It seems it has been forever, but the UEFA Champions League will return this week with four Round of 16 matches. Teams such as Manchester United, PSG, Tottenham and Real Madrid will all see action in the coming days, so there’s no question we will witness some quality football.
Here are four things to watch during the upcoming UCL matches this week.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s debut in the Champions League with Manchester United
The Norwegian tactician has injected life into Manchester United, something that looked impossible around mid-December when Jose Mourinho was sacked. The former Molde manager has gone undefeated in his first 11 matches with the Old Trafford, winning 10 and only drawing against Burnley two weeks ago.
However, managing a European match is something else. Especially if the opponent is PSG, arguably one of the top candidates to lift the trophy at the end of the season. Can Solskjaer carry United to an upset, or will he crumble under the pressure that represents managing in the UEFA Champions League?
Can PSG cope with their sudden rash of injuries?
Speaking of PSG, they will face Manchester United with a depleted squad that will feature some key absences. Neymar had already been ruled out, but he’s not the only starter that might miss the trip to Old Trafford.
Edinson Cavani is reportedly “unlikely” to play on Tuesday after suffering an injury during this past weekend against Girondins Bordeaux. Thomas Meunier has been dealing with a concussion, and his availability is not entirely clear. Last but not least, Marco Verratti is dealing with a knee sprain, and will be a game-time decision for Tuesday. PSG remain favourites to win, but their chances got complicated out of nowhere.
Will Tottenham take advantage of Dortmund’s poor recent form?
Tottenham don’t have key players available, such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli, but they should be confident of their chances of pulling an upset this Wednesday against Borussia Dortmund. Aside from playing at home, the Spurs have one huge advantage going their way: their opponent hasn’t been playing very well of late.
Sure, Dortmund continue to top the Bundesliga standings ahead of both Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach. But their recent results have been quite poor, to say the least. Through their last five games in all competitions, Dortmund have posted a W2, D3 mark. The three draws have been consecutive, and over that span they were also eliminated from the DFB Pokal. Can they turn things around when they need it the most?
Will Ajax pull the upset against a rising Real Madrid side?
Undoubtedly, Ajax are one of the most surprising teams in the Round of 16. Not because they might lack quality, but because of how good they looked during the Group Stage. They’re not going through their best form at the moment, though; they have dropped points in three of their last four Eredivisie matches (W1, D1, L2). That’s not a good sign going forward, and especially if you are about to face Real Madrid.
The reigning European champions seem to be heating up at the perfect time. They have won their last five league matches, and have lost just once in their previous 10 contests in all competitions (W8, D1, L1). During that run, they secured a 3-1 win at Atletico Madrid and escaped with a 1-1 draw at Barcelona. Will they extend that run, or will Ajax pull the uspet at Johan Cruijff Arena?
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