimes to curb the in-form Nani.
Dida, who has regained the goalkeeping duties at the San Siro, is also a small liability. The Brazilian is as capable of making wonder saves as he is of committing daft errors.
The Milan derby saw the best and the worst of him and Leonardo will be anxious about his performance.
The Milanese midfield is strong but Gennaru Gattuso remains a small concern. The feisty midfielder has lost some of his pace forcing Andrea Pirlo to play in a more defensive role.
But the rest of the midfield is strong and Beckham is always there to deliver the ball into the box.
The final worry for Leonardo will again be Ronaldinho. If the Brazilian can conjure the magic he is capable of then there are very few who can stop him. However if he fails, Milan lack the incisive edge while going ahead and are in the danger of being shutout.
To sum it up, this promises to be a great game of football over two legs, one which will surely deliver its fair share of drama and emotion.
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