The January transfer window provides an opportunity for clubs to strengthen their squads ahead of the final stretch of the season. For those in the Champions League, they will be keeping a keen eye on players who they believe will provide them with a significant advantage of defeating their opponents in order to advance.
For Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, the transfer market is an intriguing time, as they seek to strengthen their squads before the important second round ties in the Champions League, while also hoping that no one tries to unsettle their own players with a transfer bid. The right transfers could transform their position in the Champions League outright odds, failure to improve the squad could leave them behind.
Here we will take a look at the four clubs and how they are like to fare in the second round.
When United were drawn against French heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain, the fans were fearing the worst, as a lacklustre side assembled by manager Jose Mourinho was seemingly stuck in a rut. The Portuguese has since been sacked and club legend Ole Gunnar Solkjær is now at the helm, albeit on a caretaker basis.
The former Norway striker has already had a big impact on the club with the players seemingly willing to play for their new boss. He remains undefeated as manager of the Red Devils and although there were people saying he needed to be tested against a big side, he proved he could handle them when United defeated Spurs 1-0 at Wembley.
A club whose form has turned around will be something that PSG fans will fear. With Jose Mourinho in charge, PSG believed they were already through, the managerial change at Old Trafford is a spanner in the works for their hopes of progression. If Solskjær can get the best out of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, then expect the French giants’ defence to be severely tested.
The second round was already tough for Tottenham after they were drawn against German table toppers Borussia Dortmund. Things have been made more difficult by the injury Harry Kane suffered which will leave him on the injury list until mid-March at the earliest.
Although the Lilywhites will have Son Heung-min back from the Asian Cup in time for the first leg, whether he will be in sufficient form to replace the talismanic Kane will remain unclear for now. With arguably the worst strength in depth of the four English Champions League sides, Spurs may need to dip into the transfer market in order to replace Kane, even if it is on a temporary basis.
There’s still a chance of defeating Dortmund over two legs, but without Harry Kane that task will be a tough one. Fernando Llorente, Son Heung-min and potentially Vincent Janssen will need to step up in his absence.
The Reds finished as runners-up in last season’s Champions League, being defeated in the final by the almighty Real Madrid. Liverpool had a tough group consisting of PSG, Red Star Belgrade and Napoli and were fortunate to progress into the second round.
The second round won’t be any easier as the Merseyside club have been drawn against German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Robert Lewandowski will be the main threat to the Liverpool goal and with a strong core in the side, Liverpool will need to demonstrate their ability to break down a strong midfield and defence.
If Liverpool can keep their front three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane fit then they’ll certainly have the fire power to navigate past Bayern. It is in defence where issues could arise. Star centre back Virgil van Dijk will be suspended for the first leg, while Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold are currently absent through injury, but Joel Matip should be ready for the first leg of the tie.
The defending Premier League champions were disappointed to be knocked out of last season’s competition, but with a draw against Schalke, they have arguably the best chance of the four English teams of progression. They may have stumbled in the group stage, but Manchester City will still be confident of their chances of progressing.
With Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero returning to full fitness in recent weeks, it is only natural to expect City to produce the same dominating displays that took them to a record breaking Premier League title. If they can return to form at the right time then Schalke will have to make do with a second round appearance this season.