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A clash of the titans in the Champions League

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will be looking to get the better of ex-star Cristiano Ronaldo

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will be looking to get the better of ex-star Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League knockout stages

Real Madrid host Manchester United this evening in the first leg of the knockout stages of the Champions League.

The tie is the biggest of this round, between two of the biggest clubs in the European game.

Giants

This tie is what the Champions League was made for, two of the best teams in Europe going head-to-head and seeing who comes out on top.

I think the only match-up that would even come close would be Barcelona versus United.

Mourinho vs. Ferguson

Two of the best managers in the history of European football also come face-to-face with each other. Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho and United’s Sir Alex Ferguson are regarded as two of the modern managerial greats.

Mourinho seems to be one of the few bosses in football the United boss respects. In fact the pair has a mutual respect from Mourinho’s days in England at Chelsea. Mourinho has stated his admiration for the Scot in the past and the pair seems to have established a friendship.

That friendship will go out of the window as their two sides go head-to-head. The tie could be decided by the decisions of these two fantastic managers.

Mourinho’s been experiencing a difficult time in Madrid in recent months with reports that there is a split in the Real camp. This believed disharmony has once again led to reports that the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ is hoping to move back to the Premier League, with his side currently trailing bitter-rivals Barcelona by 16 points in La Liga.

Ferguson on the other hand seems to have no domestic worries, with his side currently 12 points clear of their arch-rivals Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. The veteran Scot will be confident of progressing into the quarter-finals.

Key

This game could be decided by the team’s two star players, although both teams are star-studded, especially Real Madrid. The tie could be decided by star attackers former-United hero Cristiano Ronaldo and current star striker Robin van Persie.

Despite Real’s relative struggles this season Ronaldo has still been in imperious goal scoring form this season. The Portuguese international has found the net 34 times in 33 appearances this season. He even scored for opposition side Granada in a recent game, he likes finding the net that much!

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has used the tactic of employing Phil Jones as a man-to-man marker to good effect in recent games against the likes of Gareth Bale and Marouane Fellaini. The Scot is likely to employ the tactic again to try to nullify the effect of Real’s star man.

Robin Van Persie may not have scored as many goals this season as Ronaldo, but has still had a massive impact on Manchester United’s season. The Dutchman has fired home 23 goals in all competitions this season, including three in the Champions League.

His goals have helped United dominate the Premier League and have virtually guaranteed his team the title. Van Persie has the class to unsettle any defence. The likes of Sergio Ramos and Pepe will have to be on top form to deny the striker.

Stars

The two teams are full of players capable of winning games. For United the likes of Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa and Nani all have the ability to win a game. While Real have the talents of Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema who can almost win games on their own.

The tie promises to be a star-studded affair with players on both sides capable of breathtaking skills.

Exciting

This tie will be an exciting one for the fans of both clubs and neutrals alike. This is the sort of tie that every football fan wants to see. I just hope that the first leg isn’t an anti-climax, as neither side will want to lose it. May the best team win!

Ruthless

SPL champions Celtic were defeated 3-0 by Italian giants Juventus at Celtic Park. The visitors were completely and utterly ruthless, as they seemed to pounce on every mistake from the Scottish side.

Juve took an early lead through striker Alessandro Matri, before Celtic dominated possession for much of the second half. However, the SPL champions couldn’t find a way to goal.

The Hoops were punished for their lack of cutting edge by two late goals by Claudio Marchisio and Mirko Vucinic. The Scottish champions look all but out of the competition.

In the other game in the Champions League French club PSG won 2-1 at Valencia. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore scored the goals for PSG.

Star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was shown a red card in injury-time, after Valencia centre-back Adil Rami scored a consolation goal to give Los Ches a chance of progressing in the second leg.

Who will come out on top between Real Madrid and Manchester United?

Wed 13 February, 2013
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