After a winter break that felt too long for all soccer lovers, the UEFA Champions League is back with its Knockout Phase. This afternoon, the first two of the eight first-leg matches in the round of 16 are scheduled.
This afternoon (3 PM Eastern Time), English record champion Manchester United welcomes French noble club Paris St. Germain (PSG) at Old Trafford. A few weeks ago, after the group phase of the Champions League, this duel seemed to be an obvious Paris victory. However, after firing Jose Mourinho in the middle of December, new coach and club icon Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reinvigorated the team. Since the Norweigan’s debut on the 22nd of December (5-1 win over Cardiff City), the Red Devils recorded a remarkable ten wins and one draw. Opposed to Mourinho’s defensive attitude, United’s team seems happy and free to play offensive soccer. The past weekend, the Solsjkaer squad landed a sovereign 3:0 away win over FC Fulham. Looking at the clash against PSG, the team manager states, “If there was ever a chance or any times to go into big games like this, it’s now for us.”
On the other side, out of the world class attacking trio, weakened Paris St. Germain can only count on French youngster Kylian Mbappe. Neymar Junior still deals with metatarsus problems. Center forward Edison Cavani, who scored the decisive 1:0 versus Girondins Bordeaux past weekend, will not be able to play in Manchester. The Uruguayan could not finish the match on Saturday due to an injury in the right hip. Additionally, Belgian right back Thomas Meunier suffered a concussion and cannot help his teammates. A ray of hope is that center midfielder Marcos Verratti gave his comeback against Bordeaux. Tuchel already announced that the Italian will play.
Next, FC Porto, first place in the Portuguese Primeira Liga with 51 points, traveled to the Italian capital to challenge AS Roma, today. On Saturday, at Moreirense FC (1:1), as well as the week before at Vitória Guimarães (0:0), the “Dragões” could not claim more than a tie. Nonetheless, after having finished group D on first the first spot by only losing two points, Porto will be confident against a Roma that experienced more or less a modest beginning of the year. So far, Roma recorded three victories, two ties, and one devastating 1:7 loss at Fiorentina. Last weekend, Roma battled down AC Chievo Verona 0:3.