2019 Champions Round of 16 Expert Picks: Manchester United vs Paris Saint Germain
When Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain clash on Tuesday in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 matchup, it be a meeting between one of the most storied football clubs in the entire world who crave more than anything European success versus a team in PSG who have never tasted European success on the biggest stage.
Manchester United last won this event in 2008 when they defeated Chelsea 6-5 on penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes of open play. This triumph marked their third European triumph to go along with two runner-up medals in 2009 and 2001.
As for Paris Saint Germain, the seven-time Ligue 1 winners have never reached the UEFA Champions League Final. They are unceremoniously remembered for their collapse in the 2017 Round of 16, where they took a 4-0 home win into the Camp Nou and proceeded to get embarrassed by Barcelona 6-1 to get knocked out of the competition. Since then, the club has signed Neymar away from Barcelona and have their sights set at reaching the top of the European food chain.
As it currently stands, PSG is labeled as -163 favorites to advance to the quarter-finals, and that is without the services of Neymar. If you believe in PSG enough, you can also get them at +700 to win the entire tournament - which is the fourth favorite behind the likes of Manchester City, Barcelona, and Juventus. Manchester United, despite their recent run of form, are sitting at +120 to pull off the upset and advance and an even bigger +2800 to lift their first Champions League trophy since 2008.
First Leg: Tuesday February 12 @ 3:00 pm
Second Leg: Wednesday March 6 @ 3:00 pm
Manchester United Storylines
It was full steam ahead for Manchester United this weekend and they extended their unbeaten streak to 11 games after easily dispatching Fulham this weekend. The result itself isn't as important as the fact that United showed a professional attitude and turn in a dominant performance instead of looking ahead to this Champions League fixture.
Since Ole Gunner Solskjaer took over on Dec. 22, the Red Machine has been scoring goals at will, and one of his greatest decisions to date was to release Paul Pogba and give him free reign on the field to defend, create chances and score goals for himself. Pogba has now been involved in 13 of Manchester United's 28 goals, and that includes his two-goal performance against Fulham. He should be able to control the midfield in this fixture considering how many key cogs PSG is missing in the midfield due to injury.
The rest of the squad is fully fit to face PSG. And with Solskjaer making six changes to the starting 11 for the Fulham game, the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Victor Lindelof will all be rested and eager to make their presence felt on Tuesday.
Probable Starting XI: De Gea, Young, Lindelof, Smalling, Dalot, Pogba, Matic, Herrera, Lingard, Rashford, Martial
Paris Saint Germain Storylines
It was business as usual for PSG this past weekend as they got the better of Bordeaux 1-0 to keep their Ligue 1 lead at 10 points over second-place Lille. However, the result has come with some sour news as Edinson Cavani - PSG's main striker and second leading scorer suffered an ankle injury and is now a major doubt to face Manchester United in the first leg. This news comes immediately after news broke that Belgian full-back Thomas Meunier would also miss the opening leg after being diagnosed with a concussion. And lastly on the injury front, the French side are still without Neymar, who injured his fifth metatarsal in his right foot back in January. He is expected to miss both legs.
Aside from the major injury concerns, the PSG is littered with big name players like Gianluigi Buffon, Dani Alves, Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe. This lineup is good enough to give even the best teams in the world trouble and if they can overcome the injuries and lack of depth beyond the starting 11, they could very well be on the brink of advancing to the quarter finals.
Probable Starting XI: Buffon, Kehrer, Kimpembe, Silva, Bernat, Alves, Di Maria, Marquinhos, Verratti, Draxler, Mbappe
Manchester United vs Paris Saint Germain Prediction
History is on the side of Manchester United. The Red Devils have lost only one time to Ligue 1 opponents at home in 10 such games, and I believe if they can get a positive result at home - say 2-0 - they can go into the Parc des Princes and hold PSG at bay for 90 minutes. I understand it's a big ask to keep a team whose scored 68 league goals in 22 games off the score sheet, but the form that United are currently in is second to none. The entire squad is brimming with confidence and with David De Gea in net, they have one of the world's best goalkeepers wearing their jersey.
My prediction is for United to win the first leg and then find a way to hold on and advance to the quarterfinals. You can find them to advance at +120 at Bovada.
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