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Would James Rodriguez fit in at Man United?

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The James Rodriguez to Manchester United reports are gathering pace but before we get carried away, would he actually be a good signing for Jose Mourinho?

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James, 25, has been on the outside looking in all season at Real Madrid but when you have Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and others ahead of you, that doesn’t mean you are a bad player.

The captain of Colombia is obviously one of the finest forwards around but after moving to Real in 2014 from AS Monaco for $88.5 million, he has failed to really make his mark at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Will his style of play not only fit at Manchester United but also the Premier League?

There’s no doubt James’ combination of pace and trickery would slot in well in the PL but there should be huge question marks around whether or not United need another deep-lying attacking midfielder. James is capable of playing out on the wing or just off a striker and that means he could partner Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in a tricky attacking front three.

Rashford could lead the line in that trio, but then what does Mourinho do with Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Henrikh Mkhitaryan?

It’s likely Rooney will move on but if the Red Devils do qualify for the UEFA Champions League (reports state he will only join if United are in the UCL) then having James around plus Mata and Mkhitaryan could be troublesome. Keeping all three players happy would be almost impossible as I don’t see how you can play more than one of those players and Paul Pogba behind a front three without disrupting the balance of the team as Ander Herrera has to be the lone holding midfielder.

A deal for James does seem to be interesting United, and rightly so. His star shone bright at the 2014 World Cup and he sealed his big move to Real Madrid. Since then he’s scored 36 goals in 109 games for Real but has played a bit-part role under Zinedine Zidane.

Someone with James’ quality deserves to be the leading man at a huge club but it’s tough to see how United will do that unless they sell on Mata or Mkhitaryan, or both.

There’s no doubt the Real Madrid man would add goals but with Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s 28 goals from this season likely to be lost next season, James will have to be handed the keys to this offense.

Mourinho may well put a lot of pressure on Rashford to lead the line if, as expected, Zlatan isn’t around, and then James would have to deliver plenty of goals and assists behind the pacey youngster in his first season in the PL. It’s possible he will form a fluid relationship with the likes of Rashford and Martial up top but it’s also unlikely United will pay anywhere near the $88.5 million Real Madrid paid for him almost three years ago, which may be a stumbling block.

James to United makes sense in a lot of ways but when you dig deeper, there will have to be plenty of departures to make his arrival worthwhile both for the player and the club.

I’m not saying it’s a bad deal. I’m just saying Mourinho’s priority should be buying a targetman unless he thinks Rashford is really ready to lead the line all season long.

Champions League preview: Spurs host Leipzig, Valencia visits Atalanta

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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties kickoff Wednesday, including one being labeled as the biggest in a club’s existence.

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That would be Serie A side Atalanta, which hosts Valencia at 3 p.m. at Gewiss Stadium.

Atalanta had played in two consecutive Europa Leagues, but this is their first move into the Champions League. To make the knockout rounds is exceptional, and club president Antonio Percassi is fired up.

“We must be honest, this is the most important game in the history of this club,” Percassi told Sky Sport Italia. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s exciting just thinking that tomorrow we’ll be in a Champions League Round of 16. It’s wonderful for our fans too. … This is going to be a unique experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

Atalanta finished second in its group to Manchester City, and is fourth in Serie A. Valencia won its group.

There’s a Premier League side in action on Wednesday, too, as Spurs begin life without Heung-Min Son.

Jose Mourinho spun a tale about how badly Tottenham will need its fans against RB Leipzig, comparing the home-field advantage to an emergency rescue crew of sorts.

Leipzig is led by Julian Nagelsmann, who was once referred to as “Baby Mourinho” by his players.

The 32-year-old was quick to distance himself from the story.

“Tomorrow it is Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho v. Baby Mourinho,” he said. “I have great respect for Mourinho. He has won lots of titles with big clubs, the Champions League twice. He has made his mark on European football at some big European clubs. I think it his 59th knockout game in the CL and it is my first so there is obviously respect there.”

Liverpool’s Robertson not a fan of Atletico Madrid theatrics

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Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson was not impressed with Atletico Madrid’s display as his side fell 1-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Reds fell behind on a fourth-minute Saul Niguez goal and couldn’t get a shot on target despite 73 percent possession in Spain.

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Atleti executed its plan to near-perfection, slowing restarts and taking advantage of counterattacking opportunities to assuage the constant pressure of Liverpool.

At times it was reminiscent of early-century Italian national team play, and both neutrals and Liverpool knew what they were in for once Atleti took the lead.

“We gave them the best possible start to get the fans behind them and then they can start falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin a bit which I think we handled quite well to be honest,” Robertson told BT Sport. “We know we are better than (how they played). We put in a decent performance and we can be better than that. Luckily we have got a second leg to put it right.”

Given the performance and the reputation, you’d still fancy the Reds to “put it right” at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp thinks Atleti will feel plenty of pressure at Anfield, and he will certainly feel the officiating will be more to his liking.

Liverpool’s Klopp: ‘Our people will be ready’ for second leg at Anfield

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Jurgen Klopp didn’t have any issue with Diego Simeone’s defense-first Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Spanish side flummoxed Liverpool’s attack and the Reds didn’t manage a shot on target despite eight attempts and 73 percent possession at the Wanda Metropolitano.

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What Klopp didn’t appreciate was the referee’s work, though, implying that Polish official Szymon Marciniak was overwhelmed by the occasion. Marciniak has worked UCL matches for six seasons, twice overseeing quarterfinal ties.

Klopp was shown a yellow card in the second half, and the Liverpool boss felt Sadio Mane was harassed by Atleti. Klopp removed yellow-carrying Mane at halftime.

“He was targeted obviously,” Klopp said after the game. “The only thing they wanted was to make sure he got a yellow card. The score is 1-0, that’s all but you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere. So many things happened, after 30 minutes already three players were on the ground. The first yellow card was a striker from us. I’m not sure they even got a yellow card, which is funny.”

Atleti’s Angel Correa was shown a yellow, while Klopp, Mane, and Joe Gomez were cautioned for Liverpool.

The Liverpool boss found himself laughing a few times, especially when he was asked about Simeone’s touchline personality.

Klopp said before the game that if the German was a four in intensity, then Simeone was a 12. Simeone followed suit by constantly urging the crowd to get behind the home side on Tuesday.

That didn’t bother Klopp, but he issued a public relations officer’s dream in reacting to it.

“Wow, wow,” he laughed. “That’s energy. I don’t think I have to do it that much (at Anfield). Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield. It’s not over yet.”

Klopp finished his remarks by saying of Jordan Henderson‘s removal from the game with a hamstring injury, “I hope it was a precaution, but I’m not 100 percent sure”

Haaland wins first leg after Borussia Dortmund-PSG comes to life late

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Erling Haaland scored twice in a mid-second half flurry as Borussia Dortmund beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The hosts also got an assist from teenager Giovanni Reyna, who became the youngest American to appear in a Champions League match.

Haaland now has 39 goals in 29 appearances between Red Bull Salzburg and BVB, 11 of those for his new German employer.

Neymar scored off a Kylian Mbappe goal for PSG, who brings an away goal back to the Parc des Princes for a March 11 second leg.

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Neymar had an early free kick, missing just wide of the far post.

Jadon Sancho troubled the keeper twice in the first half hour, first with a cross that Mats Hummels headed over goal. Then, Keylor Navas picked another Sancho offering out of the air.

Sancho kept serving, and Erling Haaland couldn’t turn a promising cross on target.

Dortmund walked into halftime with a scoreless match but a 7-2 edge in shot attempts. Neither of PSG’s shots were on target.

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Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre put in American teen Giovani Reyna in the 67th minute.

Two minutes later, it was 1-0 to the hosts through Haaland’s close-range goal.

Neymar replied from close range himself after a powerful, clever dribble from Kylian Mbappe led to a pass through the box.

But Haaland got his second in the 77th minute with a scorching shot that serves as the first senior assist of Reyna’s senior career with Dortmund (Watch it here).