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The Champions League is back: Everything you need to know ahead of this week’s ties



Two months have passed since the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League and Europe’s biggest competition will finally resume this week with four matches over Tuesday and Wednesday.

Manchester United host Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax play Real Madrid on Tuesday, while Tottenham Hotspur face Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium and Roma host Porto on Wednesday.

Things have changed drastically since the draw as Jose Mourinho was replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has given the team a confidence boost.

Since his arrival, the Red Devils have managed to remain unbeaten with eight victories and a draw, with 23 goals scored and six conceded, as they have overturned Chelsea‘s 11-point difference and now sit fourth in the Premier League.

Paul Pogba has netted eight goals and assisted another five, while Marouane Fellaini moved to the Chinese side Shandong Luneng in January.

Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain still lead Ligue 1, 10 points clear of Lille and with two games in hand, although Thomas Tuchel‘s side were eliminated in the Coupe de la Ligue by Guingamp.

PSG‘s major issue, however, is the absence of both Neymar and Edinson Cavani due to injuries as they will miss the first leg between the two sides.

Thomas Meunier will also miss the upcoming game at Old Trafford, while Adrien Rabiot remains ostracised after refusing to renew his contract.

On the other hand, Marco Verratti returns from his injury and Leandro Paredes is ready to deputise for the French club in Europe; there have been some departures, too, as Yacine Adli joined Bordeaux, and Timothy Weah and Jese Rodriguez went on loan to Celtic and Real Betis respectively.

2019 has seen Real Madrid recover from their poor first half of the season, yet Ajax have not managed to begin the new calendar year in style.

The Eredivisie break did not sit well with Dutch side, who have shown serious defensive issues despite having a promising centre back in Matthijs de Ligt.

They drew 4-4 against Heerenveen after taking a 3-1 lead, they were thrashed 6-2 by Feyenoord, and lost 1-0 last weekend against Heracles.

Ajax finished the group stage undefeated, with three wins and three draws, and they challenged Bayern Munich for the top spot in their final game of the group stage.

Frenkie de Jong agreed a summer move to Barcelona, while the club signed Lisandro Magallan from Boca Juniors.

On the other hand, since the draw, Real Madrid have accumulated 10 wins, two draws and two defeats, and they also won their third consecutive Club World Cup.

Los Blancos have seen Vinicius Junior – a key figure in their revival – score four goals and assist another nine in 1,220 minutes of action, and they remained unbeaten in back-to-back away derbies at Barcelona and Atletico Madrid coming into this tie.

Kiko Casilla departed the club for Leeds United, while Brahim Diaz arrived from Manchester City, but Vinicius and Sergio Reguilon could be labelled as the team’s best ‘winter signings’.

The English side spent another transfer market in idle mode as they didn’t sign a player for the second consecutive transfer window.

Their two best players, Harry Kane and Dele Alli, are sidelined due to injuries and although they were eliminated from both the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, they have managed to stay in third position in the Premier League.

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund lead the Bundesliga, five points clear of Bayern Munich, and they have been facing defensive issues as they have conceded seven goals which has led to three consecutive draws, one of which was a DFB-Pokal elimination by Werder Bremen.

Marco Reus has been ruled out from the first leg of the tie due to an injury, while Dortmund reached an agreement with Chelsea for the departure of Christian Pulisic in the summer.

A 3-0 victory over Chievo Verona has allowed Roma to breathe a little easier after three consecutive blows, most notably the 7-1 defeat at the hands of Fiorentina as they were eliminated from the Coppa Italia.

Nicolo Zaniolo has impressed throughout the season and the team expect the same improvement for young players such Justin Kluivert, Cengiz Under and Patrik Schick.

Meanwhile, a Taca da Liga final defeat against Sporting CP ended Porto‘s historic streak of 18 wins in a row, and Benfica have also cut the gap to the league leaders to just one point.

Pepe has returned from Besiktas, while Fernando Andrade has recently impressed with his ability to score from the bench.


This story was originally published by Marca

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