After a long wait, the most exciting club competition in the world, the UEFA Champions League, UCL, is back with the knockout stages and an important addition, the VAR.
Back in December 2018, the Executive Committee of UEFA reached a decision that from the round of 16, the Video Assistant Referees, VAR, will finally make its debut in the elite UCL.
Therefore, after several test runs in its other competitions including the Nations League and Europa League, when the knockout stages kickoff later tonight at Old Trafford and in Rome, the VAR will be one of the side attractions.
Tomorrow night's @ChampionsLeague fixtures will be the first ever to feature VAR in a UEFA competition.
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Here's what you need to know… pic.twitter.com/8QMRegkhgx
— UEFA (@UEFA) February 11, 2019
Now, into the matches proper as we take a look at two explosive games slated for tonight, starting with the match of the day at Old Trafford, where Manchester United host French champions, Paris Saint-Germaine, while AS Rome are at home to Portuguese outfit, FC Porto at the Stadio Olympico.
United to host depleted PSG in first ever clash
On Tuesday night, rejuvenated Manchester United of England play host to a weakened PSG side in arguably the biggest round of 16 match of the 2018/2019 UEFA Champions League season.
Asides from being the first meeting between both sides, both teams go into this tie in red hot form especially the home team who have found new belief and purpose under the tutelage of club legend, Olé Gunnar Solskjaer since his appointment in December following the sacking of Jose Mourinho.
Under their interim boss, United have racked up 10 wins and 1 draw in the last 11 games there by forcing their way into the top four in the league. And according to the coach, the results from those games is exactly what they need going into this tie.
"We've given ourselves the best possible opportunity because of the way we've come into this game," Ole adds. "We're confident and we're looking like a team. If there was ever a time to go into big games, it's now." #MUFC pic.twitter.com/D4BIyrFrCZ
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 11, 2019
PSG on the other hand will miss the services of some of their biggest threats going forward in Edinson Cavani and Neymar who are both out injured; and also Thomas Munier who could also pose some attacking threat down the flanks.
However, the United defence will have to deal with the threat of Kylian Mbappe and former United forward, Angel Di Maria who makes a return to Old Trafford tonight.
LIVE 🎙️ @TTuchelofficial's pre-match press conference ahead of #MUPSG:
"@KMbappe's job isn't to replace @neymarjr or @ECavaniOfficial. He has to play his game."#PSGlive pic.twitter.com/3Y9Ufr4sNs
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) February 11, 2019
In the last five games, Manchester United has recorded four wins and a draw, conceding four and scoring eleven in the process. While PSG have also won four of their last five losing the other (their first loss of the season); conceding three while scoring eleven.
Going by these numbers, it’s safe to say that it will be a tight one between both teams with a place in the last eight up for grabs and it remains to be seen who comes out on top in today’s encounter.
Ambitious Roma set for Marega-less Porto
The game at the Stadio Olympico in Rome will see two sides with identical records in their last five matches go head to head.
Both AS Roma and FC Porto have won two, drawn two and lost just one of their last five games. However, when they meet later tonight, it is the home side who would be hoping to get a victory against their Portuguese visitors for the first time in European competition.
The strength of the wolf is the pack… ⭐️🐺⭐️
#ASRoma #UCL #RomaPorto [🎨 by @TomSlator] pic.twitter.com/PHgnzzeVXu
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) February 12, 2019
Tonight’s round of 16 tie will be the fifth meeting between the two teams with Porto having the upper hand after two wins and two draws in the previous four.
But while the Italians are yet to get one over the former winners of the UCL, the Portuguese giants will arrive Italy with worries of their own, too.
The 2004 UCL champions have lost six of their last seven away games to Italian Oppositions with the 3-2 win over AC Milan back in September 1996 the only exception.
That’s not all, Porto have also only progressed beyond this stage of the competition twice since they lifted the title 15 years ago.
🔵⚪ Em modo Champions 💪#FCPorto #ASRFCP #UCL pic.twitter.com/8DtVLwGvBZ
— FC Porto (@FCPorto) February 11, 2019
So, there is all to play for in Rome, and while Roma would be hoping for their striker, Edin Dzeko, who has scored eight goals in his last five UCL home games, Porto will be without their injured striker, Moussa Marega, whose run of a goal in each for his last five UCL games is the longest run in the competition this season,
Finally, bearing any last minute changes, there will be a minute’s silence observed at all the UCL matches this midweek in total respect to Emiliano Sala, the Cardiff City forward, who lost his life in a plane wreckage, according to UEFA.