Pitchside Europe

Real Madrid v Manchester United: What Europe thinks

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At the draw for this season’s Champions League round of 16, one tie stood head and shoulders above the other seven.

Manchester United and Real Madrid, with a dozen European Cup successes between them, are among the favourites to win another Champions League title every passing season, but in 2012-13 only one will see the last eight after they were paired in the first wave of knockout fixtures.

The latest meeting of two of European football’s superpowers, another round in the managerial battle between Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, and the sight of Cristiano Ronaldo lining up against his former employers, has everybody talking ahead of Wednesday’s first leg.

But who will come out on top?

We asked our continental cousins for their predictions and analysis, and you can read who Europe thinks will advance to the quarter-finals – including the opinions of both the British and Spanish Eurosport offices.

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Christopher Hemscheidt – Eurosport Germany

Both teams are in really good shape at the moment. This past weekend Real Madrid won 4-1 against Sevilla in the Primera Division while the Red Devils celebrated a 2-0 Premier League win against Everton.

Manchester will travel with a lot of self-confidence to Santiago Bernabeu. The team’s attack is husky and strong this season, with Robin van Persie leading the scoring list in the Premier League and Rooney giving constant assists. In addition Real have had quite a disappointing season so far, and it’s always hard to turn around the trend.

If Manchester are able to stop Ronaldo and cut off Mesut Ozil’s passes, they should go through to the next round. It will be important for Alex Ferguson’s team to achieve at a minimum a draw in Madrid – Old Trafford will then be a good place to seal victory.

WINNER: Manchester United

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Mattia Fontana – Eurosport Italy

Manchester United are good enough for the Premier League, but not for this kind of match. They have almost won the championship already thanks to the marvellous Wayne Rooney-Van Persie axis, but they do not possess enough quality in midfield to face top teams in Europe.

Real Madrid are having troubled period and they will play the second leg at Old Trafford, but they have more quality to win this kind of match. During Mourinho’s era, they have been eliminated by Barcelona and Bayern Munich. The Catalans had more quality, the Germans were more organised.

Manchester United are a good team, but they haven’t got the same quality or organisation. Tom Cleverley in midfield is good and Shinji Kagawa could be a new (and far better) Park Ji-sung. But they are not Xavi or Andres Iniesta. Ferguson will be forced to play counter-attack in Madrid and to win at home. But it’s not their ‘Plan A’ and it will not pay off.

WINNER: Real Madrid

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Nicolas Sbarra – Eurosport France

Manchester United are in good shape with 12 victories and two draws in the Premier League. With 12 points between them and the other teams, United can concentrate only on the CL, while Real has to fight for second place in La Liga. Manchester also has the advantage of playing at home in the return game, and having no major injuries. Real could really do with the injured Iker Casillas.

In attack, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain have not been very confident these last few weeks (or months), while the Rooney-Van Persie duo is on great form. Ferguson will have to control his ex-player Ronaldo.

WINNER: Manchester United

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Jimmy Ewertsson – Eurosport Sweden

Ferguson’s record against Mourinho is not very impressive and that might give Real Madrid a small edge in what looks to be a close encounter. United’s defence has looked shaky throughout the season and there’s clearly a question mark over David De Gea's ability to deal with crosses, while Real Madrid have struggled domestically this year.

Both teams have extraordinary attacking options and I expect an open tie with a lot of goals at both ends. The result is difficult to predict, but I believe Real Madrid has a marginally higher potential than United and with their exceptional individual quality I think they’ll have to be considered slight favourites for this one.

WINNER: Real Madrid

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Onur Saygin – Eurosport Turkey

I think United will win the round because they are at their best at the moment. Real's only chance is the Champions League this year and that pressure may hold them back. United are comfortable at the top of the Premier League table and playing the first game at Spain will help them to progress.

I think this round will come down to forwards. Except for Ronaldo, Real's front line can’t match United's. Europe's best striker is Van Persie (for me) and him going up against Diego Lopez will be one face-off to watch.

WINNER: Manchester United

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Ilya Minsky – Eurosport Russia

Real Madrid may not be a better team but they do have better players. Of course, Rooney and RVP can destroy any defence but they would need help from midfield, and that's where Madrid are definitely stronger than United. Just compare Xabi Alonso and Ozil to, say, Cleverley and Michael Carriсk. Plus, there's the Cristiano factor. He seems to have found his rhythm again, and he will be on fire playing against his former team.

Let's not forget that this might be the last season of Mourinho's era in Madrid, and I'm pretty sure The Special One wouldn't want to leave the club without winning anything in his last season. The Champions League is the only trophy Real Madrid can actually win in the remainder of 2012-13, so the whole team will be extremely motivated.

WINNER: Real Madrid

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Ivan Castello – Eurosport Spain

Real Madrid are one of the most competitive clubs in the history of sports, not just football. It is very difficult to imagine them dropping their guard in their favourite competition, the Champions League. It is also the only way to solve a terrible season in the Primera. There is no choice: win or win.

Mourinho has his best 11, except Casillas, and he likes to play as an away team in cup rounds. Over two games, Ronaldo is perhaps not as strong as Rooney and Van Persie combined. But the difference is Real Madrid work as a team when they have to do their best, as the recent Clásico against Barcelona proved.

WINNER: Real Madrid

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Alex Chick – British Eurosport

Manchester United’s record against the top European clubs has never been particularly impressive, and there’s little reason to believe that will change this year. Despite United holding a commanding lead in the Premier League, that is down to their rivals’ failings rather than their own strengths – they have been particularly shaky defensively.

As for Real; clearly they have had a very disappointing season so far, but their individual quality is exceptional and few would doubt Mourinho’s ability to galvanise his side for a big European tie. Real will win the first leg convincingly and then withstand a United onslaught at Old Trafford.

WINNER: Real Madrid

FINAL TALLY: REAL MADRID 5, MANCHESTER UNITED 3

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Who do YOU think will advance to the quarter-finals? Can Fergie pull off a rare result over ‘The Special One’? Or will Mourinho continue his quest for a third Champions League title with as many teams?

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