The reigning La Liga champions take on Sir Alex Ferguson's team in the first leg of the Round of 16 clash at the Santiago Bernabeu....When the Champions League draw for the Round of 16 threw up Manchester United versus Real Madrid, February could not come sooner for fans around the world. Arguably the marquee fixture amongst all the Round of 16 games, this match is sure to live up to its expectations.
With the first leg to take place at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho only knows too well that he needs to take a positive result to Old Trafford for the second leg. Sir Alex Ferguson on the other hand will seek to keep things tight as much as possible and go into the second leg with a favourable outcome.
Both teams have had contrasting forms this season. While Manchester United have been rampant thanks to their potent strike force, Real Madrid have had a season that they would like to forget. With league leaders Barcelona holding an almost unassailable 16-point lead over the Los Blancos and a tough away fixture against the Catalans in the second leg of the Copa del Rey, the Champions League is the only tournament that will help the nine-time European champions salvage some pride.
However, their form, especially away from home, has been a disaster going by their high standards.
|Season||Number of Away Games||Wins||Losses||Draws|
Real Madrid's away form in La Liga and Champions League
It is clearly seen that Real Madrid have been bad travellers and this will be at the back of Jose Mourinho's mind when he picks his team for the first leg clash. The Galacticos have to make their home advantage count to the maximum extent. A closer look at Real Madrid's home form this season in La Liga tells us that it has been formidable. Having picked up 29 out of a possible 33 points and with 36 goals scored, the Bernabeu is a fortress in the domestic league.
However, numbers in the Champions League don't make for good reading. Their only convincing home win was the final group stage match against Ajax when they won 4-1. In the games against Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund, the Blancos had to chase the game and won/drew it in the dying embers.
Losing to Borussia Dortmund in Germany and sharing the spoils with Manchester City in England will only provide fodder to critics to begin doubting whether Real Madrid do have the ability to hold their own against top quality opposition.
|STAT: Real Madrid have won two of their last three encounters with Manchester United. However the last time the two sides met, Manchester United won 4-3 at Old Trafford but crashed out of Europe on a 6-5 aggregate.
Manchester United on the other hand will come into this game boasting of a superior home and away record which has resulted them sitting pretty on top of the Premier League table.
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Manchester United's form in the Premier League and Champions League
A glance at the home form will show you just how important it is for Real Madrid to get a positive result this Wednesday at home. Manchester United's only home loss in the Premier League came against Tottenham when they were narrowly defeated 3-2. Though United let in two sloppy goals in the first half, their second half performance warranted a victory or at least a point. The fact that Manchester United are capable of outscoring their opposition despite conceding goals is a sign of worry for Jose Mourinho.
The away stats too are in favour of the 19-time league champions. The Red Devils have only three away losses to their name, one of which was in their final group stage match in Turkey against Galatasaray, where they fielded an under strength side having successfully managed to book their place in the knockout stages.
Their consistency in scoring in every game, be it home or away, is something that Sir Alex can bank on when they take to the field in Spain. The numbers may tilt the tie in Manchester United's favour and seeing that Sir Alex is under no pressure regarding his position at the club unlike Jose Mourinho, the onus is well and truly on Real Madrid.
The los blancos will have to draw inspiration from the 2002-03 season when the Spaniards won the home leg. However both sides have come a long way since then and it will be truly a match of epic proportions when two of the most historic sides do battle in the arena that is the Santiago Bernabeu.
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