Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 10°C Friday 7 May 2021

Will Van Gaal drop Rooney and more Champions League talking points

Also, what team will Mourinho pick and no room for Arsenal complacency.

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney has struggled for form of late.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney has struggled for form of late.
Image: Jon Super

Updated at 12.00 

1. Will Van Gaal drop Rooney?

MAN UNITED HAVE lacked spark up front more often than not this season, and Wayne Rooney’s poor form has certainly contributed to their problems.

The England international has just two goals in 10 Premier League appearances, and looked off the boil again in the Crystal Palace game at the weekend, with increased speculation that the reason for his continual selection is contract-related more than anything else.

Indications that Rooney is finished are premature — the striker has gone through lean spells before only to come back strongly — however, the 30-year-old could certainly do with being taken out of the firing line for a match or two.

After all, they can ill-afford to carry a struggling player in tonight’s crucial match against CSKA, with goal difference only separating the two teams who sit second and third respectively in Group B.

Alan Pardew singled out Anthony Martial as United’s biggest threat on Saturday, and it is perhaps time the promising young striker got the chance to lead the line again, rather than being shunted out to the wing to accommodate his misfiring teammate.

2. What team will Mourinho pick?

As has usually been the case this season, whatever starting XI Jose Mourinho picks on Wednesday is bound to raise eyebrows.

Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, John Terry and Nemanja Matic have all been dropped at various points this season, so it’s anyone’s guess who plays tomorrow.

A home tie against Dynamo Kiev is the game that Chelsea would normally be odds-on to win, but in light of recent developments, the three points is far from assured.

Jose Mourinho’s men gave one of their better performances this season in the reverse fixture, drawing 0-0 in a game that they will for once justifiably feel aggrieved that they didn’t win, after being unlucky to be denied a penalty, as well hitting the woodwork twice.

A repeat of that performance, if not the result, is required, as anything other than victory will exacerbate the immense pressure Mourinho is under right now.

3. No room for Arsenal complacency

Be part
of the team

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

Become a Member

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Swansea City v Arsenal - Liberty Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The last few weeks could hardly have gone much better for Arsenal.

The Gunners are finally starting to show some domestic consistency and are joint top of the Premier League as a result, though the highlight of their season so far has surely been the 2-0 victory over Bayern at the Emirates.

They come up against Pep Guardiola’s men again on Wednesday night, with Arsene Wenger admitting prior to this game that he would be happy with a point.

And despite their excellent form, they can hardly afford to lose — a Bayern win coupled with Olympiakos defeating Dinamo Zagreb would all but end the Gunners’ Champions League hopes this season.

4. City can put one foot in knockout stages

While Saturday’s unconvincing win over Norwich highlighted how City are far from the finished product, they remain in a healthy position both domestically and in Europe.

They are currently second on six points in Group D, and a win this evening would see them put one foot in the knockout stages.

However, their task looks anything but easy — they come up against a Sevilla side with an impressive European pedigree, having won back-to-back Europa Leagues in the past two seasons.

And while City may have beaten their Spanish rivals 2-1 at the Etihad a fortnight ago, they were fortunate to escape that match with one point let alone three, as the scoreline hardly reflected the balance of play.

5. Can Real Madrid end PSG unbeaten run?

In many ways, rather than a crunch group tie, Real Madrid v PSG looks an opportunity for both sides to lay down their credentials as potential Champions League winners.

Regardless of what happens tonight, both sides are likely to qualify, as they sit joint top of Group A, comfortably ahead of their other two rivals.

It’s far from a glorified friendly, though — Real Madrid will want a win in front of their home fans, with media and supporters alike yet to fully warm to recently appointed boss Rafa Benitez.

PSG, meanwhile, would effectively guarantee their place in the knockout stages with a win, and they can also preserve an impressive unbeaten run in the process, which has seen them not lose in 16 games.

5 issues Jose Mourinho needs to resolve urgently>

Micky Adams has left Sligo and is returning to England for ‘family reasons>

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

Read next: