Confident United will be a tough challenge - Tuchel

By Sports Desk February 11, 2019

Thomas Tuchel knows Paris Saint-Germain will face a Manchester United side revitalised under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the last 16 of the Champions League.

After qualifying top of a group that also included Liverpool and Napoli, the Ligue 1 champions were dealt a tough hand in the first knockout stage when drawn against United, albeit much has changed since the teams were paired together at the end of last year.

Jose Mourinho was in charge of the Red Devils at that time, but the Portuguese was sacked soon after and replaced by Solskjaer on an interim basis.

The change in management has led to a stunning turnaround in the team's fortunes - United have triumphed in 10 of their 11 games under the Norwegian, with Burnley the only side to stop them winning in his reign so far.

In contrast, PSG will be without the injured Neymar for both legs of the tie, while Edinson Cavani is set to miss Tuesday's game at Old Trafford after picking up a hip problem at the weekend.

"Manchester United play with a lot of confidence, score a lot of goals, get a lot of early leads. It's an impressive run," Tuchel told the media.

"To play at Old Trafford against this Manchester United is like the group stage again. It's one of the toughest challenges. 

"We were in extremely good shape at the end of the group stage. Since the draw, things have changed completely. I always said to talk about it in February.

"They are full of energy and full of confidence and it will be a tough challenge."

Tuchel refused to be drawn on what Solskjaer had done to achieve such impressive results but does expects United to be bold in their approach - just like their caretaker manager was during his playing days at the club.

"I'd love to have a good answer but I'm not sure it's on me to talk about the situation. Obviously, there is an effect," the former Borussia Dortmund boss said. 

"We have a word in Germany: if you go to the doctor and he heals you, he's right - it doesn't matter how!

"He [Solskjaer] was a super dangerous player, any time he came on he was there to win games and he does the same as a manager here. It's a big challenge to play against him."

Related items

  • Tuchel hopeful of new Alves deal at PSG Tuchel hopeful of new Alves deal at PSG

    Thomas Tuchel is hopeful Dani Alves will agree a new contract with Paris Saint-Germain as he confirmed the player is in negotiations with the club.

    Alves has become a key man since joining PSG from Juventus in 2017, but the two-year deal he signed at Parc des Princes expires at the end of this season.

    Reports in recent days suggested the Ligue 1 champions had taken steps to extend the right-back's stay in the capital for another year, though.

    And while head coach Tuchel is not involved in the talks, he is keen to see a positive outcome.

    "[Negotiating contracts] is not my job," he told a news conference ahead of the clash with Nimes. "Dani is Dani. He is very important, and his attitude is great.

    "But I am not involved in these negotiations. I hope the club and his agents will come to an agreement."

    Meanwhile, Tuchel confirmed that only Neymar and Edinson Cavani are certain to miss Saturday’s Ligue 1 clash.

    However, he is wary of risking those who are showing signs of fatigue, with a Coupe de France meeting with Dijon and a league game at Caen to come before the Champions League last-16 second leg against Manchester United on March 6.

    "Only Neymar and Cavani will be absent. All the others are available," he said. "There is fatigue and some small injuries, but nothing serious.

    "[Thomas] Meunier will definitely be back and [Juan] Bernat is available.

    "There are some guys who have played six or seven consecutive matches. We must be attentive and take stock with the medical staff and players.

    "It is hard to do, but we must protect the players."

  • Klopp ponders PSG's Manchester United blueprint Klopp ponders PSG's Manchester United blueprint

    Liverpool will attempt to become the second team to beat Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday following Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League victory at Old Trafford.

    A composed 2-0 win, featuring goals from Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe for the Ligue 1 giants, won the admiration of Jurgen Klopp.

    But the Liverpool boss is unsure to what extent the circumstances of that game can be replicated after United were derailed mid-match by injuries to influential attackers Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial – both of whom are in line to return as Klopp's men aim to avoid defeat and return to the top of the Premier League.

    "Result-wise [PSG] were the only team, but Tottenham played a pretty good game against United to be honest," he told a news conference, referencing United's 1-0 win at Wembley where goalkeeper David de Gea excelled.

    "PSG were pretty cool with the ball, passed a lot, they were really confident, good positioning, passing through the lines and scoring in the right moment."

    United returned to winning ways with a superb 2-0 triumph at Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday.

    Klopp felt that showed how much the injuries to Lingard and Martial hindered Solskjaer when he was forced into changes on the run, in contrast to the smoothly operating game plan he put together for the trip to Stamford Bridge.

    “You saw against Chelsea that United could play pretty well without Lingard and Martial. That was a proper line-up with [Juan] Mata and [Romelu] Lukaku coming in.

    "But changing in the game is different and you cannot really adapt. They played the last six or seven games before that with the same line-up and then they had to adapt in 15 minutes, and it didn't really work out.

    "PSG used that, it was a bit of luck for PSG but they played a really good game. They were very demanding, looked in charge in most situations and didn't give a lot of counter-attacks away, which is a very big thing against United.

    "Whichever line-up they have, whoever they play will attack quickly on the offensive wings. You need to be 100 per cent concentrated, and PSG did well, scored good goals in the right moments and that always helps in football."

    Klopp will welcome back Virgil van Dijk after his star centre-back sat out Tuesday's 0-0 draw at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League through suspension.

    Fellow defenders Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez remain sidelined, but the former Borussia Dortmund boss reported fitness concerns are decreasing elsewhere in his squad ahead of a pivotal period in the season.

    "Dejan is not in, Joe is not in, and I think pretty much all the rest are in training," he added.

    "Rhian Brewster is only in little parts, Ox [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] is in bigger parts but not ready to play. The rest should be.

    "Usually now I get a message that somebody is ill, so I am a bit nervous about that, but until now I didn't hear anything!"

  • AEK Athens handed suspended European competition ban AEK Athens handed suspended European competition ban

    AEK Athens have been hit with a one-season ban from European competition after fan violence in a Champions League game against Ajax, but UEFA has suspended the punishment for two years.

    Home fans were pictured throwing flares and other missiles into the away section of the Olympic Stadium ahead of November's group game between the sides, which Ajax won 2-0.

    Some images showed flames erupting on the terrace and riot police were also seen striking Ajax fans, some of whom were left with bloodied faces.

    AEK were charged by UEFA following the game and the organisation's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body announced the Greek club's punishment on Friday.

    A statement said: "The UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body has decided: To exclude AEK Athens from participating in the next UEFA club competition for which it will otherwise qualify. This sanction is suspended for a probationary period of two years.

    "To order the club to play its next two UEFA competition matches as host club behind closed doors. To fine AEK Athens €80,000."

    Ajax were also charged by UEFA after the game but proceedings against the Dutch club have now been closed.

    AEK are third in the Greek Super League after 21 rounds of games, sitting outside the Champions League qualification places.

    "Our club apologised publicly and immediately, and recognised its part of responsibility about what happened," said a club statement in response to UEFA's punishment.

    "The most important thing for all of us is to realise and think about that this decision does not mean the end of this incident, but the beginning of an extremely difficult road of complete compliance with the actual meaning of this decision, along with the need of taking drastic action in order to avoid finding ourselves at this position ever again, because in that case there will be no return!"

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.