Wednesday Night’s Champions League Preview

by Eamonn Power

Last night’s action saw no shortage of goals as Arsenal and Bayern Munich became the first two sides to get their names in the pot for this year’s quarter finals. Tonight, Manchester United and Lyon will be hoping to hold on the advantages they have over AC Milan and Real Madrid respectively as they try to do the same. We take a closer look at these games below…..

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Manchester United vs AC Milan (agg 3:2)

David Beckham of Milan during the Juventus v AC Milan Serie A match at the Stadio Olimpico di Torino on January 10, 2010 in Turin, Italy.Much of the spotlight ahead of this clash once again falls on David Beckham (pictured, left) as the ex-United no.7 and current Milan no. 32 makes his way to Old Trafford as an opposing player for the first time  since leaving United seven years ago to join Real Madrid. Whether or not Becks will feature in his return remains to be seen, his influence in the first leg was minimal and this time around Alex Ferguson foresees a supporting role for one of the most recognised players in world football. Just as he was before the first leg in Milan, the United boss has been quick to stress the importance of the game itself over any of the media hype surrounding Beckham’s return as his past player recieved a hero’s welcome upon his arrival into Manchester airport on Tuesday.

Manchester United have a habit of making life tough on themselves and Ferguson will be rueing Clarence Seedorf’s late goal three weeks ago that still very much keeps Milan’s hopes alive when the tie should have been all but put to bed. The scotsman fully recognizes his teams difficulties in defending leads and has said that they will not be looking to  merely hold on to their advantage and will go out and attack Milan in order to put their visitors on the back foot from the start. The Italian side need at least two goals to have any hope of qualifying and an early goal will give them full belief that they can grab another and promise for a very nervous night for United supporters.

Ferguson will be well aware that on the previous four occasions that United have come to face Milan in European knockout stages they have been eliminated by them. There is a feeling however that Milan are a long distance away from the  dominant European sides of the past and despite the fact that they still find themselves in the hunt for a place in the last eight, the Rossinieri have failed to win their last four Champion’s League games and have not kept a clean sheet all season. Given the fact that United have not lost a knockout tie at Old Trafford since 2005 (when losing to Milan) they will fell confident that they have enough to progress.

In terms of team news, United have been boosted by the availability of talisman Wayne Rooney (pictured, right) who sat out their game at the weekend with a knee complaint. Rooney bagged two in the first leg and the man with 28 goals to his name already this season may be all the hungrier to bag some more following his short rest. Aside from Wes Brown, who broke a bone in his foot last week, United have no fresh injury concerns from the first leg.

Unlike United, Milan may not be lucky enough to call upon their number one hitman as Alexandre Pato looks set to miss out again, despite being named in the 22 man squad. The Brazilian faces a race to be fit for the game after sitting out last weekends game with a hamsring injury. Dutch striker Klaas Jan-Huntelaar will be expected to deputise in the case that Pato cannot feature.

Real Madrid vs Lyon (agg 0:1)

The €250m that Real Madrid spent in the summer could very soon become the noose to hang some of the folks in the higher offices of the Santiago Bernebau as Madrid aim to battle back from a shock defeat to Lyon in the first leg. The  spending spree that the club embarked upon last year would suggest that they were taking their shot at European success very, very seriously this year and an exit before the quarter finals for the sixth season in a row would cause shockwaves around the continent, aswell as the Madrid boardroom.

Jean II Makoun of Lyon reacts during the UEFA Champions League,  First knock-out round, second leg match between Barcelona and Lyon at  the Camp Nou stadium on March 11, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona  won the match 5-2.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images) *** Local  Caption *** Jean II MakounLyon hold their advantage thanks to a wondrous strike from Cameroonian midfielder Jean II Makoun (pictured, right) in the first leg and will be no pushovers despite their indifferent form in their domestic league.

Real Madrid have been unstoppable at home in the league this season, winning each of their thirteen games so far but they have not been able to bring that form into European competition with them, losing to AC Milan in the group stages this season and both Juvents and Liverpool in last years competition. A big performance will be required to overcome he team who they could not beat in their last five encounters and who scored against them each time.

Big name signings Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka will join with Gonzalo Higuain to try break down the walls of the French club’s defence but xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema, who himself left Lyon last summer, are out due to suspension and injury. Also out through suspension is midfielder Marcel meaning boss Manuel Pellegrini will have some rearranging to do. For Lyon, Francois Clerc and Cleber Anderson as well as Michel Bastos are all ruled out, but striker and top-scorer Lisandro Lopez looks set to be risked.

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