With the first four games of the Champions League Round of 16 providing a lot of drama and entertainment, this week’s slate also promises to live up to the hype.
The most prominent fixture this week is arguably the English giants Manchester United’s visit to the capital of Spain to face Atletico Madrid.
Although it didn’t look likely during the early stages, United finished first place in Group F and set up a clash against Atletico Madrid, who finished second to Liverpool in Group B.
Manchester United’s form in the Champions League group stage this season has been excellent when considering their results from other competitions.
During the group stage, United recorded an early loss to Young Boys, which raised questions about how they would fare against other teams in their group but the Red Devils proved everyone wrong by going unbeaten in their remaining five group stage games – due in large part to Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes’ efforts.
However, despite their purple patch in the Champions League – United’s form in other competitions has been atrocious.
For instance, the Red Devils succumbed to a shocking FA Cup loss to Middlesbrough earlier this month and another loss in the Carabao Cup last year to West Ham which saw them exit the competition – drastically reducing Ralf Rangnick’s chances of winning any kind of silverware this season.
Currently sitting at fourth place in the Premier League, United aren’t favourites to win the league and are certainly not considered favourites to go all the way in this season’s Champions League because of their current shortcomings on the pitch.
However, It is worth noting that while they don’t seem likely to go all the way and win the Champions League, Manchester United has enough quality within their ranks to defy expectations. Still, if they’re going to inspire belief in their fans, the best way is to make a statement against Atletico on Wednesday night.
Atletico Madrid’s form across all competitions going into the Round of 16 fixture is far from befitting for a team that holds the La Liga title.
Their Champions League campaign started with a second-place finish, garnering only 7 points in the group stage. One could argue that part of the reason they secured qualification is because their fellow group B occupants, apart from Liverpool, who won all six games, also put up abysmal displays.
Diego Simeone’s men lost three games, drew one and won only two games in the group stage. Their qualification came down to the results of the last matchday seeing as Porto (5 points) or AC Milan (4 points) could have stolen their spot with better results.
Los Colchoneros started their title defence campaign in the league without a loss in their first seven games, but they’ve experienced quick dips and rises in their form since then. Currently, they are 5th in the La Liga with seven losses on their record so far, including a couple of embarrassing upsets.
Although the team isn’t playing at their best, Atletico’s pedigree in the Champions League is remarkable enough for spectators to envision them scaling through this round of 16.
The Rojiblancos have gone past the Round of 16 on six occasions and reached two finals in the last ten years.
With a plethora of beliefs and scores to settle with Cristiano Ronaldo that regularly tormented them when he was at city rivals Real Madrid, Atletico can start their two-legged tie with a win against Manchester United at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Manchester United Team News
Manchester United veteran striker Edinson Cavani suffered a groin problem in training on Friday 11th of February and would most likely miss out on the clash against Atletico, while Nemanja Matic is concerned with a shin issue.
Eric Bailly has featured in multiple training sessions. He should be up to speed with United after going on international duty with Ivory Coast to the African Cup of Nations.
Atletico Madrid Team News
Antoine Griezmann has missed eight games for Atleti due to a muscle injury but could return against United. Daniel Wass has the second most missed games currently, with three due to a ligament injury, while Thomas Lemar and Matheus Cunha have missed one game due to COVID and a knee injury, respectively. All three are significant doubts to feature in the lineup against Manchester United.
Yannick Carrasco will not participate in both legs due to a red card received during Atleti’s last game against Porto.
Manchester United possible starting lineup :
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba, Fernandes; Rashford, Ronaldo, Sancho
Atletico Madrid possible starting lineups :
Oblak; Vrsaljko, Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso, Lodi; Llorente, de Paul, Koke; Correa, Felix
TribalFootball.com Prediction: Atletico Madrid 2-2 Manchester United.
Atletico has the upper hand from a managerial point of view.
United just recently changed managers while Atleti has had Simeone for years, and he has helped them thrive and manoeuvre tough fixtures – especially in the Champions League.
However, Atletico don’t look like the Atletico of old in their recent games.
Their defensive solidity appears to have waned in recent times – leaving cracks for United’s technically gifted wingers to exploit.
So we expect United to put a couple of goals into Altetico’s net – and we expect Simeone’s men to return the favour.
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