MANCHESTER: Real Madrid’s back-to-back victories over Barcelona have given them fresh momentum ahead of the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Manchester United tonight.
Prior to the 1-1 draw between the teams three weeks ago, the season had appeared to be ebbing away from the Spanish champions, with Barca having assembled a seemingly unassailable 16-point lead in La Liga.
Madrid midfielder Mesut Ozil was confident in claiming another huge away victory after the first leg with United ended 1-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“It is going to be a difficult game against a good team, but we have already shown in the first leg what we are capable of,” said Ozil. “We were clearly the better team in the first-half and we had numerous chances to score. We have a lot of respect for Manchester United, but our objective is to play as we do and this way we can beat anyone.”
United’s squad has also been largely spared by injury, although defender Phil Jones will miss the clash.
The England international worked hard to stifle Cristiano Ronaldo in the first leg but was then struck down by an ankle injury and missed Saturday’s routine 4-0 win at home to Norwich City.
That one-sided victory took United 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League, allowing manager Alex Ferguson to turn his thoughts to today’s encounter.
“It will be a fantastic night,” said Ferguson. “You are talking about two of the greatest clubs in the world. Emotions will be high and I am sure it will be a tremendous match.
“If we can get a blank against us today, we would go through. But I think both teams will score. I just hope we get more than them.
“To beat Real Madrid on our own ground would be a great step forward for this particular team. It would give us a chance of going all the way in this tournament.”
‘Dortmund will not under-estimate Donetsk’
Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp has insisted his side still face a tough task to see off Shakhtar Donetsk in tonight’s last-16 second leg, despite the 2-2 draw in Ukraine.
A late goal by Germany centre-back Mats Hummels rescued the draw three weeks ago at Donetsk, providing a two-away goal advantage for the return leg at Borussia’s Signal Iduna Park stadium.
“We were the best team in Donetsk, but despite that it finished 2-2, to be the better team again is a real challenge for us,” said Klopp, who gave a curt answer when asked who his dream opponent would be in the last eight.
“We still have too much to do. We are a bit too far away to be wishing for a particular opponent in the next round.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2013.