Barcelona and AC Milan may have something to say about it but tonight’s Champions League clash at the Bernabeau is the tie of round.
It pitches together two of the highest earning clubs in the world, two of the best supported clubs in the world, two of the most successful clubs in the world and crucially two of the most enigmatic managers in the world.
And it’s there that I’ll start my preview. Sir Alex may be the most successful British manager of all-time but no-one has been able to get under his skin more than The Special One. Mourinho has won six of their head-to-heads to Ferguson’s two in the fourteen times they’ve met and that must be at the back of both men’s minds ahead of this crucial match.
A look at the league tables would suggest that it’s United that have excelled domestically. They may be twelve points clear but for me they’ve seldom reached top gear and have shown an alarming tendancy to concede soft goals and often.
Madrid have all but surrendered their La Liga crown and trail great rivals Barcelona by a huge 16 points. That gap is largely down to indifferent form on the road where they’ve drawn 2 and lost 5 – a total of 22 points dropped. But at home they’ve been in league-winning form, dropping just 4 points in 33 and scoring over 3 goals per game on average.
It looks certain that Mourinho will depart Madrid in the Summer and with the league title seemingly out of reach his main target now has to be landing the Champions League trophy that would earn him a place amongst the Madrid greats. To do so he needs to secure a first leg lead against United.
I’m surprised to see them best priced at just 4/6 (Paddy Power, StanJames) but I just can’t oppose them at home against a United side that looked uncertain at the back against even the most average opposition.
Goals look like being on the cards and a popular bet will be over 2.5 goals. Coral go best price at 8/13. But if you fancy goals it might pay to back a fast start. Over 1.5 first half goals is 6/4 with Coral. That’s landed in 7 of 11 (64%) of Madrid’s home La Liga matches and 7 of 13 (54%) of United’s away matches in the Premier League. That bet would also have landed in the last two meetings back in 2003.
Over 1.5 goals at half-time 6/4 (Coral)
Real Madrid 3 Man Utd 2 28/1 (BetVictor)