Manchester United travel to the Bernabeu for the pick of the Champions League last-16 ties and, to mark the occasion, we at Ladbrokes News HQ have picked a combined XI from both theirs and Real Madrid’s squad.
The Red Devils’ exploits in the final third is what has propelled them to the cusp of a 13th Premier League crown, though they only boast one attack-minded player in this team, with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia all having to make do with places on the bench.
Picking anyone other than Iker Casillas to don the gloves would be a foolish move; he’s proved throughout his career that you don’t have to be the biggest in order to be the best when it comes to minding the net, which is something that his United counterpart need take note of.
A Brazilian contingent occupies the full back berths with Rafael on the right-hand side, Marcelo on the left. These two have improved their defensive games greatly in recent seasons to compliment their already excellent ability with the ball at their feet.
One of the more controversial selections is Jonny Evans’ inclusion at centre half alongside Sergio Ramos. The Northern Irishman has been consistently solid at the heart of the United defence all season and his efforts regularly lack the recognition awarded to other players. He beats Nemanja Vidic to the punch based on the Serb’s lack of game time this term, as well as some uncharacteristically shaky performances.
In midfield we’ve selected Phil Jones to screen the back four. He exemplified a great maturity in his shadowing of Marouane Fellaini in United’s win over Everton at the weekend, minimising the enigmatic Belgian’s influence. His defensive commitment will free up more responsibility for Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric to pull the strings in the middle of the park.
Robin van Persie is the only United attacker in the XI, though he’s arguably as impossible to omit as Cristiano Ronaldo. It wouldn’t be unfair to expect a seasonal haul of 100 goals from these two, while Karim Benzema wouldn’t be shy of weighing in with a couple either.
The Frenchman offers an added physical element to the team and, while his work ethic isn’t always what it could be, he can contribute to the team in more ways than Gonzalo Higuain, who is all about putting the ball in the net.
With Real’s attacking prominence coming to the forefront in this combined side, they’re in good shape to take a first-leg lead when the teams collide in Madrid and a price of 7/10 says they will.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date