UCL resumes with Neymar-less PSG at Barca and Liverpool on a season rescue mission

February 16 – UEFA’s Champions League whirs back into life tonight with the heavyweight round-of-sixteen clash between FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig hosting Liverpool in Budapest in one of a few fixtures where the home club had to relinquish the home advantage because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

English clubs were handed an advantage in the second round of the Champions League because their away legs were moved to neutral venues. The Hungarian capital Budapest will stage both RB Leipzig vs Liverpool and Borussia Monchengladbach vs Manchester City while Atletico Madrid will host Chelsea in the Romanian capital Bucharest. 

Those matches had to be moved because of international travel restrictions between the UK and other countries because of fears over the transmission of the English variant of coronavirus.

But whether shifting the match to a neutral venue will help English champions Liverpool is doubtful. Jurgen Klopp’s team have only won five out of 15 games since the end of the Champions League group stages. Liverpool’s lacklustre form has caused tension at Anfield. With the domestic title out of reach and eliminated from the FA Cup, the Champions League is the last route to silverware for Klopp and his charges, but they will have to overcome last season’s finalists and their flamboyant coach Julian Nagelsmann to remain in the competition.

In Tuesday’s other fixture, FC Barcelona welcome Paris Saint-Germain, who are without their injured talisman Neymar. The tie pits two teams in transition against each other. The Catalans endured a torrid 2020, but have slowly regained some form. PSG parted ways with Thomas Tuchel, who guided the club to the competition’s final last season before losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich, and replaced the German with former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino. He will need to succeed where Tuchel failed to endear himself to the PSG hierarchy.

On Wednesday, Sevilla will play Dortmund while Porto will host Juventus.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1614387754labto1614387754ofdlr1614387754owedi1614387754sni@o1614387754fni1614387754