Manchester United and Tottenham face last-16 opposition from France and Germany.

5 talking points ahead of this week's Champions League action

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  • 2019-02-11 20:10:36 11 months ago
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The Champions League returns this week with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in last-16 action.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's revived Reds take on Paris St Germain at Old Trafford, while Borussia Dortmund and their in-form England winger Jadon Sancho head to Wembley.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at some of the main talking points surrounding this week's games.

Solskjaer's big test

When United were paired with PSG during the final days of Jose Mourinho's reign this tie was seen as nothing more than a formality for the French champions. How times have changed. United have since won 10 and drawn one of their 11 games under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as a new mood of optimism has swept through Old Trafford. Solskjaer has made an impressive case for being given the job on a full-time basis in the summer. But his previous opponents in this competition, from his time at Molde, have been Ventspils of Latvia, Basel, Sligo and Legia Warsaw, and this two-legged tie presents a huge test of his tactical acumen. United are boosted by PSG being without the injured Neymar, while Edinson Cavani is also a fitness doubt. But can their defence stand up to France World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe?

Spurs stand-ins must step up

Mauricio Pochettino File Photo
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino must decide his best attacking options against Borussia Dortmund without injured pair Harry Kane and Dele Alli (Mike Egerton/PA)

Tackling Borussia Dortmund was never going to be easy for Tottenham, even with Harry Kane and Dele Alli in their ranks. After all, Dortmund boasts the best defensive record in the Champions League this season, conceding just two goals and keeping five clean sheets from their six group games. But the loss of injured duo Kane and Alli has put the spotlight on the support acts as Spurs seek to make the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2011. Fernando Llorente, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela, if fit after missing the Premier League win against Leicester with a back spasm, all provide attacking options for boss Mauricio Pochettino. Much will depend on Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min, who spent seven years in Germany with Hamburg and Bayer Leverkusen, and who scored five times in as many matches against Dortmund.

Sizzling Sancho

England v USA – International Friendly – Wembley Stadium
Rising England star Jadon Sancho will be up against Tottenham for Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday (Nick Potts/PA)

Much of Tottenham's pre-match analysis will have focused on the Dortmund threat who grew up close to home. Londoner Jadon Sancho began his career at Watford before moving on to Manchester City and then Dortmund in August 2017. The England winger has been a sensation since moving to Germany and is the youngest player to score in this season's Champions League at the age of 18 years and 213 days. Sancho is also in sparkling form after scoring one goal and setting up the other two in Dortmund's 3-3 Bundesliga draw against Hoffenheim on Saturday. Still six weeks short of his 19th birthday, Sancho is now the youngest player to score eight Bundesliga goals – and will be desperate to shine in his home city.

Bale force

Four-time winner Gareth Bale returns to the Champions League fresh from reaching a personal landmark at Real Madrid. Bale's fitness is always a source of angst in the Spanish capital. But he continues to deliver on the pitch when available, and his goal in Real's 3-1 weekend derby win at Atletico was his 100th in the colours of Los Blancos. Real's hopes of defending a title they have won four times in the last five seasons were written off by many following the summer departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, indifferent early-season form and the October sacking of manager Julen Lopetegui. But Real head to Ajax on Wednesday after six wins and a draw in their last seven games, and knowing exactly what is needed to win this competition.

VAR to make debut

Manchester United v Reading – Emirates FA Cup – Third Round – Old Trafford
The Video Assistant Referee System will be used in the Champions League for the first time this week (Martin Rickett/PA)

After being used at the 2018 World Cup and various league and cup competitions around Europe, Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will be introduced into the Champions League from this round of matches. VAR will be used in order to support the referee when making decisions concerning four match-changing situations – goals, incidents in the penalty area, red cards and mistaken identity. The VAR will inform the referee when there is evidence of a clear and obvious mistake in one of these situations. The referee will be able to use the review area next to the pitch to take a final decision. UEFA say the process will be communicated to the crowd using either stadium screens or the public announcement system. Cue plenty of fun.

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5 talking points ahead of this week's Champions League action

How Paris Saint-Germain could line up against Manchester United

Paris Saint-Germain's quest for European glory will resume on Tuesday night when they take on Manchester United at Old Trafford in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

The Ligue 1 giants have dominated domestically in recent years and sit 10 points clear at the top of the table this time around too, but success in the Champions League has so far eluded them.

PSG take on a revitalised Manchester United side too, with the Red Devils having won 10 and lost none of their 11 games since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho.

Here, Sports Mole looks at how Thomas Tuchel could set the visitors up at Old Trafford.

Possible PSG XI vs. MNU

Out: Edinson Cavani (hip), Neymar (foot), Thomas Meunier (head)
Doubtful: None

PSG are likely to be without two of their vaunted front three for the trip to Old Trafford, with Neymar definitely out with a foot injury and Edinson Cavani a major doubt after being forced off against Bordeaux on Saturday.

Kylian Mbappe is fit and firing, though, and will likely lead the line alone with Tuchel being forced into a reshuffle due to the injury concerns.

Former Manchester United attacker Angel Di Maria is expected to start as a result, while Christopher Nkunku and Julian Draxler could provide further attacking support should Tuchel opt for a 4-2-3-1 system ahead of a 4-3-3.

Marco Verratti is back fit and got an hour under his belt at the weekend, so he could start again for this match as Leandro Paredes is forced to wait for his full debut.

Tuchel has been using Dani Alves in midfield in recent weeks, but Marquinhos has more experience in that position and so may be preferred for this match, leaving Alves to compete for a right-back slot with Thilo Kehrer in the absence of the injured Thomas Meunier.

Speaking of experience, Gianluigi Buffon is also expected to get the nod between the sticks ahead of Alphonse Areola.

> Click here to see how Man Utd could line up for this fixture

How Manchester United could line up against Paris Saint-Germain

Manchester United will take their resurgence to the European stage on Tuesday night when they host French giants Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford for the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

The Red Devils have won 10 and drawn one of their 11 matches under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer so far, but come up against their toughest test yet when star-studded PSG come to town.

However, the visitors will be without some key players which could boost United's chances of claiming an advantage to take back to the Parc des Princes next month.

Here, Sports Mole looks at how Solskjaer could line his side up for the match.

Possible MNU XI vs. PSG

Out: Marcos Rojo (knock), Antonio Valencia (muscle), Matteo Darmian (knock)
Doubtful: Victor Lindelof (knock)

> Click here for the latest Man Utd injury and suspension news

Victor Lindelof missed the match against Fulham due to a knock, but he could recover in time for Tuesday's game to provide further competition to the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly.

Solskjaer has no other new injury concerns, although Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo all remain sidelined and are not expected back until towards the end of the month.

Marcus Rashford will be pushing for a recall after being rested against Fulham on Saturday, while the likes of Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young will also hope to return to the starting XI.

Anthony Martial scored a memorable solo effort at Craven Cottage and is expected to start once again, while in-form Paul Pogba is now one of the first names on the United teamsheet.

> Click here to see how PSG could line up for this fixture

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