Pep Guardiola will be stalking the Bayern Munich touchline next season, but until he is back, there are only two heavyweights of the managing world and they will both be at the Bernabeu on Wednesday. In one dugout will be Sir Alez Ferguson and in the other will be Jose Mourinho, making for an easy and intriguing storyline and as interesting a match-up as any two players on the pitch.
The stature of the two managers is so great that it has won headlines away from a clash of arguably the two most successful teams in world football -- Manchester United and Real Madrid.
No club has been crowned champions of Europe more than Madrid, who have been the best of the continent nine times. United lags well back with three European titles, but their 19 Premier League/First Division titles are more than any other team in the world's most popular league.
But while Manchester United and Real Madrid are two of the biggest teams in the world, they are not both on top of the footballing world right now. United is doing just fine, leading the Premier League and seemingly destined for another title, but Madrid are having a horrendous season, by their standards. They are out of the La Liga title race, there are questions about whether Mourinho might be fired and the Champions League is all they have left to play for.
If Madrid go out of the Champions League, Mourinho might be fired and unfortunately for him, the team isn't at full fitness right now. Pepe is back from injury, but he hasn't started a match in 2013, while Rapahel Varane is battling a hamstring injury and several others are overweight. That isn't how a manager wants his team when his job is on the line, but that is what Mourinho gets.
What should encourage him is the way the team showed in their Copa Del Rey match against Barcelona, which was at least a flash of the form that leads some to believe they can do better than just oust United and win the Champions League.
United are still the favorites, a status boasted by their relative fitness. Paul Scholes is out, but Ashley Young is reaching fitness and Phil Jones is available after an injury scare over the weekend. That will give Ferguson his desired tactical flexibility, both to start and with substitutions, something that may be all the Scot needs to do Real Madrid in and send Mourinho packing.
Match Date/Time: Wednesday, February 13; 2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain
TV: Fox Soccer Channel (USA English), Fox Deportes (USA Spanish), Sky Sports 2 (UK)
Streaming: Fox Soccer 2Go