Real Madrid face off with Manchester United

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Real Madrid to take on Manchester United in the Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Bernabeu Stadium on Tuesday night.

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Two of the world's great footballing superpowers will face up to one another on Tuesday night, as Real Madrid take on Manchester United in the Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Bernabeu Stadium. Reigning champions Real were far from impressive throughout most of their second group stage, but now look to be finding their form both domestically and abroad when it matters most. Opponents Manchester United, meanwhile, are currently trying to quell transfer speculation involving midfielder David Beckham as they negotiate the considerable task of overcoming the nine-time champions. Real Madrid have began to exert what seems like a natural stranglehold over Spain's Primera Liga in recent weeks. And now coach Vicente Del Bosque will be hoping they can do the same to their European rivals, as in the week's Champions League glamour tie Real take on Manchester United in quarter-final first leg at the Bernabeu. "They are the two most prestigious clubs in the world, and lead the way in this sport. In the last years, even though we have dominated the competition, Manchester are always there until the end. The teams are full of excellent players. I am sure it will be a great show," said Vicente Del Bosque, Real Madrid coach. Real striker Raul acknowledged that, with so much talent on show, neutrals may be sorry to see Real and United up against one another as early as the quarter-finals - but all the same, only one can go through. "We are in the quarter-finals - both teams have pressure on them, and both teams should be in the semi finals. But only one can go through. Well ... I think it will be a game with a lot of tension with great football. There will be moments of suffering in the game, but above all I hope that there will be two great games of football," Bosque said. Adding further spice to the encounter, rumours are rife among both the Spanish and English press that David Beckham could possibly be on his way to Real Madrid at the end of the season. United manger Sir Alex Ferguson has laughed off the speculation, dismissing the reports as mischief-making ahead of the clash. But there's no doubt that the England captain would represent yet another considerable feather in Real's prestigious bow, as much for what he represents in marketability off the pitch as his quality on it. Ryan Giggs is another of United's stars to be subject to ongoing transfer rumours, with Serie A side Inter said to be considering a bid. But Sir Alex appears oblivious of such rumours, and is focusing on the job in hand, confident that his side's attacking prowess will cause problems for the European champions. "I do think, and I think that most people recognise this, including Real Madrid, that in the last few years we have a fantastic record of scoring away from home, and I feel strongly about that tomorrow. And you're right, scoring will be very important tomorrow," said Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager. And with such talent on show, Ferguson was in no doubt over the significance of the match on the world stage. "I think, personally, that the European Champions Cup is bigger than the World Cup, because all the best players are in Europe, really. And when you get a collection of players together like Figo, Zidane and Ronaldo, you're talking about a world-class selection," Ferguson said. Manchester United have five players remaining from the last time they faced Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, also in a Champions League quarter-final first leg back in 2000. Gary Neville, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs will no doubt also remember the clinical 3-2 defeat they suffered at home in the second leg, as Real went on to lift the trophy for the eighth time in their history. But, like their opponents, United have added further talent to their ranks since then, including the considerable goal scoring prowess of Ruud Van Nistelrooy. The Dutchman, who joined United from PSV Eindhoven two seasons ago, is the leading scorer in this season's Champions League with 10 goals. He has netted a club-record 22 goals in 23 Champions League appearances for United. All set, then, for the possibly the biggest game so far in this season's Champions League. And they know exactly what lies in wait, the winner playing either Juventus or Barcelona in the semifinals. And United have an added incentive, if one was needed, as the final on May 28th will be at their home ground of Old Trafford. (AP)

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