The Champions League rolls around once more and Manchester United will host an AC Milan side looking to overturn a 3-2 deficit from the first leg in the San Siro.
United should start with a very familiar back five. Edwin van der Sar will continue in goal after a steady performance against Wolves. He will be behind a back four of Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Rafael. The young Brazilian will get the nod ahead of Gary Neville as Wes Brown is out for six weeks with a broken foot.
Up against fellow countryman Ronaldinho, Rafael seems to be optimistic about his chances against the former World Player of the Year,
he said: ‘It was a great privilege for me. It made me feel that the manager really trusts me by giving me the opportunity to play in this type of match.”
He continued: “It’s a great feeling knowing that the manager believes in my ability to play at this level.
As Milan will be forced to attack, needing two goals to qualify, Sir Alex Ferguson may opt again for a five-man midfield. Antonio Valencia somewhat changed the first-leg with his direct running at Milan’s full-back Antonini, so he is shoe-in on the right side. Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes will probably line up in midfield with Ferguson preferring Ji-Sung Park on the left for his hard-work, discipline and Nani’s terrible performance at the weekend. Michael Carrick is suspended for the fixture so Darron Gibson could well continue in the middle.
Question marks remain over whether or not Wayne Rooney will be fit enough to start the match.
Sir Alex in his press conference explained: “He is fit, I am glad to say that he is fit.
“He has showed a rapid improvement since Saturday morning. He was extremely doubtful, but he is OK.”
Rooney may only make the bench and we will see Dimitar Berbatov leading the front line as he did at the weekend.
Ferguson is confident of an entertaining match against Milan,
he stated: “It is certainly an open tie and I think what we are going to see tomorrow will be a very open game.
“We will hope to kill the tie with our own attacking abilities. There is no doubt that AC Milan have to score, which should make it a really open match.
He continued: “I don’t think we are very good at defending leads, so we will play our normal way. That means attacking, it always has. We will try and do it our normal way.
“I don’t think we should be confused by the score of 3-2 as passage into the next phase of this competition.
“We accept this is a very difficult game for us and one which we need to win. And that’s how I’m approaching it, to win the match.”
AC Milan will be forced to attack from the offset as they look to overturn the 3-2 first-leg defeat.
A similar situation to Rooney’s developed in Milan as Pato was an injury doubt, but he has travelled and will definitely play a part in proceedings, most likely from the bench. Clarence Seedorf his also shrugged off an injury and should also start from the sidelines.
David Beckham has spoken of his excitement about the upcoming tie,
he told Milan’s TV channel: “If I play on Wednesday I won’t be frightened but I will be excited because I played in that stadium for many years and I know what it means to be a Manchester United player.
“I know what it means for opponents to play there.”
Leonardo can either deploy him as a right-winger or in a three-man midfield.
After a good display away to Roma on Saturday evening Milan are unbeaten in seven Serie A matches. During this game Leonardo experimented with a narrower formation, having Huntelaar and Borriello up-front together with Ronaldinho behind, so it will be interesting to see if he continues with this tactic or revert to his tried and tested 4-3-3.
The Milan manager has taken an understandable positive approach, “My confidence in tomorrow’s game comes from our recent performances and how we already played in the first leg at San Siro. I don’t think Manchester United will change much from that tie.
“We need an important result at Old Trafford and so the psychological aspect will be crucial. It’s not easy to prepare a game like this, but we have different alternatives and will try to make the most of them.”
A tough game will be inevitable but three away goals put United firmly in the driving seat and they will look to kill off the tie with an early goal.
Prediction: 2-1 United
Probable Line Up: van der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Rafael; Valencia, Scholes, Gibson, Fletcher, Park; Berbatov
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