Two of the biggest sides in the world face off on Wednesday night in the first leg of their Champions League knockout tie, who can gain an edge before the return leg at Old Trafford?
Here is a run down of the key battles...
Xabi Alonso vs Michael Carrick
Controlling the centre of the park will be essential to the outcome of the match, and whilst Michael Carrick is enjoying an excellent season, he is up against one of the very best midfielders in the world. Xabi Alonso will be at the core of Madrid’s play, and if he regularly has time to pick a pass, his side will surely prevail. Carrick has to help shut down Alonso, whilst also ensuring he makes the best use of possession himself, as if Carrick can get his forwards into play quickly when United win the ball, they should plenty of chances.
Sami Khedira vs Wayne Rooney
Khedira has been very good for club and country this season, and his roving runs from deep have shown he has a nicely rounded game that expands well beyond his effectiveness in breaking up the opposition play. Rooney will likely spend plenty of time tracking back, and he will have to monitor Khedira’s breaks from deep to help out his defence. However Khedira will be tasked with stopping Rooney getting space as United attack, as the England international is central to making his side tick in the final third
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Rafael/The United Defence
It’s difficult to try and map out how you will try and stop Ronaldo, and whoever is directly lined up against him for United will need plenty of support to try and curb the Portuguese forward’s play. United know plenty about Ronaldo, and they will no in particular how many teams have tried and failed to stop him. Essentially there’s not much United can do in particular other than trying to block off as much of Ronaldo’s supply as possible, but doubling up on him can sometimes hold him at bay for a while.
Sergio Ramos vs Robin van Persie
Van Persie has been superb for United all season, and whilst United might wonder how they will be able to stop Madrid at the back, they should feel confident that they have the threat to cause Mourinho’s side plenty of problems themselves. Ramos is sometimes a little impetuous at the back, and Van Persie will more than likely end up with opportunities on the counter. If the Dutchman is as clinical as you wold expect, United could pick up a welcome away goal or two.
Karim Benzema vs Rio Ferdinand
For all of Ronaldo’s talent, United will have to remember that there are other world class strikers looking to breach their defences. Benzema can disappear in matches on occasion, but has become more consistent over the past year or so. Ferdinand is not a man at the peak of his powers, but on grand occasions like this he has all the experience to produce the goods, and monitoring Benzema will be just as important as tracking Ronaldo.
image: © Jan S0L0