By Greg Robertson
Hello and welcome to Madrid and to Santiago Bernabeu Stadium where we have Spain’s Real Madrid hosting England’s Manchester United in the first leg of the Champions League 2013 last-16 action.
It doesn’t get bigger than this. The names that hit the pitch today are among the biggest in football anywhere. Even the managers are super stars.
We bring you live streaming written commentary, video highlights and all the action of the Champions League. Make sure you REFRESH your browser occasionally so you don’t miss any of the action. We’ll warn you with VIDEO UP when highlight footage is ready for viewing.
LIVE COMMENTARY... Real Madrid 1 - 1 Manchester United
ALL VIDEO UP
FULLTIME: First leg ends in a draw. Real Madrid with the better of that encounter but United did well to hang in there... and could have, and maybe should have, snuck the win.
90 MINS: Ohhh Van Persie with a shot that skips of the turf and Lopez
throws his hand down to just tip it wide.VIDEO UP. It's a corner. No the whistles blown with seconds still on the clock?United bitter about that but the away goal will soothe things.
90 MINS: Plus three minutes. United desperate in defence. Madrid pushes forward, Evans with the save and defying Ronaldo in a goal mouth scramble.
85 MINS: Free kick from about 300 yars (well, 40 yards anyway) for Madrid and surely it's too far for Ronaldo? Nope... he squeaks it just over the crossbar. Only Ronaldo, eh. Only Ronaldo. VIDEO UP SOON.
84 MINS: Giggs showing there's life in those legs with a great piece of defensive work. Pepe on for Alonso. Rooney's leaving too replaced by Anderson.
80 MINS: Mad scramble in the United box and the bouncing ball is volleyed by Khedira - de Gea with a great save. VIDEO UP .
77 MINS: When the ball is in the Man U third you can throw a blanket just about over the entire 11.
74 MINS: Van Persie - just as we mention him - is away and ohhhh off the cross bar. VP then right in front of goal, chests it with time and no one near him, with only the keeper to beat, he mis-kicks it and it's going, it's going, it's going towards the line.... still going... cleared. What a chance. What a miss by VP. VIDEO UP SOON. Welbeck's day is done and Valencia is on. Modric on for Di Maria for Real.
70 MINS: Higuain with a scooting cross near post and Ronaldo flies in to get a touch to it but it takes a deflection and out for a corner. No damage done from the corner. United are falling deeper and deeper in defence.
68 MINS: Di Maria gets around the back of the United defence and sends in a wee chip cross for Rooney to deal with and head away. Rooney has done a lot of work, though mostly inside his own half, more like a central midfielder. Have hardly since his partner in goal scoring crime, Robin van Persie.
63 MINS: Kagawa departs the scene for United and in his place is that man, you may have heard of him, Ryan Giggs. I think he's quite new to football.
61 MINS:Coentrao on target near the back post and de Gea with an extra-ordinary save with his foot, volleying it away. VIDEO UP . Real Madrid with twice as many attempts on goal than United.
59 MINS: Real looking to make a change. And they do... it's Benzema coming off and Higuain on.
LIVE COMMENTARY… Real Madrid 1 v 1 Manchester United
56 MINS: Varane lucky for Real there as Evra was away on goal, Varane grabbing his jersey and Evra goes down, maybe a little too easily. No card, no free kick. Perhaps worth something?VIDEO UP.
53 MINS: Angel Di Maria finds a bit of space and lets fly from about 35 yards. It scoots along the Bernabeu turf and into the waiting arms of de Gea. Di Maria again - he's finding plenty if room - hits it first time with the left boot and it flies just wide. VIDEO UP.
50 MINS: United just giving the ball away at the wrong times and Phil Jones is forced to intertwine his legs with Ronaldo's to give away the free kick. Slower tempo right now, but Real with the edge in territory.
48 MINS: Ronaldo receives the pill on the edge with his back to goal, dummies left and turns right onto his left boot only to drive it low and straight at De Gea.
46 MINS: Well, will we have the same excitement of the first spell? You bet. That United goal, away, vital and now Real wants the win. Great cross and Welbeck again is knocking on the door. Ball spread to Rooney and he knocks it across in search of Welbeck again, a swiping glove from Lopez swats it away. Phil Jones with a free header but it loops well over the crossbar.
Players are making their way back onto the park..,/p>
HALFTIME: It's all tied up - the first half a TALE OF TWO HEADERS. All video is up.
45 MINS: Evans sticks with Ronaldo while they both run at pace and does enough to put Ronaldo's header off target. Two extra minutes.
44 MINS: just before the half United win a corner, VP heads it back and down and Evra has to rush his volley under pressure... he gets underneath it and it flies high, wide and not so handsome.
41 MINS: This has turned into an arm wrestle of epic proportions. Madrid with the bit between their teeth right now and Alonso with some wicked defence and then turns it into attack, beats too and the home crowd roars with accusation as he goes over inside the penalty area. But that was should-to-shoulder and ref Felix Brych makes the right decision by not giving it. Ronaldo with a stinging effort from distance and his left foot. VIDEO UP
37 MINS:Welbeck fires just wide of an open net - very acute angle. He just got a slight touch on it just before Lopez. Then Ozil runs on to a long ball for Real from Alonso, lets rip and De Gea makes a good save. VIDEO UP.
30 MINS: GOAL RONALDO! Cross from Di Maria and he climbs high and heads it home. VIDEO UP. It's all square again
28 MINS: Ronaldo is fouled by Jones and wins a free kick 30 metres out. He strikes, hits the wall and has another go and awwwww, flies just by the post. VIDEO UP. Real has kicked it up a gear.
23 MINS: Wow, United let Ronaldo run and run and run and it was only the stretched (there's that word again) foot of Rafael that stopped the shot on goal. United breaks with Kagawa on the move and United have a rare venture north of the halfway. He wins a corner... GOAL UNITED. Danny Welbeck heads it home. VIDEO UP. Wow, Lopez came and couldn't get there and Welbeck banged it home.
17 MINS: United defender Evans in the thick of the action as a long-range free kick bends in and he flicks it away for the corner. too long again though Real work it back into the area. Did I mention that the United defence is stretched? If not, they are.
14 MINS: United seem to have settled a touch after that frenetic start, Ronaldo wins an aerial duel, and it bobbles to Benzema, back to Ronaldo and he wins the corner for Real. Sergio Ramos is the target for the floating corner but he can't climb high enough - he'd need to have been up like a salmon, and that's a salmon swimming well up stream.
10 MINS: Ten minutes has flown by. Ronaldo gets around Rafael and squares it to Benzema who's shot is blocked. United are at full stretch. Rooney with a shot from distance gets a deflection and offers no real danger.
6 MINS: Real in fine form, Ronaldo scoots down the left and crosses, it falls to Coentrao and Ohhh he's hit the post. So close. VIDEO UP. Actually it's a magic save from De Gea who gets a vital touch onto the post.
4 MINS: Manchester United keen to push forward with Wellbeck high on the left and Rooney high o the right. Ohhh a fine run from Di Maria and he skirts across the face of the area to plug one with his left boot. A slight slice and it bends away from De Gea's right-hand upright. VIDEO UP. Van Persie and Ramos collide. Ramos clips him with his hand and gets a yellow card for his trouble
2 MINS: Khedira with the first shot of the match just outside the penalty spot but he drags it wide from his left boot.
1 MINS: Real Madrid kicks it off and the packed house turns it up another notch. Ball being pushed right to left and United gets a foot in to get their first touch of the match.
Captains have shaken hands and we're just about set for the off...
Here's what Sir Alex has to say prematch: "We've retained the discipline that can help us win this match. We've got attacking players, but the roles of Michael Carrick and Phil Jones in the middle play will be crucial. I couldn't risk Nemanja, with only three days since our last game. These are the nights you dream about. Tonight it's two of the biggest clubs in the world, there's 200 million people watching it on television. You've got to look forward to it, but there'll be a bit of nervousness inside me."
Real Madrid are worried about Wayne Rooney - and so they should be - they are saying he is like a 'barrel packed full of gun powder and he's come to blow up the Bernabeu'.
The mouth-watering encounter is not far away... Ronaldo, by the way, has more goals than games he's played for Real Madrid.
Kick off is not far away but in the meantime watch an ITV pre-game track on the game, highlights as Manchester United beats Everton and Cristiano Ronaldo scores a hat-trick against Sevilla. This will be deleted once we add match video.
The big news is that Nemanja Vidic misses out and is not even on the subs' bench. Teams are listed below.
Real Madrid: Lopez; Arbeloa, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao; Alonso, Khedira; Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo; Benzema. Substitutes: Adan, Pepe, Kaka, Carvalho, Essien, Modric,
Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Jones, Carrick; Welbeck, Kagawa, Rooney; van Persie. Substitutes: Lindegaard, Anderson, Valencia,
Smalling, Hernandez, Giggs, Cleverley.
Real Madrid’s coach Jose Mourinho has one objective today: outwit the master and get one over on Sir Alex Ferguson.
A football match has never been more important to Mourinho, as his side steps out on the cauldron that is Santiago Bernabeu, and he puts his short and long-term future on the line in the first leg of the last-16 Champions League match against Manchester United.
Mourinho’s load has been lightened somewhat by Real’s poor showing in La Liga so far this season. They now trail Barcelona by an astonishing 16 points. He’s given up on it, and the focus has turned almost solely to Champs League success.
But while he has turned his full attention to the two ties against United that lay in wait ahead of Madrid, he now must deliver to a demanding Spanish and world fan base, and let them taste the fruits of success over the team from England.
Winning in Europe could save Mourinho – amidst widespread speculation that his job depends on it. Beat United, and the biggest stepping stone to the continent’s most glamorous prize is achieved.
But raising this trophy, for what would be the 10th time in Real Madrid’s glittering history, is no mean feat. Neither is souring the Sir.
History has shown that the winner of this match – Madrid V United – goes on to lift the trophy at the sharp end of the competition. They’ve done battle on four occasions over the years at various stages of this competition, and the victor has gone on to scoop the grand prize on an astonishing three occasions.
The plot among arguably the two most famous football clubs in Europe is thick. Even the sub-plots have long and complex stories to tell.
The stars need to align, and Mourinho’s must shine.
In his arsenal he can call upon one of the best and brightest of football stars, Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s the first time Ronaldo will face his former club since his departure from Old Trafford in 2009 for a world record fee of £80 million, and he has picked the perfect time to show form. Last week, the Portuguese international smashed home a hat-trick against Sevilla. He’s in the goal-scoring mood.
Ronaldo will no doubt have the potential to make the greatest impact of any player on the pitch today. The former Red Devil has been given the opportunity to cast United fans into a spiralling fall to what will feel like hell if he nets one or two, in the two-leg tie.
Even Ronaldo’s teammates think he’s the man to do the business.
"I hope he keeps it up," Madrid defender Sergio Ramos says. "He is a unique player on our squad."
Ronaldo is a nice ace for Mourinho to have up his sleeve.
Flip the coin, though, and the heads of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie appear. Some might dare say ‘advantage United’.
And while Real has suffered in La Liga, United rides a wave. Ferguson’s crew must be full of confidence, now within touching distance of a record 20th league title and their record of three Champions League finals in the last five seasons far exceeds Real's record over the same period - which includes just two semi-final appearances.
In another intriguing sub-plot surrounding arguably the most glamorous match in European football, the Portuguese coach may also see the game as an audition for his chances of replacing Ferguson at United when the 71-year-old Scot ends his long stint at Old Trafford.
Mourinho has lost just two of his 14 meetings in all competitions with Ferguson down the years, and has long been viewed as the favourite to succeed the man who has also become a close friend.
Post match they are more than likely to pop a cork – and share a bottle of red wine. Good mates after, but bitter rivals when the pill is being pushed on the pitch.
Ferguson is in no doubt about who is carrying the bigger expectations ahead of what Mourinho has dubbed: "The match the world is waiting for."
His rival agrees.
"I think their target is the European Cup (Champions League)," Ferguson says, addressing media prior to the encounter. "They got a bad start in the league and were chasing their tail a bit because Barcelona's form has been incredible. I think Jose has set his targets firmly on the European Cup, no doubt about that.
"It can be harder for us but there's a bit of pressure for them, too. At this moment in time, we're involved in three (competitions)."
Ferguson has also been hyping up the match between clubs who have won the title 12 times between them.
"I think it is (the ultimate matchup), probably even more than a United-Barcelona game," Ferguson adds. "United and Madrid have that romance about them and that honour has worldwide appeal so it probably is the biggest game you can get in the European Cup.
"I think as soon as the draw was made, there was that anticipation about the tie."
Manchester City helped Mourinho’s cause when they lost to Southampton in the Premier League. Prior to that match, Ferguson was set to rest the Rooneys, van Persies and the likes, and get them peaked for today’s match. But City lost, and suddenly the game against Everton and a chance to jump another three more points clear of City on the EPL table was the priority. Rooney played, so did van Persie.
Mourinho, though, rested some of his stars.
Xabi Alonso, Mesut Oezil and Sami Khedira all stood down at the weekend, so they should return. United may focus on pressuring Alonso, the playmaker who so often releases Ronaldo for counterattacks.
Given the home advantage, the ever so slight favourite tag goes to Madrid. They haven’t been beaten at home in the last 33 matches since a La Liga loss against Barcelona in 2012, and have won eight of their last nine home games in the Champions League.
Ronaldo thinks they are the team to beat too.
"In my opinion, Real Madrid have a better team," Ronaldo tells UEFA.com, "but we have to show that on the pitch because United are a very united team and always have been, in recent years."
Mourinho’s top goalkeeper Iker Casillas is out with a broken hand so Diego Lopez will likely deputise.
While in other team news, veteran midfielder Paul Scholes remains out for United with a knee problem, but winger Ashley Young and goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard are back in the squad after injuries. Both Phil Jones and Jonny Evans were on the flight to Madrid after recovering from knocks picked up in the 2-0 win over Everton.
Ferguson is also likely to recall centre back Rio Ferdinand and midfielder Michael Carrick after they were rested against Everton.
The master strategist usually adopts a 4-5-1 formation in big matches away from home, so England striker Rooney could therefore end up playing on the left wing.
And the last word goes to the head-to-head, again, Mourinho V Ferguson. As mentioned, Mourinho has lost just two of his 14 meetings with Ferguson. If he doesn’t make it two from 16 in the home and away legs it’s unlikely he’ll get a shot at 17.