Barcelona will hope to put its horror start to the tournament behind it with Xavi pulling the strings
One of English football’s best and possibly most underappreciated midfielders in recent years, Michael Carrick was known for his calmness, quiet authority and vision on the field. He’ll need all of those attributes now he has been thrust into one of the world’s biggest coaching jobs.
Carrick, who only started his coaching career in 2018 and has never held a senior position, was named as Manchester United’s caretaker manager following the firing of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday.
In place until United finds another coach for the rest of the season, Carrick starts his new role with a crucial match away to Villarreal on Tuesday as the teams look to seal qualification to the Champions league knockout stage.
They are both on seven points in Group F, two points clear of Atalanta with two games left. Carrick will need to pick up a beleaguered United team.
On the upswing
Atalanta though is on the upswing entering a potentially decisive visit to last-place Young Boys.
“We’re experiencing a good moment,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said after a 5-2 win over Spezia on Saturday that included two goals from Mario Pasalic. “The team is improving. It has desire and is determined.”
Barcelona enters its crucial home match in Group E against Benfica on Tuesday boosted by the arrival of former great Xavi Hernandez as its new coach.
It will be his second match in charge after a league win in the Barcelona derby against Espanyol on Saturday, a result that ended a four-game winless streak in the league.
The Catalan club started its Champions League campaign with consecutive 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica, but a win against the Portuguese side will allow it to clinch a spot in the knockout stage and avoid its first elimination in the group stage in nearly two decades.
Bayern is already through to the next round with a perfect four wins from four games. So it’s likely coach Julian Nagelsmann would have opted to give some key players a rest at Dynamo Kyiv on Tuesday for its penultimate game in Group E. Kyiv, bottom of the group with one point, needs a win and favour from Benfica against Barcelona to stay in contention.
Bayern’s buildup has been overshadowed by the coronavirus with five reportedly unvaccinated players – Joshua Kimmich, Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting and Michael Cuisance – all in quarantine after coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19. Niklas Sule and Josip Stanisic are also in isolation after testing positive for the disease.
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