In the word of Jose Mourinho, ‘What the world is waiting for…’,  in other words the Champions League round of 16 clash between Real Madrid and Manchester United.   It’s set to be a sporting classic.  Two big clubs with two of the best managers in the world.  The Special One faces Furgeson again, this time it’s a Old Trafford. 

1st leg. Real Madrid v Manchester United – Wednesday 13 February

2nd leg. Manchester United v Real Madrid – Tuesday 5 March

Real are anything but firing on 4 cylinders.  16 points behind Champs League final favourites, Barcelona, the Special One’s days seem to be numbered at Real Madrid.  Problems with captain Iker Cassillas and star player Cristiano Ronaldo, who is rumoured to be eyeing Manchester as a possible move, has made his position less tenable.  

Man United however go from strength to strength having coming out of a very successful end of year campaign in all the important competitions.   

Certainly not strangers to high profile games the clubs have bet eight times before; always in the highest of European ties.  Four times in European Cup / Champions League ties and eight legs in all.  Three of the four times they’ve met one has gone on to lift the trophy. No there’s a Champions League final prediction.  Watch the odds shorten as soon as the second leg is concluded.   With an all star case of players they always manage to produce goals ‘O’ plenty. 

Here is the Man United v Real Madrid Champions league history

1957 – semi-final. Madrid win 5-3 on aggregate: United’s Busby Babes get handed a lesson from the Di Stefano’s 50s Masters – losing 3-1 in Madrid, drawing 2-2 in Manchester (with legends Di Stefano, Rial and Bobby Charlton among the scorers). Real go on to win the final – their 2nd of a remarkable five wins in a row.

1968 – semi-final. United win 4-3 on aggregate: 10 years on from the air disaster, United turn the tables. A George Best goal wins the 1st leg (1-0) and a 3-3 draw in Madrid puts United in the final – featuring a late equaliser from Munich veteran Billy Foulkes. United lift the trophy for the 1st time.

2000 – quarter-final. Madrid win 3-2 on aggregate: Madrid dump United’s Treble winners out in the quarters, en route to taking their European crown. Two goals from Raul (and an OG from Roy Keane) wins the tie at the Old Trafford after a 1st leg stalemate.

2003 – quarter-final. Madrid win 6-5 on aggregate: Madrid’s Galacticos – Zidane, Figo, Carlos, et al – put United to the sword 3-1 in the Bernabeu. And a 2nd leg hat-trick from Ronaldo (not him, the fat one) does the damage, even though United win the match 4-3 (van Nistelrooy and Beckham setting up a grandstand finish).

From the past to the present…

Real Madrid’s recent form, Draw, Win, Draw, Lose, Win. 

Man United’s recent form, Draw, Win, Win, Win, Win. 

Never a dull moment and a galaxy of bona fide legends involved. Wednesday’s match will involve some current legends (and one or two in the making). Plus, of course, the remarkable Giggs and Scholes – who were both involved in the 2000 and 2003 ties. None more so than the returning Cristiano Ronaldo.

Last time a Ronaldo played for Real Madrid at Old Trafford, he was applauded off the pitch by both sets of fans after witnessing the brilliant Brazilian’s stunning hat-trick. The current Ronaldo warmed up with a hat-trick of his own at the weekend (his 20th for Madrid) and looks set to be the lead character in the latest installment in the saga.

Conclusion

On recent form Man United look like strong contenders.  A rested Rio Ferdinand should join Nemanja Vedic in central defense. Michael Carrick is expected to start with Danny Welbeck available to counter Real’s lighting counter attacks.  Real Madrid will be without their captain and first choice goal keeper Iker Cassillas.  Our prediction is that Man United will win the second leg.  Real most likely to win the first leg.  The winner on aggregate, who knows?  One tip for Champions League betting is ignore the myth of second leg home team advantage.  Research carried out by Eugster, Gertheiss and Kaiser, has proved it to by just that, a myth.  Statistically in any case, based on averages of group winners playing group winners over some years.  The only thing is that Man United and Real Madrid are certainly not average teams, and, then they have their rock star players, a screaming home team could give them they edge.  For the boffins among us, here’s the link for this interesting study, from the Institut Fur Statistik.

Best bookmaker for Man United v Real Madrid are Pinnacle Sports for best odds, who welcome winners, and Bet365 for the best deposit bonus

 Update

The first leg played away in Spain resulted in a 1 – 1 draw.  Manchester United scored first.  Smart tactics by Sir Alex mean that Ronaldo wasn’t man marked which free’d up midfield and defense to squash Real’s deadly counter attacked.   Surprisingly Vedic didn’t play for United.  The second leg should go to Man United at Old Trafford.  

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