Manchester United and Atletico Madrid will battle it out for a place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals when they face off at Old Trafford this week.
The remaining UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second-leg fixtures will be played out this week, with the action kicking off on Tuesday night. Manchester United play hosts to La Liga champions Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford with the tie evenly poised after the first leg in Spain ended in a 1-1 draw. The Red Devils needed youngster Anthony Elanga to produce a late equaliser to keep them alive in the contest.
Following that game, Manchester United failed to win their two subsequent fixtures in the Premier League, first being held to a draw by Watford and then being hammered by Manchester City. However, Ralf Rangnick’s men returned to winning ways this past weekend when they rode on Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliance to beat Tottenham 3-2. They will be hoping to carry that momentum forward for Tuesday’s fixture.
Atletico Madrid have won each of their three fixtures since the first leg meeting with Manchester United. Los Rojiblancos have picked up victories against Celta Vigo, Real Betis and Cadiz, which has set up an intriguing top-four battle in La Liga against Barcelona. The recent run of form will certainly have boosted Diego Simeone’s side, who will be confident of getting a positive result at Old Trafford to cruise through to the next round.
With the away-goal rule abolished, Manchester United’s strike at the Wanda Metropolitano does not give them an added advantage. With everything to play for at Old Trafford for both teams, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 14, 2022
Manchester United have welcomed Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw back to training after they missed the weekend clash due to injury/illness issues. However, Ralf Rangnick insisted that Shaw might not be fully ready to return to action on Tuesday night.
No alterations are expected in goal, with David de Gea being the undisputed starter. Both Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles should also keep their places as full-backs on Tuesday, but Harry Maguire could be axed after his own goal against Tottenham. Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane should pair up at the heart of the Manchester United defence.
With McTominay back in contention, he should walk right back into the starting lineup, replacing Nemanja Matic at the base of the three-man midfield unit. Fred, who has excelled in a slightly more advanced role under Rangnick, should keep his place. It means Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba will battle it out for the final slot in midfield, with the former likely to get the nod.
There is no looking past Cristiano Ronaldo in the No. 9 role after his heroics against Tottenham over the weekend. Jadon Sancho, who has burst into form of late, should keep his spot on the left flank. Anthony Elanga could get the nod over Marcus Rashford, who looks devoid of any confidence at the moment.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): de Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Telles; Fernandes, McTominay, Fred; Elanga, Ronaldo, Sancho
Atletico Madrid will be without Matheus Cunha and January signing Daniel Wass, while Yannick Carrasco is suspended for the second leg due to the accumulation of cards. Mario Hermoso and Geoffrey Kondogbia, who were not involved in the weekend clash due to injuries, have been named in the travelling squad. However, Thomas Lemar and Sime Vrsaljko are not part of the roster for the game.
? The squad list for tomorrow’s game! pic.twitter.com/eurLeivIRC
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) March 14, 2022
Diego Simeone’s side will set up in a 3-5-2 formation at Old Trafford, with Jan Oblak guarding the goal. Stefan Savic, Jose Maria Gimenez and Reinildo Mandava should form the three-man backline for the visitors. If Gimenez is not deemed fit to start, Felipe could get the nod in his place.
The versatile Marcos Llorente, a transfer target for Manchester United’s rivals Liverpool, should occupy the right wing-back slot while Renan Lodi, who has a major nuisance for the Red Devils in the first leg, should slot in on the left side. Hector Herrera, Koke and Rodrigo De Paul will line up in the middle of the park and look to put pressure on their counterparts to force quick turnovers.
Up top, Joao Felix has been in fine goalscoring touch of late and should be included in the starting XI against United. He will likely be paired up alongside the hard-working Angel Correa, with Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Oblak; Savic, Gimenez, Reinildo; Llorente, Herrera, Koke, De Paul, Lodi; Correa, Felix
- Manchester United have been eliminated from their last three UEFA Champions League knockout stage games when drawing the first leg – against Real Madrid (2012/13, Last 16), Bayern Munich (2013/14, quarter-finals) and Sevilla (2017/18, Last 16).
- When failing to win the first leg of a UEFA Champions League knockout tie at home, Atletico Madrid have been eliminated three out of four times, with the only exception being against Chelsea in 2013/14 in the semi-finals.
- Manchester United have only won two of their last eight UEFA Champions League home games when hosting Spanish opposition (D3 L3).
- Atletico Madrid have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last six Champions League matches.
- 19-year-old Anthony Elanga scored Manchester United’s equaliser in the first leg in Madrid. The only teenager to score in both legs of a Champions League knockout tie is Kylian Mbappe, who did it twice during the 2016/17 campaign against Manchester City (Last 16) and Borussia Dortmund (quarter-finals).
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We are Man. United! Let’s do this together! Let’s go, Devils! ???? pic.twitter.com/tyVGsnCyHh
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) March 14, 2022
After a lot of noise surrounding his absence for the Manchester derby, Ronaldo returned to action this past weekend against Tottenham Hotspur and showed that he remains very much committed to the team as he plundered a stunning hat-trick to singlehandedly win it for the Red Devils.
Ronaldo has scored in both of his UEFA Champions League home games for Manchester United this season. The 37-year-old Portuguese talisman has netted 13 goals in his last 15 home games against Atletico Madrid across all competitions, including two hat-tricks in his most recent four such games, both of which came in the Champions League.
The club legend has time and again shown that he can be the difference-maker for Manchester United this season, and come Tuesday, they will need him to step up again and lead them through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Manchester United 0-1 Atletico Madrid
Manchester United may have picked up a vital win against Tottenham over the weekend, but they were still unconvincing and had to rely on the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo to bail them out. The Portuguese international has a stunning record against Tuesday’s opponents, but they already managed to keep him quiet in the first leg in Madrid.
Furthermore, Atletico Madrid have momentum on their side after going five games unbeaten in all competitions, winning four of those. So, the balance slightly tilts toward the visitors even though Old Trafford will be roaring on Tuesday night. It promises to be another tightly-fought battle, but The Hard Tackle predicts Diego Simeone’s side to pick up a narrow win and eliminate United from the competition.