The Champions League round of 16 second-leg ties get under way this week, and the biggest game is at Old Trafford, where Cristiano Ronaldo returns to his former club to take on Premier League champions-elect Manchester United. German champion Borussia Dormtund is a slight favorite after a first-leg 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk, while on Wednesday, first-leg victors Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus are expected to make the final eight. Here is the rundown of this week's matches as the competition reaches a dramatic phase:
Real Madrid at Manchester United, Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET
First Leg: 1-1
If this is the defining week of Manchester United's season -- with the Premier League title almost won, it follows up this tie with an FA Cup match against Chelsea this weekend -- then this is also the defining match of Jose Mourinho's three-year spell at Real Madrid. There seems no doubt that he will be leaving the Spanish capital at the end of the season: the question is, will he have fulfilled his brief when taking the job, or not?
There were two things Mourinho was tasked with on his appointment: firstly, ending Barcelona's era of dominance and secondly, winning the Champions League, for la decima, the 10th time in Madrid's history. Even though Barcelona is running away with La Liga, Mourinho has effectively managed the first job.
Last week, Real Madrid beat Barcelona 3-1 at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey semifinal second leg, and on Saturday, it beat Barca 2-1 in the league. It was Mourinho's fourth win in his last seven games against Barcelona, and the first time Madrid has won consecutive games in the clasico since before the Pep Guardiola era.
"If the objective in hiring Mourinho was to slay the dragon, mission accomplished," wrote columnist Juanma Trueba in AS.
The second task is even tougher: in the last two seasons, Madrid has reached the Champions League semifinal, losing to eventual winner Barcelona in 2011 and Bayern Munich, on penalties, in 2012. Mourinho was confident after the first leg against United, suggesting that a score-draw at home might not be so bad; given that United, in the second half, had three good chances to win the game, he may have had a point.
Sir Alex Ferguson has a tactical dilemma on his hands: push forward for the win, and invite Madrid to attack on the break, where it is most dangerous, or sit back knowing that a goalless draw will be enough to progress? It's not his style to play defensively, and that could be United's downfall. But to allow Cristiano Ronaldo any space at all on his return to Old Trafford could be dangerous.
As for Mourinho, given that he has fallen out with his players, the fans, his board and journalists who cover the team, this game might even be his last in charge. It's typical Mourinho to build the pressure up on himself and then get his team to deliver a masterful performance: that's what happened last week in Barcelona, and it could happen again in Manchester.