Champions League Preview – keen to impress
Tonight’s Champions League ties are poles apart in terms of pressure – while it could sensibly be said that both ties are already decided from the first leg, two teams must take 90 minutes to make a statement for their expectant managers.
March 19th, 2014
It could be an early exit for Manchester United as they face Olympiakos at Old Trafford tonight – trailing 2-0 from the first leg and without the services of centre-backs Johnny Evans and Chris Smalling – Evans is suffering from a calf injury while Smalling struggles with a hamstring problem.
For David Moyes it’ll have been yet another day of fending off the phone calls and questions from rabid journalists – no, my job is safe; yes, we do need to do a job tonight; no, I’m not interested in double glazing thanks – as the now all-too-cliched cliché of being under fire begins anew. The way that the media continues to sharpen its claws for the man who has been in the hot seat for less than a year must be beginning to grate on the United boss, but all the same there’s a series of high-profile matches coming along which Moyes needs to focus on without all the backbiting which surrounds him and the club. With matches against West Ham and Man City to follow, more vocal fans are already beginning to spout nebulous numbers of points that will satisfy them from the season’s remaining nine league results.
In the other tie, Zenit St Petersburg are all too aware that they are unlikely to progress, with their 4-2 home reverse against Borussia Dortmund in the first leg being the final straw for Luciano Spalletti as he received the sack shortly after. With Andre Villas-Boas ready to replace him in the dugout – and I assume you’re familiar with this gentleman’s work – caretaker coach Sergei Semak has already conceded that Zenit’s winning the tie would be “a miracle”.
Zenit have pretty much the pick of their squad to select from, unlike Dortmund who are missing key players Marco Reus and Sven Bender. Despite the game already being close to settled, you can still expect Dortmund to be professional in their team selection despite a tight race for runners-up spot in the Bundesliga.