Champions League Tipsheet: Back United and Spurs to take first leg leads
In a remarkable turnaround, Ole Gunner Solskjaer has completely swung the mood when it comes to Manchester United's chances against PSG, writes James Horncastle, who also picks out bets for the Roma and Spurs games...
"Forced to change his plans, the onus is on PSG coach Thomas Tuchel to come up with a strategy that can overcome his team's absences."
Tuchel's plans in tatters
Manchester United v Paris Saint Germain
Live on BT Sport 2
Manchester United sacked Jose Mourinho the day after the draw for the Round of 16. Qualification for the knock-out stages had been sealed only a week earlier though hardly in convincing fashion. United lost in Valencia and then were beaten 3-1 at Anfield by Liverpool. It was the straw that broke the camel's back.
At the time PSG must have been rubbing their hands in delight. But as the Champions League resumes nearly two months later, the picture could not be more different. United have the best record in England since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Mourinho. They are undefeated in all competitions, winning every game but one. The team's best players, shackled and underperforming throughout Mourinho's time at Old Trafford, are now fully expressing themselves and delivering on expectation.
PSG meanwhile have suffered a raft of injuries to an expensively assembled but shorthanded squad. Neymar is on crutches again and will miss both games against United. Marco Verratti is a doubt, leaving a stretched midfield looking even thinner. And to make matters worse Edinson Cavani is now out of the first leg after injuring himself while taking the penalty that settled Saturday's game against Bordeaux.
All of a sudden the tide seems to have turned. Forced to change his plans, the onus is on PSG coach Thomas Tuchel to come up with a strategy that can overcome his team's absences. It might be that the French champions go conservative with a view to keeping the tie alive for the second leg at the Parc des Princes. United on the other hand must look upon Tuesday's game as a golden opportunity. They have to go for the kill. Take United to win @ [2.4].
Bad memories for Roma
Roma v Porto
Live on BT Sport 3
Memories of Roma blowing a Champions League play-off against Porto in 2016 are grounds for caution ahead of Tuesday's game at the Stadio Olimpico. Defensive blunders and a flurry of avoidable red cards sent them crashing out before the group stage even began.
Avoiding a repeat of that calamity will be on the minds of Roma's senior players and should ensure concentration levels are high. Both teams look upon this tie as winnable although the Italians head into it in the better shape. Porto are dropping like flies and a mounting casualty list risks compromising Sergio Conceicao's chances of progressing further in this competition.
The Portuguese champions and league leaders have drawn three of their last five games and are missing key difference makers in attacking positions. Porto's top scorer in the Champions League Moussa Marega is out of both legs which comes as a big blow when you consider he struck five times in six group stage games. His back-up Vincent Aboubakar is also injured to say nothing of Jesus Corona, the team's main source of creativity.
Roma have some fitness issues of their own to hurdle. Robin Olsen, the goalkeeper, seems unlikely to return to the starting XI but Eusebio Di Francesco's best defender Kostas Manolas is expected to be back. The Giallorossi have hit form in the last week. They thrashed Chievo on Friday night and deserved more than a draw against Milan in the previous round.
Edin Dzeko has started to score with the same regularity in Serie A as he did in the Champions League group stages when he scored five times. Stephan El Shaarawy is also on a hot streak with four goals in his last four starts. Pick Roma @ [2.14].
Dortmund beginning to wobble
Tottenham v Borussia Dortmund
Live on BT Sport 2
Who would have thought as Dortmund flew into the winter break top of the Bundesliga and Tottenham lost Harry Kane and Dele Alli to injury that the momentum would be with the Premier League side going into Wednesday's game at Wembley.
Spurs relentlessly find a way and keep pushing on regardless of the stress on the resources available to Mauricio Pochettino. Dortmund meanwhile are experiencing their first wobble of the campaign. Winless in three games in all competitions there is growing concern that the pressure is beginning to tell on a young team.
Dortmund keep throwing away leads and dropping points. Knocked out of the cup on penalties in midweek after twice going in front against Werder Bremen, they were 3-0 up with 15 minutes left on the clock on Saturday but could only draw 3-3 with Hoffenheim.
Outlasting opponents and scoring late goals has been the leitmotif of Spurs' season and the awareness of that will be to their psychological advantage. Pochettino's analysis team will have also spotted how vulnerable Dortmund have become at set-pieces and look to capitalise.
Dortmund missed the leadership and experience of Marco Reus at the weekend and need "a miracle" for him to be fit to make the trip to Wembley. Not in action again until next Monday when they play bottom club Nurnberg, expect Dortmund to go for it regardless of the fact that winning the Bundesliga and keeping Bayern five points back figures as a greater priority. Spurs will be eager to establish an advantage too, especially with trips to Chelsea and the North London derby coming up before their visit for Germany for the second leg.
At the moment, Pochettino's side appear sharper and more solid despite having less time to rest and prepare. Back them @ [2.38].
Back Manchester United to beat PSG @ [2.4]
Back Roma to beat Porto @ [2.14]
Back Tottenham to beat Borussia Dortmund @ [2.38]