UCL: UNITED, AJAX SEEK TO CAUSE UPSET
Barcelona and Juventus hold first leg advantage
Manchester United will aim to cause another upset in the Champions League when they travel to Spain to take on Barcelona in their quarter-final clash at the Camp Nou.
A Luke Shaw own-goal in the first leg at Old Trafford was enough to hand The Blaugranas a precious advantage to take back to Spain, where they will be looking to complete the job and seal their progress to the last four of the competition.
United are for the second time in a row, looking at overturning a first-leg deficit after doing so in the previous round to knock out French side PSG.
An uninspiring first-leg performance at home which saw Solskjaer’s men unable to register a single shot on target for the first time in the competition since 2005, plus Barcelona’s enviable home record in the competition (they are unbeaten in their last 30 matches at home, (W27 D3) and record against United at The Camp Nou (P4 W2 D2) paints a gloom image for United but Red Devils boss Solskjaer believes the win against PSG in Paris will help his side in their quest.
“It will have helped us as a team, we know we can turn things around. Barca here at the Nou Camp is a difficult prospect but that night will live with the players. It was not that long ago and we are one goal better off”, said Solskjaer.
Asides Barca’s stellar home rcord, United have the little matter of an Argentine maestro to contend with. The dimunitive Barcelona forward has been prolific in the competition against English sides, scoring 22 goals in 31 games. Messi has also found the back of the net 13 times in his past nine games at home against English teams. He famously scored in both Champions League finals win against United in Rome and London.
A draw for Bacelona will ensure their progress but United need a win to qualify for the neat stage.
“The result from the first leg is not definite, we have to play our own way. We will try to make sure they don’t score, we want to win”, said Barca coach Ernesto Velverde ahead of the game.
In Italy, Juventus aim to reach the semi-finals of the competition after securing a precious away goal in the Netherlands against Ajax.
After their unpreceedented heroics at The Bernabeu against record winners Real Madrid, the young Dutch side need to produce another such performance to advance.
Erik Ten Hag’s side are aiming to become the first Dutch side since PSV Eindhoven in 2004-05, to reach the semi-finals having last reached that stage in 1996-97. The Ajax manager believes his team can cause another upset after putting out holders Real Madrid. “I’m confident because of the way we are playing and training. We are stronger and we are showing it game by game, Juventus are the favourites, especially after the Amsterdam result”, said Ten Hag.
They (Ajax) are unbeaten in their last four away games against Italian sides (W2 D2) after losing seven of their previous eight against sides from Italy. Wins in their last two away games will offer hope and confidence to the Dutch team who have won the heart of many with their attractive brand of football, but a trip to The Juventus Stadium still is a task as herculean as any.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Allergi’s side at The Johan Cruyff Arena and will be looking to propel to his side to the semi-finals with yet another top level performance. The Portuguese star scored a stunning hattrick in the previous round against Atletico Madrid to give his team a 3-2 aggregate win and coach Max Allegri thinks he can return to help ensure progress for the team after being rested for the weekend defeat at SPAL.
“Cristiano has extraordinary quality. In certain moments he becomes an unstoppable player and you can see it on his face”, said Allegri of Ronaldo.
Despite scoring an away goal, Juventus need to avoid defeat or a high scoring draw to ensure progress while Ajax need to win or cancel out Juve’s away goal for starts.