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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PREVIEW

The Champions League kicks off again on Tuesday at 3:45 EST with two round of 16 second legs with Manchester United hosting Sevilla at Old Trafford and Roma  hosting Shakhtar Donetsk at Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Manchester United and Sevilla come to the second leg tied 0-0 in aggregate after a first leg that can best described as the most Jose Mourinho first leg in the history of Jose Mourinho first legs. The first leg may be best remembered for Jose’s decision to sit Paul Pogba, but as things tend to work out in a funny way in football Ander Herrera went down in the 17th minute which much to Jose’s chagrin he had to turn to Pogba. The game in general was all Sevilla. United was very lucky to get home with the scoreline the way it is, but this is Jose’s United and good fortune tends to follow them. Sevilla who to me is one of the hardest teams to figure out in Europe was absolutely dominant from start to finish but couldn’t figure out a way past David De Gea who stood on his head all night and if not for his performance Sevilla would be well on their way to the quarterfinals. Sevilla outshot United 25-6 on the night and 8-1 on shots on target. Not being able to have anything to show from the home leg is probably going to come back to haunt Sevilla. Watching this Sevilla team and how inconsistent they are I just can’t see them going to Old Trafford and getting the result. They did play well over the weekend against Valencia despite losing 2-0. They were by far the better side, but couldn’t finish and didn’t have an answer for Geoffrey Kondogbia and Rodrigo on a couple counter attacks. They are also a completely different team at home as they are on the road. At home this year in La Liga they are 8-3-3 with a +6 goal differential, but on the road they have 6 wins 8 losses with 0 draws and a -12 goal differential. Plus United is feeling good about themselves after breaking all of our hearts in beating Liverpool Saturday and we all know Jose is the master in these types of ties. As much as it pains me to say Untied will go through rather easily I’ll go with a 2-0 win for the Red Devils.

In the other round of 16 match on Tuesday we have Roma vs Shakhtar Donetsk with Shakhtar traveling to Rome with a 2-1 lead after the first leg. This one is hard for me to figure out. On one hand Shakhtar is very scary team. They beat Napoli out for their spot in the knockout stage and is a team that is much better than most people think, because well most people don’t really follow Ukrainian football, but believe me when I tell you that this team is very good. They have a lot of Brazilians and are a frustrating bunch to play against with their constant ball pressure. The perfect group to be patient and wait for Roma mistakes before pouncing to get the goal or two they’ll need to advance. If this game was a month ago I would be telling everyone that it is over Shakhtar has this that they can book their spot in the quarterfinals and keep their dream alive of playing in the final in their home country, but Roma who looked dead about a month ago has found themselves again. They found themselves in a 7 game winless streak back in January which looked like ended their hopes of earning a top 4 spot, but when the calendar turned to February they have won 5 out of 7 with the only two losses coming in the first leg to Shakhtar and against a red hot Milan side in a game you could argue they were the better side. They also beat Napoli in this stretch which was a huge dagger to Napoli’s Scudetto chances. The first leg was about as even as even can get. Shakhtar had a 52-48% possession advantage and shots were 15-15. Roma did fall off in the second half after getting a late first half Cengiz Under goal to give them a 0-1 lead at the half, but Shakhtar was clearly the better side in the second half and were able to get the 2-1 win with goals from Facundo Ferreyra and Fred. Fred to me was MOTM and is Shakhtar’s best player. The Brazilian will be all over the ball when Shakhtar is in possession.  This game is on Facebook Live and is played at the same time as United so only true diehards like myself will even pay attention to this, but this will be the better game and I think the type of game that will have fireworks. I am leaning towards Shakhtar advancing with a 2-2 draw.

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