Champions League preview: Spurs, Liverpool and Man City on course for wins but Man United facing tough Italian trip
Liverpool and Spurs take part in Champions League action tonight while Man City and Man United resume their European campaigns tomorrow night. Independent.ie's Kevin Palmer previews all the action:
RED STAR BELGRADE v LIVERPOOL (5.55pm)
Liverpool outclassed their Serbian opponents with a 4-0 win at Anfield in the last round of Champions League matches and there is no reason to believe the story will be any different in the rematch.
"I was happy with the fight and performance we gave at Anfield, but we have to accept that Liverpool are stronger than us," concedes Red Star coach Vladan Milojevic. "This is one of the best teams in Europe and to be in a group with PSG, Napoli and Liverpool is difficult for us. All we can do is try to perform better in Belgrade when we welcome these two top teams."
Red Star are running away with the Serbian championship once again this season and they have a 100 per-cent winning record on home soil in domestic competitions, but Liverpool should end that run on Tuesday.
One to watch: Richmond Boakye (Red Star)
This Ghana international has scored plenty of goals since he returned to Red Star in August and they need him to spark into top form against Liverpool.
Verdict: Liverpool to stroll to victory.
TOTTENHAM v PSV EINDHOVEN (8pm)
Mauricio Pochettino described PSV’s late equaliser in his side’s game in Holland two weeks ago as the most painful moment of his five-year reign as the club’s manager and it is likely to be the goal that ends Tottenham’s efforts of progressing to the last-16 of the Champions League.
A win for Spurs in this game will keep their faint hopes of qualifying alive so long as Inter Milan do not beat Barcelona at the San Siro, yet the Italian giants will only need a home win in their final Group B against PSV to seal their spot in the next round.
Inter’s two late goals in their opening match of the group that secured a fortunate 2-1 win against Tottenham look set to be the decisive moment of this story, with Spurs needing to beat PSV and win against Barcelona at the Nou Camp to get back on track.
One to watch: Dele Alli (Tottenham)
On his way back to full fitness and Spurs have missed his link-up play that gets the best out of lead striker Harry Kane.
Verdict: A win for Spurs, but too little too late for them in the Champions League.
MANCHESTER CITY v SHAKHTAR DONETSK (8pm)
City boss Pep Guardiola hailed his side’s sparkling 3-0 win against Shakhtar in the last round of Champions League matches as the best performance his side had produced during his reign as the club’s manager and that was quite a statement given some of the mesmeric displays served up by the Premier League champions in the last 18 months.
"We couldn’t do much against City’s quality and sometimes you have to accept that reality," says Shakhtar coach Paulo Fonseca. "They are an outstanding team. One of the favourites for the Champions League. It will be even harder for us in Manchester."
City’s opening defeat against Lyon has been forgotten after back-to-back wins that have propelled them the top of Group F and a second win against Shakhtar may be enough to secure their passage to the last-16 with two games to spare.
One to watch: Junior Moraes (Shakhtar)
The Shakhtar side is loaded with Brazilian performers and in Samba star Moraes, they have a player who is in red-hot scoring form this season.
Verdict: Another comfortable win for City.
JUVENTUS v MANCHESTER UNITED (8pm)
The gulf in class between Juventus and United was not reflected in the final 1-0 scoreline of their clash at Old Trafford last month and the danger for Jose Mourinho and his players must be that they will be embarrassed when they face the same opponents in Turin.
Mourinho was quick to praise Juve’s policy of signing experienced players as he poked a few verbal jabs at his own club’s decision-makers after the game, but the reality must be that a United manager who has spent close to £400m on new players in just four transfer window should have built a more competitive team.
Juve have been installed as favourites for the Champions League by some odds-makers and with Cristiano Ronaldo adding some magic dust to their already powerful squad this season, they will be keen to cement that status against United.
One to watch: Paul Pogba (Man United)
Returning to his former club and eager to make an impression, Pogba's apparent inability to perform for a full 90 minutes in United colours has been an enduring theme of his second spell at the club. He needs to silence his doubters as he plays at the club he describes as 'his other home'.
Verdict: United will lose again and the scale of their defeat could be significant for manager Mourinho's future.