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Champions League Focus: Real Madrid vs Manchester United


Champions League Focus: Real Madrid vs Manchester United


The last time a Ronaldo played against Manchester United he produced a masterclass in goalscoring and almost single-handedly silenced the home crowd. That was the original R9; the Brazilian Ronaldo, who has now fallen from grace but scored a hat-trick that night at Old Trafford to put the tie out of reach for Sir Alex Ferguson's men.


Ronaldo had not long before the clash been awarded with FIFA's World Player of the Year award and was wholly expected to cause problems for United, but his three goal haul may even have been beyond his expectations.


This time around, we have a new Ronaldo to laud. Cristiano faces his former employers for the first time since his world record £80m move to Madrid, and were it not for the existence of Lionel Messi, United would once again be set to face a Ronaldo that is better than every other footballer on the planet.


That he is not the best player around will not be any consolation for Ferguson and his team, but that Real could only finish second in their Champions League group - albeit a tough one - and are third in La Liga at the moment, could provide reason enough for United to feel confident ahead of their upcoming tie. Here we take a look at where the key clashes will be at the Bernabeu on Wednesday evening.


Cristiano Ronaldo vs Rafael


It is rarely Alex Ferguson's gameplan to set out and defend, and given their strength on the front foot there is no reason to expect this match to be any different. Nevertheless, first and foremost in his mind could well be how he might stop his former prodigy. He knows the Portugal captain better than most and the recent performances of his right-back Rafael may give him more confidence of being able to stunt the threat of the winger.


Ronaldo's game has a great many aspects to it, but as he exhibited perfectly with the first of his three goals against Sevilla this weekend, much of his threat comes when coming in off the flank - whichever one he happens to be occupying at the time - and letting rip from distance. And it is not as if he only does so against lesser opposition. His average of 7.5 shots per game in La Liga is only slightly more than the 6.2 he had in the Champions League group stage, against Ajax, Man City and Dortmund. Both are by far and away the most by any player in their respective competitions, and his 30 goals in 28 appearances across the two is only bettered by his nemesis, Lionel Messi.


Champions League Focus: Real Madrid vs Manchester United


Blocking shots is not Rafael's game, though. The Brazilian has only blocked 5 shots all season in the Premier League, but he prefers to get to his opponents before they get the chance to shoot; he has made 68 tackles this season, the 4th most by any defender in the English top flight, whilst also making an impressive 41 interceptions. 


It may, however, be Ferguson's choice to tell Rafael to push on and try to peg Ronaldo back. The right-back does like a forward foray, and with 2 goals and 3 assists in league games this season, he and teammate Patrice Evra (9 goals/assists) make up the most attack-minded full-back pairing in the Premier League. Ronaldo offers very little in a defensive sense and while Rafael's attacks could leave gaps at the back for Real to exploit, United tend to prefer attack as the best form of defence and will probably stick to their guns in that sense, though some caution would probably be for the best.


Robin van Persie vs Pepe


Robin van Persie's instant impact for Manchester United has not wavered in the slightest. Now on 22 goals in the league and Champions League, he will carry the main threat for the Red Devils at the Bernebeu. Partnering Sergio Ramos at the back for the Whites is likely to be Pepe, who has only recently recovered from injury and may therefore be the chink in Real's armour that van Persie can look to exploit.


Champions League Focus: Real Madrid vs Manchester United


Pepe has been known to commit a few errors in his time and can certainly be hot-headed as well. He seems to have calmed down this season, with just 5 yellows and no red cards in 23 appearances in the Champions League and Primera, but needs to cut mistakes out of his game. Of course, players are not infallible, even at this level, and the pressure seems to get to Pepe at the wrong times. He has made 2 errors leading directly to a goal this season, and those have come at important times. The first was in the 2-2 draw at Camp Nou when he failed to clear his lines on the edge of his own 6 yard box to allow Messi to score, while the other came in the 2-1 Champions League defeat at Dortmund which eventually meant Real came second in the group.


Van Persie is a deadly finisher, and will pounce on any mistake Pepe might make. He and Wayne Rooney have begun to link up fantastically well in recent weeks, with both in the top 20 for Premier League goals and the top 10 for assists. Extra help from Sami Khedira will be necessary as Rooney drops deep to collect the ball and van Persie's clever movement makes him particularly difficult to pick up. Both can score from all manner of situations and Pepe and co will have to be on point to quash their threat.


Passmaster Battle - Xabi Alonso vs Michal Carrick


Both teams play fairly similar systems, at least in as far as they have a player who will patrol the area in front of the back four and try to dictate the pace of the game. Xabi Alonso and Michael Carrick will more often that not have more touches than other players; they respectively average 87.4 and 83.7 in this category in league games this season, so are clearly in possession with roughly the same frequency.


Champions League Focus: Real Madrid vs Manchester United


Xabi Alonso is possibly more ambitious in his play, averaging 29.5 forward passes per game to Carrick's 27.7, and though this is only a small difference, it may go some way to explaining Carrick's superior pass success rate, though such a marked difference - 87.7% compared to 81.4% - is extremely surprising. What might be even more surprising is Carrick's 4 assists compared to Alonso's 2. This is a meagre return for the former Liverpool man, and he should certainly look to improve that.


In a defensive sense, Alonso shines through. While Carrick (2.4) makes slightly more interceptions per game than Alonso (2) in league games this season, the Spaniard makes up for that with 3.5 tackles per game to Carrick's 2.3. Alonso is known for tough tackling as well as a wide range of passing, and his recklessness has seen him pick up 9 yellow cards in 20 Liga appearances.


These two will be key to which team can take control of proceedings at the Bernabeu, and it will certainly be interesting to see who can find the most space in which to operate.


Find our match preview of Real Madrid vs Manchester United here

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Patric Evra Matija Nastasic Javi Garcia Lucas Moura Michel Bastos Roberto Di Matteo John Arne Riise Gareth McAuley Innocent Emeghara Siena Carlos Cuellar Javier Zanetti Michele Canini Zdenek Pospech Sergio Garcia Damien Duff Yoan Gouffran Giuseppe Biava Hilton Nicola Legrottaglie Magno Macedo Novaes Daniel Aranzubia Antonio Conte Andrea Ranocchia per Mertesacker Manucho Leo Nils Petersen Cyril Thereau Adam Szalai Pavel Pogrebnyak Roman Neustadter Daniele Conti Milan Badelj Gerhard Tremmel Daniel Agger Kyle Nauhgton Zoltan Gera Brett Holman Adriano Joe Allen Youssuf Mulumbu Premier League. Luis Suarez Federico Peluso Jamel Saihi Gustavo Cabral Wakaso Daniele Gastaldello Danilo David Pizarro loris Nery Hugo Mallo Gotoku Sakai Andre Wisdom Andre Schürrle Mousa Dembélé Hamburger SV Rafael van der Vaart Rene Adler Sean Morrison Juan Jesus Frederik Sorensen Nicolas Isimat-Mirin Joel Matip Barry Bannan Nicky Shorey Luca Cigarini Andrea Consigli Jordan Ayew Carl Medjani Ricardo Faty Jerome Rothen Takashi Inui Takashi Usami Steven Pienaar Tolgay Arslan Loris Nery Wissam Ben Yeder Angelo Ogbonna Yoann Gouffran Marc Planus Ludovic Obraniak Emanuel Herrera Anthony Mounier Daniel Congre Pablo Hernandez Arda Gueida Fofana Arnold Mvuemba Steed Malbranque Nuri Sahin Kwadwo Asamoah Christian Maggio Henri Saivet Massadio Haidara Jean-Christophe Bahebeck Mladen Petric Real Betis Riccardo Montolivo Lucio Christophe Jallet Gokhan Inler Ilkay Gundogan Marvin Martin Steeve Elana Alain Traore Renaud Cohade Geoffrey Dernis Daniel Avles Patrick Helmes Raobin van Persie Pablo Armero Rondon Fabio Borini Patrick Herrmann Jonathan Scmid Kostantinos Fortounis Vincent Pajot Josua Guilavogui Idrissa Gana Gueye Ezequiel Munoz Nene Oliver Sorg Davide Brivio Sebastian Larsson Franceso Totti Tom Trybull M'Baye Niang Jean Daniel Akpa Akpro Matias Silvestre Euro 2012 Olof Mellberg Crisitano Ronaldo Alvaro Arbeloa Sebastian Boenisch Alan Dzagoev Andrey Arshavin Michael Krohn-Dehli Vaclav Pilar Theodor Gebre Selassie Gordon Schildenfeld Greece Miguel Veloso Mark Davies David Hoilett Santiago Garcia Marco Rignoni Vicente Guaita Michael Rensing Paul Robinson Fabien Audard Thomas Vermaelen Younes Belhanda Aurelien Chedjou Nancy St. Etienne Lukas Piszczek Dante Gijon Claudio Pizzaro Racing Santander Jonas Hannover Santander Claudio Pizarro Cesena David Jarolim Joe Cole Moussa Dembele Yakubu Javier Hernandez Leon Best Benat Kaiserslautern Christian Tiffert Paolo De Ceglie Federico Balzaretti Jeremey Menez Juan MGladbach Andreas Ivanschitz Jires Kembo-Ekoko Guillaume Hoarau Florent Malouda Steve Gohouri Kenwyne Jones Lecce Stephen Ireland Jakub Blaszcykowski Christian Fuchs Sloan Privat Abraham Guie Guie Louis Saha Martin Harnik German Bundesliga Grant Holt Ali Al-Habsi Ludovic Sane Aldo Angoula Younes Kaboul Brest Marcelo Stiliyan Petrov mathieu Valbuena Tono Ramirez Gianluca Buffon Emile Heskey John Utaka Markus Rosenborg Marko Arnautovic Jonathan Biabiany Andrea Caracciolo Evian Thonon Gaillard Mohammed Abdellaoue Dijon Anton Ferdinand Betting Eric Mouloungui Cedric Bakambu Gregory Pujol Eduardo Ribeiro Sebastien Larsson Nolan Roux Bradley Johnson Jamie O'Hara Wes Brown Jason Lowe Jose Enrique Anders Lindegaard Mark Schwarzer Cheik Tiote Alberto Aquilani Danny Murphy Martin O'Neill Modibo Maiga OGC Nice Perparim Hetemaj Alejandro Faurlin Leon Britton Antonio Nocerino Maximiliano Moralez Claudio Marchisio Marco Rigoni Simone Pepe Heidar Helguson Mark Gower Blackburn Emanuele Calaiò Zlatan Ibrahimović Germán Denis Jose Jurado Nicolas Anelka Edgar Barreto Alexandre Song Shaun Wright-Phillips Nicolas Maurice-Belay Jhon Jairo Culma Kevin Anin Sebastien Corchia Kevin Theophile-Catherine FC Cologne Julien Feret Jaroslav Plasil Yann Jouffre Tomas Rincon Kevin Davies Giampiero Pinzi Tamas Hajnal Camel Meriem Frederic Bulot AS Nancy Gabriel Torje Lynel Kitambala Florent Sinama-Pongolle Idriss Saadi Oscar Trejo Botelho Juanlu Axel Bellinghausen Gonzalo Castro Andrea Cossu Marcel Schafer Marco Hoger Timothy Chandler Bolton Wanderers Ivan Klasnic Paris St Germain Wolverhampton Wanderers Wigan Athletic Javi Varas Blackburn Rovers Stephan Lichtsteiner Anotnio Cassano Scott Sinclair Nenad Milijas Anatoliy Tymoshchuk Luis Gustavo Ruud van Nistelrooy Benoit Cheyrou Lucho Gonzalez League Analysis Walter Samuel Christian Chivu AS Roma Stephen Warnock Martin Kelly Gary Caldwell Karl Henry Kevin Doyle England National Football Team Javi Venta Vicente Iborra Sergio Ballesteros Bobby Zamora Jonas Gutierrez Dariusz Dudka Youssouf Hadji Christian Abbiati Alvaro Dominguez Phil Neville Senad Lulic Filip Daems Ezequiel Schelotto Victor Ruiz Jonathan Pereira Anthony Reveillere Santiago Gentiletti Cheikh Diabate Nicolas Spolli Luciano Fabian Monzon Mauricio Isla Ignazio Abate Titus Bramble Leroy Lita Christian Lell Philipp Wollscheid Milivoje Novakovic Tottenhman Hotspur Johan Cavalli Eliseu Serdar Tasci Ryan Babel Aleksandar Ignjovski Chechu Dorado Djamel Mesbah Arsenal Swansea Ashely Williams Piscu Eden Dzeko Emmerson Boyce Auxerre Phil Bardsley Jose Bosingwa Gretar Steinsson Mattia Cassani Jonathan Woodgate Germany National Football Team Gasperini Mauro Zarate Diego Forlan Estaban Cambiasso Juraj Kucka Marco Faraoni Joel Obi Benedikt Howedes Clemens Fritz Chris Lowe Daniel van Buyten Albania Yann M’Vila Baptiste Reynet Angelo Palombo Eric Tie Bi Chris Mavinga Aaron Hughes Chris Baird Raul Aly Cissokho Alessandro Del Piero France National Football Team Marc Tierney Bundelsiga Raul Bobadilla Loric Remy Jean Pascal Mignot Mainz 05 Schalke 04 Marcel Risse Steven Reid Danny Gabbidon Michal Kadlec Paulo Machado Ben Watson Spain National Football Team German National Football Team Bundeslgia Ricardo Carvalho Ivan Ramis Diego Colotto Sergio Fernandez Sere A Cesare Bovo Miguel Britos Bostjan Cesar Jose Angel Gabriel Heinze Chris Samba Charles N'Zogbia Yohan Demont Rod Fanni Rudy Mater Georgios Tzavellas Javier Pinola Dennis Aogo Daniel Schwaab Attacking Full-Backs Defensive Wingers 2010/11 Attacking Wingers Nicolas Douchez Under-21 Team of Season 2010-11 Maxi Rodriguez Crossing Wingers Under-21 Team of Season All-Round Midfielders Benoit Pedretti Rising Stars Kyle Walker Gaetano D'Agostino Centre Backs Paulo Da Silva Ivan Hernandez Eric Abidal Weligton Borja Ekiza Alassane Toure Stephane Grichting Jordan Loties Kader Mangane Adama Coulibaly Pedro Geromel Neven Subotic Christian Zapata Roger Johnson Stephan Lichsteiner Reto Ziegler David Vaughan Seb Larsson Asamoah Gyan Benoit Pedretti Anthony Mounier Simao Duda Alvaro Cejudo Xabi Prieto Alexsandar Kolarov Guiseppe Mascara Simone Bentivoglio Fernando Marques Gian Piero Gasperin Thomas Hitzlsperger Rafael Van der Vaart Theofanis Gekas Gerard Asamoah Youssef Al Arabi Lisandro Loric Remy Victor Hugo Montano Edison Cavani Sergio Pellissier David Di Michele Steward Downing Spain Under 21 Felipe Caicedo Pierre Webo Youssef El-Arabi Brown Ideye Mobido Maiga Chu-Young Robin Van Persie Kevin Gamerio Udinese. Alexis Sanchez Sami Allagui Frédéric Kanouté Renato Augusto Jonathan Pitropia Eljero Elia Ivo Llicevic Diego Perez Alvaro González Abel Hernandez David VIlla Marcel Schmelzer Danijel Pranjic Holger Badstuber Sven Bender Johan Djourou Darren Fletcher Carlos Kameni Thiago Silve Antonia Di Natale Cristiano Zapata Domenico Criscito Luis Jimenez Josep Ilicic Samuel Eto’o Alexis Thébaux Ludovic Sané Mamouda Sakho Boukary Dramé Daniel Alves Nikolay Mihaylov Charles Puyol Ji-Sung Park Edwin van der Sar Dani Alves John O’Shea Park Ji-Jung Gabi Fernandez Jonathan de Guzman Michael Owen Gary Taylor-Fletcher Ian Evatt DJ Campbell Charles N’Zogbia Wolverhampton Avram Grant Conor Sammon Wayne Bridge Rob Green Victor Obinna Mike Hanke Borussia Munchengladbach VfL Bochum Tomasz Kuszczak Martin Olsson Brett Emerton Steven N’Zonzi Muset Ozil Gianpaolo Pazzini Leonardo Seydou Keita Miguel Pallardo Ibrahim Afellay Valdo Pallardo Damien Perquis Luka Modrid David SIlva Benoit Assou-Ekotto Vedran Corluka Saloman Kalou Clarence Seedorf Matteo Brighi Fabio Simplicio Rodrigo Taddei Mark Van Bommel Gennaro Gattuso Kevin Prince-Boateng Nicolas Burdisso Elkin Soto Pep Gaurdiola Antonio da Silva Robert Mak Heurelho Gomes Andre Marriner Pinto Alavro Arbeloa Alexander Hleb

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