The greatest joy of football fans is back. The Champions League is nigh.
After a dramatic slate of round-of-16 fixtures, we’re left with just eight quarter-finalists. On Tuesday night, Tottenham host Manchester City and Liverpool host FC Porto.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Juventus visit Ajax and Manchester United host Barcelona.
United’s Champions League journey this season has been quite the fairytale. After losing the home leg to PSG 2-0, the Red Devils bounced back with a 3-1 win in Paris to advance to the quarter-finals on away goals.
Fans could have hoped for a far kinder draw for United. The players, on the other hand, are slightly more optimistic.
In an interview with Inside United, Chris Smalling revealed that he and his teammates were thrilled with the draw.
He said: “Normally we do 10 minutes on the bike and then we do some gym activation, but I think we stayed on the bikes for maybe 20 minutes because we saw the draw was on the TV.
“We were all excited. As soon as it came out, we were all happy.
“We cheered and then we got on with training. But at least we knew who was in front of us.”
Smalling then went on to talk about how the United players are welcoming the test.
He continued: “You think, ‘I want to play against teams like this.’
“I was injured for the first game against PSG, so it was nice to be able to test myself against the best, and I think PSG are one of the best teams in the world.
“We need to make sure that whatever game-plan we have – just like PSG – that we stick to it and everything falls into line. We know that we can give any team a right go.”
Challenges don’t come much tougher than Barcelona, especially with Lionel Messi firing on all cylinders.
The last time United and Barcelona met in the Champions League was in the 2011 final. Fergie’s men suffered a 3-1 loss thanks to goals from Messi, Pedro and David Villa.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope his side’s fortunes will be slightly better this time out. But they certainly have a monumental task ahead of them.