The Champions League group stage got off to a thrilling start on Tuesday, including 25 minutes of pure mayhem in Real Madrid's victory over Manchester City. The other half of the 32-team field starts the tournament journey on Wednesday.
Let's take a look at the three most anticipated matches on the slate for the second day of play and make a prediction for how each game will turn out. Every team is hoping to avoid the dreaded opening loss, which makes advancing to the knockout rounds a lot harder.
Barcelona vs. Spartak Moscow
Even though Barcelona was eliminated in the semifinals last season, the dominant Spanish club should still be viewed as the tournament favorite. Barca has started La Liga play with four straight victories, and Lionel Messi looks like a man on a mission.
The Blaugrana face off with a struggling Spartak Moscow side. After a red-hot start, the Russian club hasn't won a match in nearly a month, in part due to a back line that hasn't been able to string together a complete 90-minute performance.
That doesn't bode well heading into a match against one of the most dangerous attacking teams in the world. Barcelona should be able to take control of the game early by controlling possession, leading to a convincing victory.
Prediction: 3-0 Barcelona
Chelsea vs. Juventus
The day's biggest match pits defending champion Chelsea against Italian powerhouse Juventus. The Blues have to be encouraged by the play of Fernando Torres, who has finally broken out of his prolonged slump after a good showing in last season's UCL.
As for the Vecchia Signora, they have taken on a new look after a busy summer transfer window, but the results have remained constant. Juventus hasn't dropped a point in Serie A play and is once again sitting atop the table in the early going.
This should be a tremendous match.
Playing at Stamford Bridge gives Chelsea a slight advantage after an undefeated run at home in last season's event. Frank Lampard and Co. will capitalize on that and get off to another promising start.
Prediction: 1-0 Chelsea
Manchester United vs. Galatasaray
A slow start doomed Manchester United in the group stage last season, so Sir Alex Ferguson's bunch will be looking to avoid a similar fate this time around. The addition of Robin van Persie, who has scored four times in his last three league matches, will help.
The Red Devils can't afford to overlook Galatasaray, though. The Turkish champions have been in good form and are heading to Old Trafford with hopes of stealing at least a point. United must view them as a legitimate threat.
Based on talent alone, the Red Devils should win handily. But between the memories of last year's early exit and an underrated opponent, don't be surprised if the game ends up being uncomfortably close for United en route to three points.
Prediction: 2-1 Manchester United
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