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Thursday, February 21

Premier League

Champions League

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

Manchester United and Tottenham face last-16 opposition from France and Germany.
By Phil Blanche, | 9d

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

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

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

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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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City27212474205465
2Liverpool26205159154465
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs26200654252960
4Manchester UnitedMan Utd26156552351751
5Arsenal26155653371650
6Chelsea26155645291650
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves2611693433139
8Watford2610793434037
9Everton2796123639-333
10West Ham UnitedWest Ham2696113239-733
11Bournemouth26103133747-1033
12Leicester CityLeicester2695123134-332
13Crystal Palace2676132734-727
14Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2676132839-1127
15Burnley2676132947-1827
16Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2667132234-1225
17Cardiff CityCardiff2674152447-2325
18Southampton2659122844-1624
19Fulham2645172558-3317
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2625191448-3411
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Premier League Table
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City27212474205465
2Liverpool26205159154465
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs26200654252960
4Manchester UnitedMan Utd26156552351751
5Arsenal26155653371650
6Chelsea26155645291650
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves2611693433139
8Watford2610793434037
9Everton2796123639-333
10West Ham UnitedWest Ham2696113239-733
11Bournemouth26103133747-1033
12Leicester CityLeicester2695123134-332
13Crystal Palace2676132734-727
14Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2676132839-1127
15Burnley2676132947-1827
16Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2667132234-1225
17Cardiff CityCardiff2674152447-2325
18Southampton2659122844-1624
19Fulham2645172558-3317
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2625191448-3411
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