After some blistering performances, nail-biting excitement and last-minute disappointments, we’re getting ready for the last match day of leg 1 in the first knockout round. Tonight, brings us two highly unpredictable games where anyone can beat anyone. None of tonight’s teams are predicted to be involved in the race for the title this season but have all been given a golden chance to make it in to the quarter finals. But of course, as we’ve seen so many times before, at this stage of the tournament, any team can beat anyone. Shakthar Donetsk for example, is one of only 3 teams that have beaten Manchester City this season – and City might be the biggest favorite to claim this year’s title!
Reigning Europa League champions Manchester United are travelling to Spain to take on Sevilla, the recent two-time Europa League winners. In the second game of the evening, Ukrainian league leaders Shakhtar Donetsk will entertain Italian giants and group C winners Roma at Donbass Arena.
Shakhtar Donetsk – Roma
In what I expect to be a cracking game, group winners Roma travels to Ukraine to take on reigning league champions Shakhtar Donetsk. The Italians won Group C in impressing fashion, ahead of giants such as Chelsea and Athletico Madrid. Consequently then, they’ve been faced with an opponent that ended second in their group. The Ukrainians ended second behind Manchester City in group F but edged out Roma’s league rivals and Serie A league leaders Napoli in the process.
Shakthar won all three home games during the group stage, including a 2-1 victory over strong title favorites Manchester City. By all accounts, Roma are in for a tremendous challenge this evening. Shakthar will be looking to get a blistering start in the blistering cold, using their lethal attacking strength to the full. The key here for Roma, might be to withstand the initial pressure and somehow manage to neutralise Shakthar until the game has settled. They will need to use all their Italian wits and tactical skills to bring a good result back to Rome.
There’s has been a lot talks during the last few days suggesting that Shakthar might still be a bit rusty after a 2-month winter break. With Roma being in the middle of their season and currently firing on all cylinders, this game might prove to come at a perfect timing for the 3-time Serie A winners.
It’s hard to know where Shakhtar stand at the moment, which could be seen as both a strength and a weakness at the same time. With 3 straight league wins behind them, Roma are entering this game full of confidence and they’re be relishing their chances to carry the Serie A flag to the latter stages of the world’s biggest club team tournament.
Sevilla – Manchester United
Recent two-time Europa League winners Sevilla, take on reigning Europa League champions Manchester United. The Englishmen will travel to Spain with a somewhat shaky confidence, despite their second place in the Premier League table. Troubled by injuries in defence and record-signing Pogba not performing as expected, United are still looking for some security to hold on to.
Sevilla find themselves in 5th place in La Liga, 6 points behind Real Madrid and the ever so desirable Champions League spot. They come in to this game with 3 straight wins and confidence is currently high at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.
This draw could prove to be a very interesting tactical battle, as both teams are very dangerous on the counter attack. We’re full of anticipation ahead of what might either be a very careful affair, or with one of these teams aiming to grab a quick 1-0 lead which will allow them to fall back and do what they do best. Starting at home, Sevilla might be forced to move up their positions sooner or later, trying to get a good result with them for the return in Manchester. United will probably be more than happy with a draw ahead of the return Manchester, preferable with an away goal in the bag.
Master tactician, Mourinho, has won more cup titles that he can count, and he’s become known for doing exactly what’s needed to get his team in to the next round. We can’t wait to see how he will approach this game!
With two very evenly paired ties this evening, we’re enjoying the feeling of being utterly clueless of the outcome!
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s full summary of each of the four Champions League games this week.