Manchester United will be looking to book their spot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League when they welcome Atletico Madrid to Old Trafford for the second leg of their last-16 tie tonight.
The contest is delicately poised at 1-1 following the first leg at Wanda Metropolitano, with Anthony Elanga coming off the bench to register for Man United after Joao Felix had sent Atletico ahead.
United were far from their best in the first leg on February 23, with Atletico in charge of the contest for long spells, but Elanga came off the bench to score a leveller in the 80th minute, meaning that any win for the Red Devils on Tuesday evening would see them advance to the final eight of the European Cup.
Confidence would have been low had Man United entered the second leg off the back of their 4-1 defeat to Manchester City last weekend, but Ralf Rangnick’s side were back in league action against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, recording a 3-2 win over the North London club to boost their top-four hopes.
Cristiano Ronaldo returned from injury to score a brilliant hat-trick against Spurs, and the Portugal international will now be determined to enjoy more success against Atletico, having netted 25 times against the Red and Whites during his professional career, making them his favourite opposition.
United, who finished top of Group F to advance to this stage, collecting 11 points from their six matches, beat Paris Saint-Germain at this stage of the 2018-19 competition, but they failed to make it through the group stage last term, ultimately dropping into the Europa League, reaching the final before losing to Villarreal.
The 20-time English champions have won seven of their previous 11 round-of-16 ties, but this will be their first meeting with Atletico in England since November 1991, when the two sides played out a 1-1 draw in the second leg of their second-round contest in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.
Atletico, meanwhile, will enter today’s contest off the back of a 2-1 victory over Cadiz in La Liga on Friday, meaning that the capital giants have now been victorious in their last four league matches, which has left them inside the top four at a key stage of the campaign.
Diego Simeone’s side have triumphed in four of their last five games in all competitions, but they are not in a title race this season, so their only chance of securing silverware this season is in the Champions League.
Atletico were far from convincing in the group stage of this season’s European Cup, winning just two of their six matches, but a total of seven points saw them finish second in the section, and they were impressive for long spells of the first leg against Man United last month.
The Madrid giants lost to Chelsea in last season’s round of 16, but they have reached the quarter-finals or better in five of their last eight Champions League campaigns under Simeone, so it would be fair to say that the club know what it takes to operate in the latter stages of the competition.
Atletico have been victorious in five of their previous eight round-of-16 ties, while they have actually won nine of their 12 two-legged knockout contests with English opposition, but the club lost twice against Liverpool in the group stage of this season’s Champions League. – SportsMole