London: The latest intriguing duel between friendly rivals and master tacticians Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho will take place on Tuesday as Manchester United and Real Madrid resume battle in the Champions League. The match at Old Trafford, which is evenly poised after a 1-1 first-leg draw in Madrid, is the outstanding game in Europe this week as the Champions League tempo increases with three other round-of-16 ties being decided.
The last-16 tie between the two European giants is balanced on a knife edge after last month's 1-1 draw in the first leg and with United holding the tiniest of advantages in the shape of an away goal this week's glamour match could be a tight affair. United go into the game looking a lot more secure at the back than earlier this season with four successive league clean sheets coming at just the right time before being faced with the all-too-familiar talents of fan favourite Ronaldo.
At Old Trafford, Ryan Giggs is expected to make his 1,000th competitive appearance in games for United, Wales and the British Olympic side, and former United favourite Cristiano Ronaldo will be determined to ruin his old team mate's landmark day. The two teams are in great form and only the finest of margins are likely to separate them. United, having thrashed Norwich City 4-0 at Old Trafford on Saturday, are 15 points clear of champions Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo can expect a rousing Old Trafford welcome before his former Manchester United team mates use a newfound defensive solidity to try to make those the last Champions League cheers he hears this season. "He'll get a good reception," Ferguson said on the club's website. "All our former players who come back, who have been great players, get a good reception. "I've seen that all the time. I think, at the start of the game, he'll get that."
Real have re-discovered their old verve with two morale-boosting wins over arch-rivals Barcelona last week, beating them 3-1 in the King's Cup and 2-1 in La Liga. "Obviously these victories are good for the morale of the squad because now we have a tough Champions League match coming up," Real defender Sergio Ramos, who headed the winner in Saturday's win, told Spanish television. "After the two 'Clasicos' we are going to Manchester convinced we can win, with all respect to our opponent, who have a great team," added the Spain international.
Juventus, 3-0 up after a superb first-leg win at Celtic, are overwhelming favourites to reach the quarter-finals, while Paris St Germain, who won 2-1 at Valencia in the first leg, are in the box seat to complete the job at home. The second leg between Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk starts level after they drew the first leg 2-2 in Ukraine, but Dortmund, tipped by some as potential Champions League winners, also start as the favourites to advance.
Real Madrid with their nine European Cup successes and United with three have long been among Europe's aristocrats. As are Juventus, who have had a roller-coaster history since lifting the European Cup for the second time in 1996. They are now back on the rise and barring a total upset at home on Wednesday are poised to see off Celtic and reach the last eight for the first time since 2006. Juve, who have no injury worries, are six points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A after their 1-1 draw on Friday and well on course to defend their league title.
Their recent European record is also outstanding. They have not lost for 17 matches since a 4-1 defeat at Fulham in the Europa League in 2010. Since then they have won eight and drawn nine European games and have not conceded a goal in their last four Champions League matches. Another former European champion, Borussia Dortmund, who beat Juve in the 1997 final, face a highly-skilled and difficult-to-beat Shakhtar Donetsk side on Tuesday. Dortmund lost to Bayern Munich in the German Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday, but bounced straight back with a confidence-boosting 3-1 victory over Europa League hopefuls Hanover 96 on Saturday.
"We have a good starting point but we have to be more focused than in our past few games," said Dortmund defender Marcel Schmelzer. "The Ukrainians are still fresh, they have played just two games this year. But we want to get something back after letting some other things slip out of our hands," he said referring to their German Cup exit.
Defender Mats Hummels, who scored in the first leg and has been out with flu, could be back after missing two games. Shakhtar are likely to have Oleksandr Kucher, who was suspended from the first leg, back to partner Yaroslav Rakytsky in the centre of defense replacing Dmytro Chygrynsky. Kucher headed the second as Shakhtar thrashed Volyn Lutsk 4-1 in the Ukrainian League that resumed on Friday after a three-month winter break.
David Beckham could return to Champions League action for PSG's home game against Valencia on Wednesday, with the French side 2-1 ahead from the first leg. The 37-year-old former England captain said last week: "It is a while since I played in the Champions League so I am excited. It's a big game for the club, and we are ahead, but that does not mean it is going to be easy."
PSG prepared in the worst possible way for the Valencia clash, losing 1-0 at ten-man Stade Reims on Saturday. Midfielder Marco Verratti will be suspended for Wednesday's game as will striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was sent off in the first leg at the Mestalla. The round of 16 will be completed next week with the remaining four ties when Barcelona will be seeking to overturn their 2-0 first-leg defeat at AC Milan.
Manchester United: 1-David de Gea; 2-Rafael, 5-Rio Ferdinand, 6-Jonny Evans, 3-Patrice Evra; 16-Michael Carrick, 23-Tom Cleverley; 10-Wayne Rooney, 26-Shinji Kagawa, 19-Danny Welbeck; 20-Robin van Persie
Real Madrid: 41-Diego Lopez; 17-Alvaro Arbeloa, 3-Pepe, 4-Sergio Ramos, 5-Fabio Coentrao; 14-Xabi Alonso, 6-Sami Khedira; 22-Angel Di Maria, 10-Mesut Ozil, 7-Cristiano Ronaldo; 9-Karim Benzema.
Will Ronaldo be able to score again in the second leg?