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'Perfect time for confident Utd to play PSG'
February 12, 2019
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Manchester: Manchester United’s return to Champions League action against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday has come at the perfect time, according to caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a run of 10 wins and one draw since the Norwegian took charge.

When the two sides were paired together in December’s draw, PSG were strong favourites to make the last eight, with United mired in the final days of Jose Mourinho’s troublesome tenure.

However, the mood around Old Trafford is transformed two months on as Solskjaer has overturned an 11-point deficit to break into the top four of the Premier League and beaten Arsenal away to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.

“We’ve given ourselves the best possible opportunity with the way we’ve gone into this game because we are confident,” said Solskjaer.

“I’ve found out what kind of team we have. We are playing like a team, we are agreeing on how we should approach games. If there was ever a time to go into big games like this it is now.” It may also be the perfect time to run into an injury-ravaged PSG, with the world’s most expensive player Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Thomas Meunier all sidelined by injury.

“Of course any team that are missing players like Neymar, Cavani and Meunier will feel the effect,” added Solskjaer, who is still wary of the pace of Kylian Mbappe.

Should United emerge victorious over the two legs it will be the first time in five years the three-time European champions have reached the quarter-finals.

Roma’s big hope

Nicolo Zaniolo may be only 19 but the Roma midfielder is already living the dream in a breakthrough season which has seen the youngster from Tuscany emerge as the next big hope of Italian football.

Having played for Inter Milan’s youth side last season, Zaniolo joined Roma as part of the deal last summer that sent Belgian Radja Nainggolan in the other direction.

The towering teenager, who stands at 1.9 metres (6ft 2in) tall, was only supposed to be a squad player for Eusebio Di Francesco but has emerged as one of the breakout stars in a difficult season for the Roma coach.

On Tuesday, he will line up in his sixth Champions League match for Roma as they host Portuguese giants Porto in their last 16, first-leg tie at the Stadio Olimpico.

On Instagram, Zaniolo showed his delight by sharing two photos, one of him as a football-mad child, the other with the Roma jersey, alongside the message: “Always believe in your dreams.”

The past five months have been a whirlwind for the player from Massa, rejected by Fiorentina after coming through their youth system.

He is already being compared to club legend Francesco Totti after becoming the youngest Roma player to score his first three senior goals for the club since Totti, aged 18 in 1995.

“He’s like Totti, one who speaks little and always wants the ball,” said Di Francesco of the youngster.

“Mentally he’s in a good place at the moment and I want to make the most of his youthful energy, his desire and determination.”

Lloris warns Spurs

Hugo Lloris has warned that Tottenham must improve if they are to have any chance against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday after a patchy display against Leicester.

The 31-year-old French goalkeeper kept out Jamie Vardy’s second-half penalty and made a number of other important saves as Spurs won 3-1 at Wembley to remain on the fringes of the Premier League title race. Although the scoreline suggests an easy win for Mauricio Pochettino’s men, who are in third place in the Premier League, five points behind Manchester City and Liverpool, Leicester looked dangerous and had 20 shots at goal.

“Leicester played in a fantastic way and I think we won the game thanks to our spirit and character,” said Spurs captain Lloris ahead of the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie on Wednesday.

Agencies

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