Home » Predicted XI vs Atletico Madrid: Raphael Varane to return to Man United starting XI

Predicted XI vs Atletico Madrid: Raphael Varane to return to Man United starting XI

by Red Billy

Manchester United travel to Spain tomorrow for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie against Atletico Madrid.

Edinson Cavani is once again doubtful but the rest of the squad, other than third string keeper Tom Heaton (groin) and Mason Greenwood (suspended from club), should be available.

With away goals no longer counting double in the event of tied aggregate scores over two legs, manager Ralf Rangnick may decide to field a defensive line-up to contain the Rojiblancos.

However, he has so far proven himself to be an attack-minded manager and one who is not afraid to take risks, which could suggest that he will pick a side who he thinks can stay on the front foot.

With Scott McTominay expected to hold in midfield and Bruno Fernandes in a more advanced position, that mindset is more likely to be tested in a choice between Paul Pogba and Fred for the other number eight role.

Pogba came on for Fred and turned the game against Brighton last week, but Fred came on for Pogba against Leeds on Sunday and did the same in reverse.

It’s a close call but we think given the big stage, Rangnick will want to give Pogba the chance to shine and excel at what he does best.

Up front, assuming Cavani is not able to start, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho will be joined by one of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Elanga. On current form there are arguments to be made for all three.

Elanga’s goal at Elland Road might give him the edge but we think Rashford might be restored due to his greater European experience and freshness, having been rested last week.

This leaves the choice of defence, and with David de Gea in goal, all four back line positions could be up for grabs.

Diogo Dalot has been Rangnick’s preferred right back so far but Aaron Wan-Bissaka was recalled on Sunday and did well. Luke Shaw has been working reasonably well at left back but Alex Telles’ game might be better suited to the continental game. We think it will be Dalot and Shaw but it’s another close call in both cases.

Centre back is the most interesting decision of all. It was surprising to see Raphael Varane left on the bench on Sunday but despite shipping two goals, both Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof put in decent shifts, the former scoring United’s first goal and the latter’s brilliant run from defence making the second.

However, Varane remains, on paper, the best of the three and has years of experience playing against Spanish sides.

It would certainly be harsh to drop Lindelof but our prediction is that Rangnick might do just that and this might signal the start of a period of rotation of the three – not usually considered wise when it comes to centre backs, but perhaps called for in this case.

With all that in mind, here is our predicted XI for tomorrow’s game:

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