The focus of this week’s Champions League second round, second leg ties will undoubtedly be at Old Trafford as super heavyweights Manchester United and Real Madrid face off again for a place in the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier club competition.
After a battling 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu three weeks ago, the Red Devils will be confident of getting the job done on Tuesday night in front of their home supporters, who will be doing all they can to create an atmosphere as daunting and unnerving for the away side as United faced upon their visit to the Spanish capital.
The Theatre of Dreams has played witness to many epic European nights and United successes in the recent past however this clash will be far from easy for Alex Fergusons’ men despite the positive first leg result and priceless away goal obtained courtesy of England striker Danny Welbeck.
Former United star Cristiano Ronaldo restored numerical parity for Los Merengues who were dominant over the runaway Premier League leaders in Madrid despite being unable to force through a telling advantage.
Real’s inability to take their chances may have worried and frustrated boss Jose Mourinho after the first leg, however subsequent league victories over Rayo Vallecano, Deportivo and a 3-0 demolition of arch rivals Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey demonstrated that his side have lost none of their cutting edge – and they will arrive buoyant in Manchester providing that they emerge from another clash with Barca in La Liga unscathed.
Despite United’s absolute destruction of the Premier League this season, they have still shown a tendency to concede soft, early goals and this is something that Mourinho will be keen to exploit as he plots a smash and grab mission similar to the one he carried out with Porto at Old Trafford a few years ago.
With this in mind, a high scoring draw definitely looks potentially on the cards, a result which would of course see the Spanish giants through to the last eight.
Elsewhere on Tuesday evening, 1997 champions Borussia Dortmund take on Shakhtar Donetsk in Germany and they will be fancied ease through to the last eight following a 2-2 draw in Ukraine.
Dortmund were widely touted as potential dark horses at the start of the European campaign and despite their indifferent form of late, they should comfortably have enough in hand to secure a result at the bustling Signal Iduna Park.
On Wednesday, Celtic will be seeking to pull off the miracle of miracles in Turin against Serie A leaders Juventus who hold a commanding 3-0 advantage after the first leg at Celtic Park.
The Hoops were perhaps a shade unfortunate to be on the end of such a score-line following a spirited performance that saw them create plenty of chances, nonetheless Juve showed why they are amongst the more likely winners of this year’s tournament after taking their opportunities with ruthless efficiency.
Boss Neil Lennon is sure to send his players out to do all they can for an early goal but Juve should coast through at the very least over a ninety minute period which is likely to be difficult and uncomfortable for the away side. And barring a major shock, Juve look set to be joined in the quarter-finals by free spending PSG who secured a 2-1 success against Valencia in their first leg clash at the Mestalla.
The French outfit are emerging as a serious threat in this year’s competition and are fancied to extend their aggregate advantage with hitman Zlatan Ibrahimovic in imperious form.