Man United vs. Real Madrid headlines today’s decisive UCL second legs

AlexFergusonandMourinholookoninMadrid (Getty)

BY DAN KARELL

Cristiano Ronaldo makes his long awaited return to the Theater of Dreams, Old Trafford, when Manchester United host Real Madrid today in the second leg of the round-of-16 in the UEFA Champions League. The two sides drew 1-1 in the first leg in Madrid.

The Portuguese winger famously starred at United for six seasons, before continuing his goal-scoring exploits in the Madrid capital. Jose Mourinho’s side could not have more confidence than this very moment, after two resounding victories over Barcelona, first in the Copa Del Rey, and next, in La Liga.

Manchester United’s form has been impeccable throughout the season, suffering just three losses, and having won five in a row in the Premier League. Celebrations will be on the mind of some in the Old Trafford terraces, with midfielder Ryan Giggs ready to mark his one thousandth senior appearance for club and country.

United have a variety of riches across the pitch, and Sir Alex Ferguson could have a selection dilemma for the match, with midfielder Shinji Kagawa scoring a hat-trick in last Saturday’s win over Norwich City.

While all eyes will be focused on Manchester, an equally intriguing matchup is taking place in Germany, with Borussia Dortmund leading the line at Signal Iduna Park against Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.

Last season’s German double winners needed a late equalizer from Mats Hummels to tie 2-2 in Donetsk in the first leg, but they could be without the German international for the all-important match. Hummels has missed Dortmund’s last two matches due to illness, and will be a game-time decision, whether he is included in the lineup or not.

Shakhtar meanwhile will rely on their large Brazilian contingent to get a goal, and escape with a win. Borussia has the advantage on away goals, so nothing less than a victory or three-all or more draw will get Shakhtar through to the quarterfinals.

The Ukrainian side sold Willian, arguably their best player, on the last day of the transfer window to Russian club Anzi Makhachkala. They’ll be hoping that the club’s fitness levels, having just resumed their domestic season, can hold up to the mid-season form of the German club at their home.

Here is a closer look at today’s Round of 16 Champions League matches:

MANCHESTER UNITED vs. REAL MADRID

2:45pm, Fox Soccer Channel

Players to Watch:MANCHESTER UNITED- Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferndinand; REAL MADRID- Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Xabi Alonso;

Quick Kicks: Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas traveled with the squad to Manchester, but manager Jose Mourinho has stated that the Spain and Madrid captain is still unavailable. Sir Alex Ferguson has also announced that Phil Jones is still out with injury, so Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans will likely partner together in defense for the home side. United will like their chances at home, with only two defeats this season at Old Trafford, and one of them coming with an uncompetitive side in the final match-day of the Champions League group stage.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND vs. SHAKHTAR DONETSK

2:45pm, Fox Soccer Plus 5:00pm, Fox Soccer Channel

Players to Watch: BORUSSIA DORTMUND- Robert Lewandowski, Mario Goetze, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels; SHAKHTAR DONETSK- Luiz Adriano, Darijo Srna, Alex Teixeira, Fernandinho.

Quick Kicks: Borussia Dortmund welcome back Mario Goetze and Lukasz Piszczek to the lineup after resting them for Saturday’s match against Hannover. If Hummels is unable to go, Brazilian defender Felipe Santana will likely pair up with Neven Subotic in central defense. Shakhtar will have their full squad available, and even goal a goal from former Arsenal man Eduardo in the 90th minute of their 4-1 win on Friday. Despite Borussia’s away-goals advantage, Shakhtar has won their last two matches in Germany, and famously beat Werder Bremen in the 2009 UEFA Cup Final.

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What do you think of today’s matches? Do you see Real Madrid winning on the road? Do you think Dortmund can win without Mats Hummels in the lineup?

Share your thoughts below.

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3 Responses to Man United vs. Real Madrid headlines today’s decisive UCL second legs

  1. Strider257 says:

    Really looking forward to both matches. Hopefully United get an early goal that forces Real to stretch a bit. With the away goal advantage, Real must score to advance. BVB vs Shakhtar should also be a good game as both teams attack with numbers. Should be a fun day for soccer!

  2. John Nichols says:

    Anybody have a recommendation for a place to catch champions league today in the Greater Phoenix area?

  3. Learoy Hamm says:

    Expect to be a good and tactical affair between Man U vs R Madrid.However,I do believe the former will win the latter have no chance winning La Liga plus bare in mind they got beating few times before upsetting a of color Barcelona.And talking about Big ‘B’ don’t write them off yet,although soccer world counteracting their flair and style.Getting their rhythm effective once again with different approach they could win champion league even better for them to review/address defense as also having Neymar/Falcoa with magic maestro Messie.If this possible especially Neymar Brazillian what a gang of five (5) including Inesta plus two (2) brazillian on the flanks.Hardly any club side would stop that attack even they try/do will attract penalty,yellow and red card.The soccer world would see true 1-2 original south American passes of which Messie is starving for because clearly most times one can observe plus Realise he his too quick both opponents/team mate.My only hope Argentina players around him build and it appears so for 2014,world cup and come tournament low key and win that competition crown him greatest soccer player of his generation.