Atletico Madrid v Manchester United: Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez meet in the Champions League

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With a combined aged of 72, it says a lot about the staying power of Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez that much of the interest around Atletico Madrid and Manchester United’s European tie is focused on the two war horses.

Despite the emerging young talents in both squads, it still feels as though it will be Ronaldo and Suarez who play a huge part in determining the winner of their Champions League showdown.

They have amassed 253 appearances and 167 goals between them in Europe’s top club competition and their experience will be vital in settling one of the round of 16’s closest ties.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United take on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United take on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League

Luis Suarez will renew his bitter rivalry with the Red Devils in Atletico's last-16 showdown

Luis Suarez will renew his bitter rivalry with the Red Devils in Atletico’s last-16 showdown

Ronaldo has won five Champions Leagues in his career

Suarez (left) won his sole European Cup with Barcelona in 2015

Ronaldo (left) has won five Champions Leagues, while Suarez (right picture, left) won his sole European Cup in 2015 with Barcelona

These are the nights that Ronaldo was brought back to Old Trafford for. His return to Man United has been underwhelming in the Premier League so far but their talisman thrives on the biggest stage.

Already this season he has scored dramatic late winners against both Villarreal and Atalanta in the group stage, while he also salvaged a point late on in the return fixture with the Italian side.

His 15 goals in 29 appearances in all competitions this season show his powers in front of goal aren’t waning but his pace, aggression and willingness to close opponents down in the final are certainly on the turn.  

But in the big games there is still nobody you’d rather have in your team up front, such is his ability to score huge goals and important moments.

Ronaldo’s 140 goals in 181 appearances in the Champions League still put him out in front of anybody else to have played in the competition. In Europe, he averages a goal every 112 minutes, which is remarkable. 

Ronaldo scored penalties against Atletico in both the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals

Ronaldo scored penalties against Atletico in both the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals

He also scored a dramatic hat-trick as Juventus completed a memorable comeback in 2019

He also scored a dramatic hat-trick as Juventus completed a memorable comeback in 2019

RONALDO’S RECORD VS ATLETICO MADRID 

Appearances: 35

Minutes played: 3,015

Goals: 25

Wins: 16

Draws: 10

Losses: 9

Perhaps more concerning for Atletico is his outstanding record against them. The Portugal international has played them more times than any other opponent in his club career (35) and has scored a remarkable 25 goals against them. 

Bizarrely, every Champions League knockout tie that Atletico lost between 2014 and 2019 was against a team that Ronaldo was playing for, including both the 2014 and 2016 finals where Real Madrid emerged as champions.

He scored a 120th-minute penalty to make it 4-1 to Real in Lisbon in 2014 and then two years later netted the decisive penalty in a shoot-out after a 1-1 draw in Milan.

Diego Simeone must be sick of the sight of Ronaldo. The Argentine recently said: ‘If Cristiano Ronaldo was not a football player, I would have already won three Champions League titles with Atletico Madrid.’

His fine form against Atletico continued when he moved to Juventus. In March 2019, Ronaldo scored a hat-trick for the Italian giants to help overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg of their last-16 tie.

It was the second hat-trick he’d netted against Atletico in the Champions League. He also hit three for Real in the 2017 Champions League semi-finals. 

As for Suarez, this will be the third time he has played Man United since leaving Liverpool for Barcelona in the summer of 2014. On the previous occasion, he helped the Catalan giants beat Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side 4-0 in the quarter-finals in 2019. 

He has proven to be the man for the big occasion again in the Champions League for United

He has proven to be the man for the big occasion again in the Champions League for United

Suarez was electric in his first appearance against United for Liverpool back in March 2011

Suarez was electric in his first appearance against United for Liverpool back in March 2011

Suarez was found to have racially abused Patrice Evra in a match at Anfield in October 2011

Suarez was found to have racially abused Patrice Evra in a match at Anfield in October 2011

Having led Atletico to LaLiga glory for the second time last season, Simeone’s side have endured a frustrating campaign to date and Suarez has managed just 11 goals in 33 appearances. 

Atletico currently lie in fifth place in Spain, 15 points behind arch-rivals Real at the top of the table – they have lost seven league games to date this season, three more than in the whole of the last campaign.

They also had their domestic cup hopes shattered by Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup exits inside a week last month so the Champions League is all they have to play for.  

SUAREZ’S RECORD VS MANCHESTER UNITED

Appearances: 9

Minutes played: 809

Goals: 2

Wins: 4

Draws: 1

Losses: 4

Suarez will hope to renew his rivalry with United but it remains to be seen just how many minutes he will get on Wednesday night. 

Antoine Griezmann is yet to figure since his return from a thigh injury but reports on Tuesday suggested Simeone will play a back five with Angel Correa and Joao Felix up front together. 

But whether it is from the first whistle or off the bench, Suarez will be desperate to have his say and played himself into contention with a superb goal against Osasuna from all of 45 yards at the weekend. 

It’s fair to say the Uruguayan’s history with United is chequered – from his thrilling performance against the Red Devils at Anfield in 2011 to his disgusting racial abuse of Patrice Evra.

Suarez really announced himself in English football with a dazzling performance in just his fifth Premier League game for Liverpool – in a 3-1 win over Man United at Anfield in March 2011. 

He weaved in and out of a defence containing Rafael, Wes Brown, Chris Smalling and Patrice Evra to lay Dirk Kuyt’s opening goal on a plate before his free-kick was spilled into the path of the Dutchman so he could complete his hat-trick later on.

Just months later, Suarez was found to have racially abused Evra who was marking the Uruguayan ahead of a free-kick in the 1-1 draw between Liverpool and United at Anfield in October 2011.

Suarez was charged by the Football Association and eventually given an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine, which Liverpool would ultimately not appeal. 

The bad feeling continued when Suarez refused to shake Evra’s hand ahead of the return fixture between the sides in February.

The Uruguayan has scored just two goals in his nine career appearances against Man United

The Uruguayan has scored just two goals in his nine career appearances against Man United

The Uruguayan went on to score in that match, although things got heated at full time when Evra celebrated United’s victory in front of his nemesis. 

However, the pair would shake hands before a Champions League match between Suarez’s Barcelona and Evra’s Juventus in 2015. 

Suarez has made nine appearances against Man United in total, scoring just two goals. His record in the Champions League in comparison to Ronaldo’s is also markedly poor.

In his 72 appearances in the competition, Suarez has scored just 27 goals. That is a goal every 223 minutes.

Suarez scored an outrageous goal against Osasuna on last week as he pushes for a start

Suarez scored an outrageous goal against Osasuna on last week as he pushes for a start

Suarez has also provided only 19 assists and won the tournament once (with Barcelona in 2015), compared to Ronaldo’s haul of five European Cups. 

While they may no longer be at the peak of their powers, watching Ronaldo and Suarez in full flight is still a fascinating prospect for any football fan.

They still have the quality and big-match experience to change the course of any game and their influence could be key in what is expected to be a nail-biting contest between Man Untied and Atletico Madrid

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