Manchester United face the mammoth task of taking on reigning champions Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
The two sides, champions in their domestic leagues last season, have experienced drastically contrasting fortunes heading into the tie.
Bayern come into Tuesday’s game at Old Trafford on the back of a 3-3 draw against Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga on Saturday, only the third time this season that Pep Guardiola’s men have dropped points in the league.
Having already clinched the Bundesliga with a 2-1 win at Hertha on March 25, Guardiola rested several key players on Saturday as they shifted their focus to defending their continental crown.
A host of first-team regulars started on the bench, including the likes of Thomas Muller, Phillip Lahm and Arjen Robben, although Lahm was introduced after 25 minutes when Thiago had to be withdrawn after suffering a knee ligament tear which will keep the Spaniard out for six to eight weeks.
On the other hand, United have followed romping to the Premier League title by 11 points last term with a season of struggle under new manager David Moyes.
Sir Alex Ferguson famously oversaw United’s incredible comeback in the 1999 Champions League final, when stoppage-time strikes from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer broke Bayern hearts, and the competition has been a rare source of comfort for Moyes in an otherwise disappointing campaign.
Sitting 10 points adrift of the Premier League’s top four with only six games remaining, United’s best chance of playing in the Champions League next season looks to be by way of winning the competition this year, although they will start this tie as underdogs.
United produced a stirring comeback in the round of 16, losing 2-0 to Olympiakos in Greece before Robin van Persie’s hat-trick turned the tie around at Old Trafford.
However, the Dutchman will miss out against Bayern due to a knee injury suffered in that win, with Moyes also facing a shortage at right back in Chris Smalling (hamstring), Rafael (knock) and Antonio Valencia’s (knee) collective absence.
Both sides will be forced to do without first-choice defenders, with United’s Patrice Evra and Bayern’s Dante serving one-match suspensions.
Moyes’s men have won all of their home games in this year’s competition but that record will be severely tested against a German side who have not lost away from home in the Champions League since October 2012.
Bayern overcame English opposition in the last round, beating Arsenal 3-1 on aggregate, and also knocked out United at this stage on their way to the 2009-10 final.