Manchester United will face Atletico Madrid in one of the most interesting Round of 16 ties of this season’s UEFA Champions League. Both sides are not where they would want to be at this point of time and are competing for top four finishes in their respective leagues. But at the same time, there is a tremendous amount of individual quality in each squad, which makes things so intriguing.
In terms of form, while Manchester United have not been great, they have been better than Atletico Madrid. Since the arrival of Ralf Rangnick as interim manager, the Red Devils have lost only twice, with one of them being in a penalty shootout.
On the other hand, Atletico Madrid have been in terrible form and lost 8 of their previous 15 games across all competitions. It is safe to say that they look like a shadow of the team that lifted the La Liga trophy last season.
Thus, while on paper, this tie looks very close, Manchester United might very well be the clear favourites in reality. Atletico Madrid manager, Diego Simeone, recognises the form that the Red Devils are in as well. As reported by Sky Sports, the Argentine said:
"“We’re facing one of the best teams in the world in the last 14 games, if I’m not mistaken.“They’ve just lost one. With the new manager, Ralf Rangnick, it’s given the team solidity, teamwork, commitment.“We can see what Manchester United was always like. They’ve evolved since the new manager arrived, they’re already fourth in the league.“It’s an intense, dynamic team, very brave, with very good forwards, very good footballers overall and who try to make a huge effort to try and unite the huge talents they have in 11 players.”"
Simeone makes exciting Manchester United claim
It is safe to say that Simeone is not taking this Manchester United side lightly, which is understandable. Anything can happen in a knockout stage game in the Champions League.
But have Manchester United really been one of the best teams in the world since the arrival of Rangnick as interim manager or is it a bit of mind games from Simeone? It might very well be a bit of both.
While Manchester United might have proven a difficult side to beat in recent months, they have not had an easy time winning games themselves. And with the away goal rule now gone, they will have to win against Atletico Madrid to go through this tie.