The second-leg of the Champions League quarter-final is almost upon us, and their will be much anticipation over an encounter that could in theory make or break out season. Manchester United welcome Bayern Munich to Old Trafford hoping that the 2-1 first leg defeat can be overturned, and the ‘spirit of 1999’ rekindled.
It promises to be very tough indeed, both teams are dangerous on the attack but also partook in top-of-the-table clashes over the weekend. United lost their encounter with title rivals Chelsea, but Bayern were victorious over Schalke and even played a large part of the game with ten men. So United will be aware of the threat they pose especially with the attacking talent they have.
Looking to stop the Bayern forward line will be Edwin van der Sar, who in the first leg was by far United’s best player and kept us in the tie with a string of wonderful saves.
Supporting the Dutchman will be first choice central defensive partnership Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, who will be looking to dominate the Bayern attack and provide the platform for the attacking players to build. After a couple of below-par displays it seems Gary Neville will not start this evening, in fact, youngster Rafael will get the chance to pit his wits against the likes of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. As always, Patrice Evra will be ever reliable at left back.
The midfield will be crucial in deciding the outcome of this match, an obvious statement you would think. But after being dominated against Chelsea and being non-existent in Germany, the United central midfielders have a point to prove.
Michael Carrick should be recalled to the side in place of Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher will keep his place in the middle along with Ji-Sung Park who needs to provide a more dynamic and intelligent performance, possibly replicating form shown in recent matches against Liverpool and AC Milan in particular.
It will fall to the wingers to provide support to the lone frontman, Antonio Valencia on the right and Nani on the left. The Portuguese was exciting and gave United more attacking impetus when he was brought on at the weekend, up against Philip Lahm he faces a defender who likes a foray into the opponents half, so Nani should look to exploit this trait.
Now, there have been rumours that Wayne Rooney could start the match, making a miraculous recovery as such. The best he can expect is a place on the bench, and this may only be a means to unsettle the Bayern management and give them something extra to think about.
He didn’t train with the team and Sir Alex Ferguson stated he will not be risked:
“No. We have made some good progress with the lad. The medical team have done some fantastic work, but I’m not prepared to take a risk on a player that’s not 100 per cent fit. We’re looking more at the Manchester City game, or maybe Blackburn as a sub. The boy is making good progress, but it’s an ankle injury. It’s no different to any other ankle injury. I can’t take a risk.” Ferguson stated.
As a result, expect Dimitar Berbatov to be in the starting line-up, and let’s hope he can step up to the plate
Bayern Munich on the other hand welcome back their most potent attacking threat, Arjen Robben. The Dutchman missed the first leg and was absent at the weekends game against Schalke, but he is widely expected to start against United. Along with Robben, Bayern welcome back midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who missed the first match through suspension.
Mark van Bommel was fantastic in Munich and will look to use all his experience and dominate the midfield once more, but Bayern coach still sees United as favourites for the tie. When asked, he retorted,
“Yes. They have scored an away goal and they are a great team. They have a lot of experience playing big games at home and of course, they will have the support of the crowd. Our team is quite a young one in that it consists of young players, so that is a different situation.”
Lets hope the lads can get the job done and a trip to France can be booked at the end of the month.
Prediction: 3-1 United
Probable Line Up: van der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Rafael; Nani, Carrick, Fletcher, Park, Valencia; Berbatov
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