Manchester United host Atletico Madrid in the deciding leg of their round of 16 Champions League tie on Tuesday as both teams eye the quarter-final stage of the competition. With the first leg producing a compelling encounter despite ending in a 1-1 draw, the return leg at Old Trafford is building up to produce an intriguing clash, with both teams evenly matching up heading into the fixtures.
Following a disappointing loss against Manchester City, a statement performance by Cristiano Ronaldo ensured the Red Devils secured a compelling three points against Tottenham Hotspur in the league last Saturday. However, having won only two of their last five fixtures across all competitions, United will be wary of their inadequacies and look to avoid another unsettling result at the biggest stage in Europe on Tuesday.
On the other hand, having won four of their last five league outings, Atletico will be confident of moving forward in the competition following a dominant performance in their first-leg tie in February. With Diego Simeone having taken Atletico to the quarterfinals or better in five out of their previous eight Champions League campaigns, the visitors will look to avoid any hiccups on Tuesday. Moreover, recording a notable nine wins out of their 12 two-legged knockout ties against English opposition, Atletico emerge as favourites for the win heading into the fixtures at Old Trafford.
WHEN & WHERE?
Venue: Old Trafford.
Date: Tuesday, 15th of March 2022.
Time: Kick-off at 20:00 BST.
Having missed out against Spurs at the weekend, both Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw, at the time of writing, remain unlikely to be included in the match-day squad against Atletico. Expected to overcome a muscle injury, Scott McTominay is likely to return to the starting line-up after being rested on Saturday.
With the team having delivered another questionable performance despite the three points against Spurs, Rangnick will be hoping for a relatively improved display whilst being demanding a victory on Tuesday. The German is unlikely to make major changes to the line-up, with only McTominay expected to retain his place in central midfield against Atletico.
Yannick Carrasco remains unavailable due to suspension, while the likes of Matheus Cunha, Sime Vrsaljko, Daniel Wass, Thomas Lemar, Mario Hermoso, and Geoffrey Kondogbia are sidelined with injuries. Centre-back Jose Gimenez, too, is unlikely to feature after suffering an injury on the weekend, although midfielder Koke is expected to be included in the starting line-up after featuring against Cadiz in their league tie last Friday.
With numerous injuries in the squad, Simeone will be keen on fielding a competitive and disciplined line-up at Old Trafford. Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez are, once again, expected to be included on the bench, with the likes of Angel Correa and Joao Felix leading the line for the visitors. Marcos Llorente and Renan Lodi are likely to provide the width from midfield, with Simeone looking to remain compact and nullify United’s strengths on the counter and around the edge of the box on Tuesday.
With a result for either side inevitable, both managers will be looking to apply a calculative approach on Tuesday. Although having been inconsistent throughout the season, United will be wary of their ability to deliver the odd-convincing performance, while the visitors will be keen on capitalizing on the home side’s glaring weaknesses in defence and mentality at Old Trafford. With both teams having secured crucial league points over the weekend, Tuesday’s knockout leg is likely to produce a mouth-watering European clash for all viewers.
Having struggled to keep clean sheets amidst delivering questionable performances despite a mid-season change in management, United will be looking to capitalize on their home support on Tuesday. With the team having scraped a draw in their first leg against the visitors, Rangnick will look to inspire a comparably improved display at Old Trafford. Having struggled to break-down Atletico’s compact and disciplined defensive last in Madrid, United will be looking to dominate possession whilst remaining keen on an early goal on Tuesday. Moreover, with the visitors expected to deliver a challenging performance, the hosts will look to hurt them on the counter-attack and remain clinical in front of goal at Old Trafford.
Meanwhile, Atletico will be keen on avenging their first-leg draw on Tuesday. With United’s weaknesses lying in their defence and inconsistency across the midfield, Simeone will look to exploit them down the central areas whilst stretching their full-backs occupied at Old Trafford. Boasting a significantly better set of technical players, Atletico will be keen on retaining the bulk of possession whilst frustrating the home side in a bid to weaken their composure and find the back of the net and a potential victory on Tuesday.
CRISTIANO RONALDO – MANCHESTER UNITED
Fresh of scoring a world-class hat-trick against Spurs, Ronaldo will be keen on thrusting United into the next round of the competition on Tuesday. Having seemingly regained his form ahead of a crucial phase of the season for the club, the Portuguese will be keen on improving his tally of goal contributions whilst single-handedly dictating the outcome of United’s results over the remainder of the season. Moreover, with Atletico Madrid proving to be a favoured opponent, Ronaldo’s experience is likely to play a major role in deciding the result on Tuesday.
JOAO FELIX – ATLETICO MADRID
Having registered his name on the score-sheet in Madrid, Felix emerges as a player capable of trampling United’s hopes for qualifying for the next stage of the competition. The Portuguese’s pace and movement combined with his ability to find the back of the next could pose major problems for an inconsistent United backline, while his off-the-ball intelligence could pave the way for the visitors in breaking the deadlock at Old Trafford.
Having already shown his impact in the first-leg tie against United, Felix is capable of, once again, hurting the Red Devils in the return leg on Tuesday.
Manchester United (4-3-3) – David De Gea; Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles; Scott McTominay, Fred, Paul Pogba; Anthony Elanga, Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Atletico Madrid (3-5-2) – Jan Oblak; Stefan Savic, Felipe, Reinildo Mandava; Marcos Llorente, Rodrigo De Paul, Hector Herrera, Koke, Renan Lodi; Joao Felix, Angel Correra.