Champions League football is back – and It is not unusual to think about the enthralling moments UCL produces. Champions League nights are always special – no doubt about it.
With 16 champions left in the competition, another round of action takes the centre stage tonight as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has made a roaring success of his first two months as Manchester United interim manager faces his biggest test yet against a Paris Saint-Germain side desperate to improve their disappointing Champions
Roma will also host Portugese champions Porto in a somewhat equally matched tie.
Real Madrid head to the Dutch capital to take on Ajax Amsterdam in the first leg of this Champions League Round of 16 clash on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Tottenham have a great opportunity of taking the early ascendency in a two-legged tie when they host Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.
Here is APRECON’s build-up to the round of 16 action of the UEFA Champions League;
Date: Tuesday, February 12
Kick-off: 9.00pm CET
Venue: Old Trafford
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have proven to be a revelation at Old Trafford since taking over from Jose Mourinho on a temporary basis in December, but this will be the Norwegian’s biggest test yet. They face Ligue 1 champions PSG in the Champions League knockout stages, and a positive result at Old Trafford on Tuesday would be a
huge boost to the two sides’ chances of progressing.
The Red Devils are unbeaten since Solskjaer’s arrival, winning all but 1 of their 11 competitive matches and only faltering in a surprise 2-2 draw against Burnley at the end of January. They have since bounced back from that stalemate with victories over Leicester and Fulham.
PSG might be a huge test of their abilities, but it’s not like Manchester United have had it all easy recently. They have picked up massive wins away to both Tottenham and Arsenal, so they have had some big game success since Solskjaer’s arrival.
The French giants may be flying clear at the top of Ligue 1, but they have had a few difficulties recently. They succumbed to their first league defeat of the season earlier this month away to Lyon, whilst it also required extra-time before they could defeat third-tier outfit Villefranche in the Coupe de France.
To make matters worse, Edison Cavani picked up an injury in their 1-0 win over Bordeaux at the weekend and is a major doubt for this game. With Neymar already on the sidelines PSG’s attacking threat is significantly at its lowest ebb on Tuesday night – with 19-year-old Mbappe the only viable option for the Parisans in attack.
The truth is, this is a tricky match to predict the outcome, but be rest assured we are in for some mesmerising action at the theatre of dreams on Tuesday night even though pressure cuts across the both ends of the field.
Date: Tuesday, February 12
Kick-off : 9.00pm CET
Venue: Stadio Olimpico
Roma were one of the surprising additions to the latter stages of last season’s Champions League campaign, with a number of incredibly impressive results taking them all the way to the semi finals before a narrow defeat to Liverpool over 2 enthralling legs.
They lost that game 7-6 on aggregate, almost mounting another sensational comeback after they overcame a 4-1 deficit against Barcelona in the quarter finals. Last season’s knockout stages were defined by incredible scorelines, and Roma’s disparity in home and away form contributed to the excitement massively.
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This season the Italian capital managed to win 3 of their 6 group stage matches, losing to Real Madrid in both fixtures and falling to a disappointing loss at Viktoria Plzen. Still, the knockout stages were where they came alive last term and they will be hoping for the same this term.
Meanwhile, FC Porto aren’t a team to be taken lightly either. The Portuguese side were 1 of just 5 teams to remain unbeaten throughout the group stages earlier this season, winning 5 of their 6 matches and scoring an impressive 15 goals in the process. They beat Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Moscow away from home and only dropped
points when they visited Schalke.
The Portuguese Primeira Liga title-holders have also won both of their previous European ties against Roma, most recently triumphing 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico in the play-offs for this competition two seasons ago.
The tie seems equally matched – hence this should be a game the more fortunate triumphs. Both sides won’t find it easy bettering each other.
Date: Wednesday, February 13th
Kick-off time: 9.00pm CET
Venue: Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam
Ajax are the most successful Dutch side in history and their tradition of winning trophies also stretches into European football where they have won the European Cup on four consecutive occasions.
And after being drawn in a group alongside Bayern Munich and Benfica, Ajax weren’t exactly the favourites to make it through to the knockout stages earlier this season, however, they managed to progress alongside German giants Bayern Munich and ended the group stages as 1 of only 5 teams to remain unbeaten throughout
In the Eredivisie, Ajax have now slipped five points behind PSV Eindhoven after losing two of their last three games, but they return to European action in midweek and return to the Johan Cruyff Arena which has been a real fortress over the last few years and where they remain unbeaten in competitive action since November 2017. Can
they keep that long run going here against the defending champions?
Meanwhile, Real Madrid picked up yet another Champions League trophy last season, and while they suffered a very difficult patch earlier in the season when were beaten home and away by CSKA Moscow in the group stages (but still managed to progress with a degree of ease after winning their other four fixtures in the group against
Viktoria Plzen and Roma) in the Champions League, it seems that the man in charge now Santiago Solari has eased the storm at the Spanish capital. Solskjaer-esque, you would say, won’t you? Solari took charge last year October following a run of 4 defeats in Real Madrid’s previous 5 games, but since then they have lost just 4 times
in 25 competitive games.
The Los Blancos’ 3-1 win over arch rivals Atletico MAdrid over the weekend made it 7 games unbeaten in all competitions, and 6 of these have ended in victory. They have scored 20 goals in these 7 matches, meaning we can be hopeful of a high scoring match on Wednesday.
The bottom line is, Ajax won’t let their long unbeaten home run go down without a fight here – with the Dutch side boosting of experienced players like Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Dusan Tadic who are always a threat in front of goal. But taking note of Real Madrid’s European exploits in recent years, Johan Cruyff fortress may not be enough to hold the defending champions’ juggernaut.
Date: Wednesday, February 13th
Kick-off: 9.00pm CET
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London
Tottenham Hotspur may have only just scraped through their Champions League group earlier this season, and while they may not be frontrunners for the greatest prize in club football, they are certainly not a team to be taken lightly at the moment.
Spurs are certainly in decent shape heading into this match. They have won 11 of their 15 competitive matches since the end of the group stages, and their triumph over Leicester at the weekend made it 3 wins on the bounce – and after being eliminated from both domestic cups, Mauricio Pocchettino will be eager to keep their hunt for silverware alive against Borussia Dortmund.
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Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, aren’t exactly underdogs here. In the group stages, they managed to secure top spot in a potentially tricky group that involved Monaco, Atletico Madrid and Club Brugge. The German side are enjoying a terrific season in the Bundesliga – currently sit five points clear of rivals Bayern Munich in their chase for the German title with only 13 league games remaining in the campaign.
However, they will be very wary of this Tottenham Hotspur side having lost to them twice in last year’s group stages. Regardless of how the game unfolds on Wednesday night, we are in for an enthralling display at Wembley. Fingers crossed!