Manchester United will look to follow up their remarkable 3-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur with another win when Atletico Madrid travel to Old Trafford for the second leg of the Champions League Round-of-16 tie. The visiting side could have put the game beyond United’s reach in the reverse fixture with the level of dominance they exhibited. But, the Madrid outfit paid the price for their wastefulness in front of goal and had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Wanda Metrpolitano.
Manchester United have been a puzzling side under Ralf Rangnick. You can spot the structural integrity in their games, but they don’t translate into favourable results for the Red Devils. However, in Manchester United’s visit to Atletico Madrid, they were thoroughly outplayed by the home side, showing minimal signs of resistance.
The Mancunians were able to escape with a draw regardless, as Atletico could not pair up their commanding play with clinical finishing. Joao Felix gave the hosts an early lead, but they could not build on it, and in the end, Anthony Elanga came off the bench to punish Los Rojiblancos for their carelessness with a last-gasp equalizer.
Even though the scores are locked in at 1-1, United would have been on the back foot had they gone into this tie on the back of their dismal derby performance. Man United got ripped apart by their in-form neighbours Manchester City 4-1, but they recouped some of their lost confidence when they beat fellow top-four aspirants Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 in a cagey Premier League affair.
While it was far from a flawless performance, Rangnick will be thrilled to see Cristiano Ronaldo ending his goal drought with an incredible hat-trick. The 37-year-old has an excellent record against United’s Tuesday night opponents, having found the net no less than 25 times against them in his career. So, an on-song Ronaldo would be a massive boost for United ahead of the tie.
Manchester United will not call back Mason Greenwood, whom the club have frozen out following sex abuse allegations. Bruno Fernandes will be a welcome returnee after missing the Spurs game for being under the weather. Luke Shaw has also tested covid negative and will be available for selection. Scott McTominay might also recover from his calf injury in time to make the squad.
Atletico Madrid are not having a great season in La Liga, but they have somewhat stabilized their campaign with a string of positive results. Before boarding the UK-bound flight, Atletico saw off Cadiz to make it four league wins on the bounce.
Despite their recent success, Diego Simeone’s men are set to lose the La Liga title this time around as they find themselves locked in a battle for the top four. This season, the only mathematical possibility of silverware for the defending La Liga champions lies in the Champions League, but they have not been stellar in that competition either.
Atletico have played seven matches in the tournament so far, and have won only twice. They were on total control of the match when they hosted Manchester United in the first leg, but failed to take advantage of it. Atletico players missed chances after chances and kept United alive in the tie.
Atletico Madrid have an excellent record against Premier League oppositions at this stage of the competition. They had lost to Chelsea in the Round-of-16 last season, but they knocked out then-champions Liverpool in the year prior. In 12 two-legged knockout encounters with English teams, Atletico came out on top on nine occasions.
Yannick Carrasco is serving a three-match ban as punishment for his aggressive behavior in the group stage match against Porto. That means, he will miss the trip to United and will have to sit out the first leg of the quarter final should Atletico progress.
Jose Gimenez joined the ranks of Daniel Wass, Thomas Lemar, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Mario Hermoso, Sime Vrsalikjo and Matheus Cunha after limping off the ground during the Cadiz game. Koke, however, will be fit to play against United.
Neither Manchester United nor Atletico Madrid are operating at the height of their capabilities at the moment. Therefore, we expect an open match at Old Trafford, where both teams will fancy their chances. But, we will put our money on Manchester United because of their home advantage and Atleti’s poor form in the tournament.
Manchester United to win @2.25.