El Centrocampista

Round Two – Will Manchester United or Real Madrid land the knockout blow?

In just over 36 hours, Manchester United and Real Madrid will lock horns at Old Trafford in the second leg of the Champions League last sixteen.

And with last months one all draw in Madrid meaning that neither side was able to take a lead into tomorrow’s game, this one is as delicately poised as they come.

While United gained what could be a crucial away goal courtesy of a Danny Welbeck goal at the Estadio Bernabeu, bookmakers still have Jose Mourinhos outfit as the favourites to qualify.

With the attacking flair of Ronaldo, Ozil, Di Maria, and Benzema, it is hard  to see ‘Los Blancos’ not getting on the score sheet at Old Trafford. To put it into context in their last twenty two competitive games, Real Madrid have only failed to score in two of them – and in one of them Cristiano Ronaldo did score, just in the wrong net.

However on the flip side, Manchester United are no longer defensively frail. In fact since a 4-3 victory over Newcastle, they have managed to keep the opposition out in seven of their last 14 matches.

The defensive problems that blighted them early in season appear to have been ironed out, mainly in part due to key players returning from injury.

Manchester United fans across the globe must be heaving a sigh of relief that Michael Carrick will no longer have to be redeployed at centre half.

However with the greatest respect to the likes of Grant Holt who United faced on Saturday; Real Madrid will certainly provide the ultimate test as to whether Uniteds rearguard can shut out the world’s best.

And with Phil Jones, who gained many plaudits for his performance in the first leg, reportedly losing his fitness battle, the task of keeping out Real Madrid becomes even harder.

Even Sir Alex Ferguson seems somewhat skeptical, speaking to MUTV he said:

“If we get a clean sheet on Tuesday, we will go through, but I think both teams will score. I hope we score more goals than them”

Just like Real Madrid, Manchester United must be confident of scoring tomorrow night. Despite being on the back foot the majority of the game in Spain, they created enough chances to suggest that they can, and probably will, cause the likes of Ramos, Pepe, and Varane trouble.

It may be an overused footballing cliché, but the first goal tomorrow really will be key.

Having put bitter rivals Barcelona to the sword for the second time in a week, Real Madrid will have come to England with a renewed belief.

In fact such is the fickle nature of football that just three weeks ago, Mourinhos name was jeered at the Bernabeu. Fast forward to Saturday afternoon, and the triumphant cries of ‘Mourinho!’ had once again returned.

Speaking after the 2-1 victory over Barcelona, assistant coach Aitor Karanka buoyantly declared that: “It’s clear that these two games over five days are the best we have felt all season.”

Tomorrow evening promises to be one of excitement, tension, nerves, but most of all – small margins.

A game that could hinge on one moment of brilliance or one catastrophic mistake, do not be surprised to see that 180 minutes is still not enough to split the two sides.

I, @RichardThorburn will be at Old Trafford for El Centrocampista, so make sure that you follow @iCentrocampista for all the build up, in game chat, and reactions to a game that could be remembered for a while to come.

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