This evening, at 7:45 pm, Manchester United and AC Milan will kick off their last 16 match in the UEFA Champion’s League.
While the front page writers of the world will be focusing their attention on David Beckham’s return to Old Trafford, those who open their newspapers the other way around will doubtless be relishing the prospect of watching the English Premier League champions protecting a one goal lead.
United are huge favourites to progress to the next phase of the Champion’s League: their 3-2 lead from the San Siro – and the away goals rule – means that Milan must score at least twice to make it through tonight’s tie.
That being said, Manchester United are not the same team which went so close to lifting this famous trophy last season. Cristiano Ronaldo has not been replaced adequately, and Michael Owen is, somewhat predictably, injured while Dimitar Berbatov tends to go missing for large periods. Wayne Rooney, however, has stepped up since the departure of his talented sidekick up-front, and has been in magnificent form this season.
With United struggling somewhat in defence at present – Ferdinand and Vidic have both missed lengthy spells this term, and both are out of form as a result – United may well require goals from the Merseysider once again, as Milan possess riches in attack, and, even with Edwin van der Sar back in the United net, it looks likely that Milan, given 90 minutes to hunt two goals, will achieve this at least once.
Ronaldinho and Clarence Seedorf, though aging, proved in the first leg they are still a handful in front of goal. At 34, David Beckham has an all to well known ability from set pieces too, for that matter, though the former England captain is likely to start from the bench.
This last 16 encounter has all the hall marks of a classic UEFA Champion’s League tie: goals are more than likely as two old names, full of veteran performers, meet once more in the Theatre of Dreams.