Real Madrid might have earned two crucial victories against arch-rivals Barcelona within a week but this Champions League tie with Manchester United holds bigger importance than anything else.
The Los Blancos have virtually no chances of retaining the La Liga title and their sole focus is centred on winning the European title, a trophy they won nine times in their history.
Jose Mourinho, the Madrid manager, has already raised the stakes before the match by claiming the world will stop for this tie. The task is bit difficult but not impossible. The tie is poised with a 1-1 score line and Madrid will have to score tonight, otherwise, the Red Devils will go through.
One can expect flurry of goals tonight for mainly two reasons. First, Real Madrid has always scored in all the Champions League away matches under Jose Mourinho, so expecting to continue that trait won’t be ludicrous. Secondly, the opposition is Manchester United.
The statement is not meant to highlight United’s defence, which has improved a lot since the 4-3 Premier League victory against Newcastle United. They have conceded only eight goals in their last 13 games in all competitions, keeping clean sheets in seven games.
It is their style and nature of play that gives a feel that goal is bound to come on Tuesday night. Had it been Chelsea instead of Manchester United, one would have been sure that the Blues would sit back tightly, park the bus and soak all the pressure.
United probably won’t do that. They won’t do that. Simply because, that’s not their style at all. They always look to play with a positive frame of mind with an intention of outscoring their opponents. The absence of Phil Jones makes the task difficult as he was instrumental in keeping Cristiano Ronaldo on check at the Bernabeu.
So, how will United play against Madrid? Will they drop deep and play counter attacking football or will it be an open game?
The thing is most of United’s memorable Champions League victories in last few years have come at Old Trafford, in the second leg. In 2009/10, they eviscerated AC Milan by 4-0 and defeated Bayern Munich 3-2 (though didn’t progress to the next round).
The following season, Manchester United won by 4-1 against Schalke 04, beat Chelsea by 2-1 and defeated Marseille with the same score line – all in the second leg.
Thus, nobody knows better how to deal a second leg tie than Sir Alex Ferguson. The scores only reflect that the Scotsman has always wanted to outscore his opponents. Expect more of the same tonight.
That’s why Jose is right that the world will stop for this tie. Two teams with an attacking mindset and philosophy, possessing world’s greatest talents will try to win by outscoring each other, and that will make the tie a fascinating contest.