Football: UEFA Champions League Preview

Football: UEFA Champions League Preview

The UEFA Champions League returns with interesting football matches slated for matchday three.

Here is a preview of some of the matches involving the heavyweights:

SHAKHTAR DONETSK VS MANCHESTER CITY

Manchester City makes their trip to Ukraine to take on Shakhtar Donetsk for their third group stage game as Pep Guardiola’s men look to take control of their group.

Shakhtar Donetsk is in a rich goalscoring form in the Champions League although the Ukrainian side has also conceded the same amount of goals they have scored so far.

Shakhtar prepares to host Premier League Champions Manchester City in their Champions League group stage game as the Ukrainian side looks for its first win of the competition this season.

Shakhtar has so far played out two entertaining draws in their first two group games. First, it was Hoffenheim against who the game ended 2-2 and then against Lyon in their second game, Shakhtar blew a two-goal lead in the last 20-minutes of the game to finish with another 2-2 draw.

Manchester City players celebrating a goal

That leaves Shakhtar with only two points from their opening two games, and desperate to record their first win.
Manchester City will be relieved to have recorded their first win in the competition away at Hoffenheim during the last matchday.

They, however, had to come from a goal down, after Hoffenheim scored in the first minute of the game to beat them, courtesy of a late David Silva goal, three minutes before the 90th-minute mark.

That win leaves City with three points and they sit second in their group below Lyon who are on top with four points.

City will look to exploit the defensive frailties in this Shakhtar side and ensure they are well placed on the table before the Ukrainians visit the Etihad during the next matchday.

 

REAL MADRID VS VIKTORIA PLZEN

Real Madrid will look to end a five-match winless streak when they take on Czech Republic outfit Viktoria Plzen at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night.

Following their 2-1 defeat to Levante in the La Liga this past weekend, Real Madrid is on their worst run without a victory since 2009, having lost four of their last five games (1 draw), including a 1-0 defeat to CSKA Moscow in their previous European assignment.

Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui finds himself under increasing pressure to turn things around, with rumours of an impending sack already doing the rounds.

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Currently sitting second in Group G, level on points with third-placed AS Roma, the reigning champions could find their hopes of qualification to the next round deflated if they fail to pick up all three points on Tuesday.

Viktoria Plzen, on the other hand, are bottom of Group G, having picked up a solitary point in their two games, courtesy of their 2-2 draw against CSKA in their first game.

They were, however, hammered 5-0 by Roma last time out, but are unbeaten in their three subsequent fixtures in the domestic competitions.

Considering that Real Madrid has failed to win their last two home games in the league, Pavel Vrba’s men will be aiming to heap further misery on Los Blancos, by claiming a shock victory in the midweek.

 

MANCHESTER UNITED VS JUVENTUS

The group stage of the UEFA Champions League will reach its midway point this midweek with matchday three. The marquee encounter this week will see Manchester United play hosts to Juventus at Old Trafford, with the Red Devils hoping to usurp their visitors to take the top spot in Group H.

Manchester United currently trail Juventus by two points in Group H of the UEFA Champions League after the first two matchdays.

This difference is courtesy the drab goalless draw that the Premier League heavyweights played with Valencia, which allowed Juve to open up the lead atop the standings.

Their recent turnaround in form though will give Manchester United a lot of confidence, having gone three games without ending up on the wrong side of the result.

Their performance against Chelsea offers several positives, even if the final result left a bad taste in the mouths of Jose Mourinho and his charges.

Juventus, on the other hand, are sitting pretty atop the Serie A table, with closest challengers Napoli four points behind. But, the Bianconeri have not quite been at their best so far, which was also indicative in their 1-1 draw with Genoa this past weekend.

Manchester United were comfortable victors the last time they locked horns with Juventus, all the way back in 2003 when they recorded a 3-0 win in Turin.

Juventus players during their victory over Lazio

 

AEK ATHENS VS BAYERN MUNICH

AEK Athens’ search for a first win in the UEFA Champions League continues with a tough encounter at home to Bayern Munich on Tuesday evening.

The Greek Superleague champions lost their opening two fixtures against fellow Group E contenders Ajax and Benfica, conceding three goals in both fixtures.

They welcome a Bayern side whose return from the international break saw them bounce back from four consecutive matches without a win, beating Wolfsburg 3-1.

 

PSV EINDHOVEN VS TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

PSV Eindhoven and Tottenham Hotspur head into their Champions League encounter on Wednesday night knowing that defeat would leave them on the brink of being unable to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition.

Both clubs have already lost out to Barcelona and Inter Milan in Group B and will be aware that they must take advantage of the double-header at the Philips Stadion and Wembley Stadium.

PSV were undone by a Lionel Messi masterclass at Camp Nou during the middle of September, and it left the onus on Van Bommel’s side to at least avoid defeat against Inter.

The signs were positive when Pablo Rosario put PSV into the lead, but Inter’s comeback has left PSV sitting at the bottom of the group and aware that they must come out on top in their double-header with Spurs.

Pochettino has had to contend with a number of latecomers after their performances at the World Cup and several injuries to key players, but Spurs have reached a stage in their development where not taking part in European football after Christmas would come as a huge blow.

 

PSG VS NAPOLI

Group C leaders Napoli are in France for their UEFA Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men secured a last-gasp win over Liverpool last time out courtesy of Lorenzo Insigne’s 90th-minute strike, which helped propel them to the top of the group.

PSG bounced back from their opening defeat to the Reds at Anfield by thrashing Red Star Belgrade 6-1 to remain in contention. They are just a point behind the Serie A side after two games played.

PSG’s loss to Liverpool remains their only defeat of the season and also the only time the team have scored fewer than three goals in a game.

Kylian Mbappe

The French champions have been in prolific form and have 16 goals in their last three outings in all competitions.

The Parisiens will be able to welcome Neymar back for the visit of Napoli. The Brazilian was rested for Saturday’s 5-0 win over Amiens following his exertions with Brazil over the international break.

Napoli has injury concerns and will be hoping Insigne and Simone Verdi can shake off muscle problems.

 

BORUSSIA DORTMUND VS ATLETICO MADRID

A real buzz is expected in and around Signal-Iduna-Park where the top two sides of Group A take on each other in one of the game week’s derbies on Wednesday evening.

Both Borussia and Atletico have been impeccable so far and their two head to head clashes will likely determine the group winner.

The hosts are enjoying a splendid time under Lucien Favre this season. They are three points clear at the top of the Bundesliga standings with six wins and two draws in eight games of the competition so far.

They continued to shine in the final third on Saturday afternoon when Die Schwarzgelben bagged an impressive four-goal tally past Stuttgart.

This summer’s acquisition Paco Alcacer was the main catalyst for such an amazing form. He is on a fabulous run of six straight matches which saw him on the scoreline (including two appearances for the Spanish national team).

Paco Alcacer has been in prolific form for both club and country

It will be very interesting to see if Dortmund will be able to maintain such an amazing attacking record against the super stern defensive line of Atletico Madrid’s.

The Mattressers were by no means as impressive up front as BVB of late, but they will rely on a massive European experience and a notable success they have had in this competition over the last several years.

 

BARCELONA VS INTER MILAN

Barcelona will continue their most challenging week of the season yet on Wednesday when they host Italian giants Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League.

The Blaugrana are coming off a win over in-form Sevilla during the weekend and will face rivals Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season on Sunday.

They can’t afford to look past the Nerazzurri, however, as Inter have won both of their Champions League fixtures so far and are tied for the group lead.

Inter had the perfect preparation for this match with a 1-0 win over local rivals AC Milan as Rossoneri goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma gifted Mauro Icardi the only goal.

It should give the Italians plenty of momentum heading into the game, but they’ll have to do a far better job of linking up with their star man at the Camp Nou to replicate the result.

Lionel Messi and Phillipe Coutinho against Sevilla

 

LIVERPOOL VS RED STAR BELGRADE

Liverpool will be bidding to bounce back from their late defeat to Napoli on matchday two when they welcome Red Star Belgrade to Anfield on Wednesday night.

Just one point separates the top three sides in Group C after two matches, but Liverpool will be hoping for maximum points from back-to-back games against Red Star, who were thrashed by Paris Saint-Germain last time out.

Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah’s goal at The John Smith’s Stadium saw Jurgen Klopp’s side return to winning ways after a four-match run without a victory, keeping them level on points with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table in the process.

The opening two games in this group stage suggest that Red Star will instead need to rely on their home form to take points off their more illustrious opponents, although they have only lost two of their last nine European away games.

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