The Champions League returns this week with Manchester United and Tottenham in action along with holders Real Madrid.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at some of the main talking points.
Ole up against it
Manchester United’s task against Paris St Germain is set to be made
all the more difficult by up to 10 absentees. Unbeaten on the domestic front since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took caretaker charge in December, the only blot on the interim manager’s copybook is last month’s 2-0 first-leg loss to the Ligue 1 champions at Old Trafford. France’s World Cup-winning midfielder Paul Pogba is banned while United’s lengthy injury list is set to include Anthony Martial due to a groin complaint. Nevertheless, Solskjaer has pledged to fight at PSG and try to secure a famous away win akin to the semi-final triumph that saw Juventus beaten 3-2 on the way to the treble in 1999. “If we get an early goal, then suddenly we are in with a shout,” he said.
Spurs in good shape
Tottenham’s domestic title challenge may have wilted following back-to-back defeats against Burnley and Chelsea, but they are sitting pretty in Europe with a 3-0 first-leg lead against Borussia Dortmund. It would take something particularly ‘Spursy’ for Harry Kane and co not to progress to the last eight. Kane said: “It’s not going to be easy, but it’s down to us to put a performance in and we will never have a better chance to get to a quarter-final.”
Real remain in the hunt
Two painful Clasico defeats mean Real Madrid are out of the Copa del Rey and languishing third in LaLiga, 12 points adrift, after losing 1-0 to Barcelona over the weekend. However, a fourth consecutive Champions League triumph remains a possibility as they prepare to host Ajax with a 2-1 lead from the first leg. Despite Sergio Ramos missing through suspension the holders should be able to prevent Ajax scoring the minimum of two goals they will need to cause a shock.
Nic makes Roma tick
Nicolo Zaniolo emerged as the latest whizzkid on the European scene after his two goals gave Roma the edge over Porto in the first leg. The 19-year-old, one of the few bright spots in a disappointing season for Roma, opened the scoring when he controlled Edin Dzeko’s pass before drilling a low effort past Iker Casillas. He added a second from six yards out after Dzeko’s shot came back off a post. But Porto gave themselves a chance with an away goal from Adrian Lopez to make it all to play for at the Estadio do Dragao.
VAR from perfect
Video Assistant Referees were introduced into the competition for
the knockout stages and quickly sparked debate following the contentious decision to disallow an Ajax goal against Real in the first leg. There initially appeared to be little wrong with Nicolas Tagliafico’s header until Dusan Tadic – who was in front of Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois but did not touch the ball – was shown to be fractionally offside and adjudged to be interfering with play. Prepare for another round of tedious debate about a system that was supposed to put an end to controversial decisions but instead seems to create more.
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