Ultimate Guide to Champions League Matchday 2: English Trio Under Huge Pressure

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2015

FILE PHOTO - (EDITORS NOTE: COMPOSITE OF TWO IMAGES - Image numbers (L) 458624178 and 485728065) In this composite image a comparision has been made between Louis van Gaal ,Manager of Manchester United (L) and Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal . Arsenal and Manchester United meet in the Premier League on November 22, 2014 at the Emirates Stadium in London. ***LEFT IMAGE*** MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 08: Manchester United Manager Louis van Gaal looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on November 8, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE***  HULL, ENGLAND - APRIL 20: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Arsenal at KC Stadium on April 20, 2014 in Hull, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Getty Images

Matchday 1 of the Champions League brought the usual array of thrills and spills, but not exactly the results we were all expecting.

Three of the Premier League’s finest were left licking their wounds following damaging defeats which mean they need to respond with a victory this time around, while defending champions Barcelona were also denied three points thanks to a stunning goal from Roma’s Alessandro Florenzi in the Italian capital.

What will happen this time around? Check out our ultimate guide to stay ahead of the game.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Group E

Barcelona vs. Bayer Leverkusen, Camp Nou, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 26:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona lays injured during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and UD Las Palmas at Camp Nou on September 26, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Alex Caparros/Getty Images

No Lionel Messi, no problem?

It is certainly true to say that Barcelona have more than enough attacking talent to compensate for the loss of the gifted Argentinian for the next seven to eight weeks, but the absence of a player who once scored five goals in a Champions League fixture against Bayer Leverkusen is certain to have an impact as Barca look to overhaul the Germans to reach top spot in Group E.

Luis Suarez, Neymar and Co. will seek to shine in their star man’s absence, but with Bayer in fine form having dispatched Werder Bremen 3-0 on the road in the Bundesliga at the weekend, this might not be the walkover many are expecting.

Prediction: Barcelona 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen

 

BATE vs. Roma, Borisov-Arena, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 16:  Alessandro Florenzi of AS Roma celebrates after scoring the goal 1-1 during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between AS Roma and FC Barcelona, at Olimpico Stadium on September 16, 2015 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Giusepp
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Florenzi was the talk of the Champions League following his stunning long-range goal for Roma in the opener against Barcelona in the Italian capital, but it should be the club’s more-regular goalscorers who are in the spotlight in Belarus.

One of those won’t be Edin Dzeko, though, after the former Manchester City forward picked up an injury in the weekend win over Carpi, but that could allow for the likes of Gervinho, Mohamed Salah and, of course, Francesco Totti to come to the fore against one of the weakest teams in the competition.

BATE began their group-stage campaign with a 4-1 loss away at Leverkusen, a continuation of the form which saw them hammered by Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk in last season’s competition.

There should be more of the same here.

Prediction: BATE 0-3 Roma

 

Group F

Bayern Munich vs. Dinamo Zagreb, Allianz Arena, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

Bayern Munich's German forward Thomas Mueller (C) celebrates with teamates after his penalty goal against  Olympiakos Piraeus during their Group F Champions League football match between Olympiakos and Bayern Munich at the Karaiskaki stadium in Piraeus, n
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/Getty Images

The 3-0 success at Mainz at the weekend means that it’s now nine competitive victories in a row for Bayern Munich, and let’s be honest here, it’s about to become 10.

Dinamo Zagreb’s Champions League campaign may have started with an excellent win over a rotated and out-of-sorts Arsenal, who played the majority of the match with 10 men, but winning that one and succeeding at the Allianz Arena are different matters entirely, especially when you consider the Croatians have never won a Champions League group-stage match away from home in their history.

Bayern have only lost one since 2009, and their goalscoring form over that aforementioned nine-match run—which saw them score 30 times—points at only one outcome here, and it’ll be a damaging one for the visitors.

Prediction: Bayern Munich 4-0 Dinamo Zagreb

 

Arsenal vs. Olympiakos, Emirates Stadium, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Arsenal at the King Power Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Leicester, United Kingdom.
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Familiar group-stage opponents, this will be the seventh time that Arsenal and Olympiakos have met in the Champions League since the 2009/10 season—and amazingly, the team playing at home won all of the previous six.

After losing in Zagreb, Arsenal will be desperate for six to become seven, but confidence should be high after the weekend win at Leicester City showcased both the Gunners’ fine, flowing football and the talents of Alexis Sanchez, whose hat-trick represented his first goals of the season.

Dismal on the road in the Champions League, Olympiakos have lost 12 of their last 17 away games in the competition, and although you can never be truly sure that the Gunners aren’t about to shoot themselves in the foot at any point, Alexis should be able to lead his side to victory here.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Olympiakos

 

Group G

Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs. Dynamo Kiev, Itztadion Sammy Ofer, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

Vitaliy Buyalskiy of FC Dynamo Kiev reacts after scoring against FC Porto during the UEFA Champion league group G football match between FC Dynamo Kiev and FC Porto at Olimpiysky stadium in Kiev on September  16, 2015. AFP PHOTO/GENYA SAVILOV        (Phot
GENYA SAVILOV/Getty Images

There were differing experiences for these two on Matchday 1, but the need for a victory will be easily apparent when they step out in the Israeli capital.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s first Champions League group-stage match for 11 years ended in a 4-0 defeat at Chelsea, but whatever the London club’s struggles this season their visitors that night were never going to judge their campaign on a visit to Stamford Bridge, and if they are to have any hope of European football beyond December this season then they are going to need to win this game.

The visitors arrive with the shot of confidence given to them by substitute Vitaliy Buyalskiy’s late equaliser in the 2-2 draw at home to Porto last time out, and that point will almost serve as a safety net for a match they’ll see as a perfect chance to at least improve their chances of finishing in third place in Group G, and qualifying for the Europa League.

Prediction: Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-2 Dynamo Kiev

 

Porto vs. Chelsea, Estadio do Dragao, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Jose Mourinho Manager of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Chelsea at St James' Park on September 26, 2015 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Steve We
Steve Welsh/Getty Images

As he returns to Porto, Jose Mourinho does so without the usual cock-sureness which was honed at the club he guided to the 2004 Champions League title.

His and Chelsea’s season has, quite frankly, been something of a mess, with the scramble back from two goals down to draw at Newcastle on Saturday really just papering over the cracks as the Blues continue to trail behind the leaders in the Premier League.

Porto drew 2-2 at the weekend too, but they remain unbeaten in Portugal and sit on top of the table, something they could emulate in the Champions League were they to win here. But Chelsea have won their last eight matches against Portuguese sides, and Mourinho will be determined not to suffer further embarrassment on such familiar territory.

Eight might not become nine, but surely the Blues won’t lose.

Prediction: Porto 1-1 Chelsea

 

Group H

Lyon vs. Valencia, Stade de Gerland, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

Valencia's forward Alvaro Negredo gestures during the Spanish league football match Valencia CF vs Granada CF at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on September 25, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / JOSE JORDAN        (Photo credit should read JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images
JOSE JORDAN/Getty Images

There was Matchday 1 disappointment for these two, as Lyon failed to beat a Gent side which ended the match with nine men and Valencia fell to a 3-2 defeat at home to Zenit St. Petersburg, who as a result have taken control of Group H.

That means defeat here would be unthinkable for either side, with Lyon coming into the match in indifferent form following just one win in their last five in all competitions, and the news that key man Nabil Fekir will be out until the New Year.

Alexandre Lacazette has also been struggling with a back problem, so Valencia might well sense a chance for their first points of the group stage here, although they may have to settle for just the one.

Prediction: Lyon 1-1 Valencia

 

Zenit St. Petersburg vs. Gent, Stadion Petrovskiy, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

VALENCIA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 16:  Zenit manager Andre Villas-Boas celebrates the victoy with his player Axel Witsel before the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Valencia CF and FC Zenit at the Estadi de Mestalla on September 16, 2015 in Valencia,
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

That somewhat unexpected win at Valencia has opened up the group for Zenit, who must now be expecting to make it two wins out of two when minnows Gent touch down in Russia.

The Belgians were delighted to take a point from their clash with Lyon having been reduced to nine men and indebted to a penalty save from goalkeeper Matz Sels, but you sense that everything they take from this group will indeed come at home, and they’ll have their backs to the walls here.

In his final season at Zenit before moving on again, Andre Villas-Boas—currently banned from the touchline for domestic matches—will be desperate to make Zenit the first Russian club to really make a sustained impact on a Champions League season, and that can continue here.

Prediction: Zenit 2-0 Gent

 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Group A

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Paris Saint-Germain, Arena Lviv, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

NANTES, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 26: Angel Di Maria of PSG in action during the French Ligue 1 match between FC Nantes and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Stade de la Beaujoire on September 26, 2015 in Nantes, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Shakhtar Donetsk fulfilled the role of overwhelmed visitors to the Bernabeu perfectly in Matchday 1, conceding two penalties and having Taras Stepanenko sent off as they went down 4-0 to Real Madrid. It should get easier for the Ukrainians here, but only just.

Visitors Paris Saint-Germain are still unbeaten this season, and haven’t lost a competitive match since the defeat to Barcelona at the quarter-final stage of this competition in the last campaign.

They displayed their awesome power by surging back from 1-0 down at half-time to beat Nantes 4-1 at the weekend, and if they can hit their stride in Donetsk then the home side will find it tough to stop them.

Prediction: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-3 Paris Saint-Germain

 

Malmo vs. Real Madrid, Malmo New Stadium, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

Losing 2-0 at PSG was a fairly acceptable start to their Champions League campaign for Malmo, who, in all likelihood, would probably take the same result against opponents they’ll be fearful could blow them away.

The goalless draw at home to Malaga at the weekend was a huge disappointment for Real Madrid, but that was the first time they had failed to win in six matches—a run during which they only conceded one goal.

Rafael Benitez will be expecting his charges to stroll to victory in Sweden, but they might not find it as simple as many people are suggesting.

The hosts could trouble them, but they are likely to fall short.

Prediction: Malmo 1-2 Real Madrid

 

Group B

Manchester United vs. Wolfsburg, Old Trafford, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26:  Anthony Martial of Manchester United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on September 26, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Dean Mouht
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

The 2-1 loss at PSV Eindhoven inflicted more than just a defeat on Manchester United, with the broken leg suffered by the previously in-form Luke Shaw removing one of their most-impressive performers of the campaign so far.

They’ve since recovered to move to the top of the Premier League table, though, and next up comes this clash with a Wolfsburg side who’ve taken just one point from the last six available to them in the Bundesliga.

They did, however, beat CSKA Moscow at home on Matchday 1 thanks to a Julian Draxler goal, meaning that anything they take from Manchester ought to be viewed as a bonus.

But on the return to group-stage Champions League football to Old Trafford, they might find that taking anything at all will prove to be too tough an ask.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Wolfsburg

 

CSKA Moscow vs. PSV Eindhoven, Arena Khimki, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

EINDHOVEN, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 15:  PSV Eindhoven players celebrate the goal scored by Hector Moreno #3 during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between PSV Eindhoven and Manchester United at PSV Stadion on September 15, 2015 in Eindhoven, Nethe
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Win in the Russian capital and PSV will have opened up a six-point gap on CSKA Moscow, perhaps killing off the hosts’ hopes of catching them and also creating a useful buffer when it comes to the safety net of finishing third and qualifying for the Europa League.

Achieving that win in the battle of the acronyms will be a tough ask, though.

CSKA are unbeaten in four home European games, holding teams such as Manchester City and Roma to draws during that run, but recent draws with both Zenit and Lokomotiv Moscow suggest the Arena Khimki isn’t exactly a fortress for them these days, and if PSV stay solid they can certainly take a useful point to back up their victory over Manchester United.

Prediction: CSKA Moscow 0-0 PSV Eindhoven

 

Group C

Astana vs. Galatasaray, Astana Arena, 5:00 p.m. BST / 12:00 p.m. ET

Steven Governo/Associated Press

Kazakhstan’s first-ever Champions League group game is also surely Astana’s best chance of picking up anything during their maiden campaign in the competition, given that they are hosting a team who have now gone nine matches without a win in Europe.

Galatasaray, though, will feel as though this clash offers the perfect opportunity for a first European win since beating Juventus in a weather-affected match which took two days to complete in December 2013.

Astana showed signs of promise in the 2-0 defeat at Benfica on Matchday 1, but they are winless in three games since then and might just find their visitors’ motivation to be too great.

Prediction: Astana 0-1 Galatasaray

 

Atletico Madrid vs. Benfica, Vicente Calderon, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs Getafe CF at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on September 22, 2015.   AFP PHOTO/ JAVIER SORIANO
JAVIER SORIANO/Getty Images

The weekend slip-up at Villarreal wasn’t exactly on the cards for Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid, but they can rely on a formidable home European record when Benfica come to the Vicente Calderon.

Atletico have won a remarkable 21 of their last 24 European games at the venue, and as they aim to reach at least the last eight for the third season in a row, Simeone’s side will be relying on the fine form of French forward Antoine Griezmann, whose two strikes in the opening game at Galatasaray have put the team from the Spanish capital in control of Group C.

The Portuguese visitors would be delighted with a draw following their opening win over Astana, but they are unlikely to get it.

Prediction: Atletico Madrid 3-0 Benfica

 

Group D

Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Manchester City, Borussia-Park, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

Manchester City's Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane in north London on September 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO /
JUSTIN TALLIS/Getty Images

So formidable at the beginning of the season, Manchester City are now on a run of three defeats in four matches, and given that one of those was at home to Juventus on Matchday 1 they really need to get back in the winning habit at Borussia Moenchengladbach.

The bad news for them, then, is that Gladbach have finally rediscovered how to win following six consecutive defeats—five in the Bundesliga and one in the Champions League—during a nightmare start to the campaign, but the performances in victories over Augsburg and Stuttgart will have to be improved upon if they are to beat City.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are desperate to make an impact in this competition, and with Kevin De Bruyne in fine form following three goals in three games, the Belgian with vast experience of German football could be their talisman here.

Prediction: Borussia Moenchengladbach 1-2 Manchester City

 

Juventus vs. Sevilla, Juventus Stadium, 7:45 p.m. BST / 2:45 p.m. ET

Juventus' goalkeeper from Italy Gianluigi Buffon (L) and Juventus' defender from Italy Leonardo Bonucci (R) celebrate after winning a UEFA Champions League group stage football match between Manchester City and Juventus at the Etihad stadium in Manchester
OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

The victory over City at the Etihad Stadium was a timely boost for Juventus and the ideal start to a European campaign they’ll hope echoes last season’s, but a loss at Napoli at the weekend ensures that their domestic campaign is still lurking from one crisis to another.

Sevilla, too, have been below par in their domestic season, but they’ll know they have little to fear heading to Turin given Juve’s results and performances, and anything they get will make for the perfect start given their 3-0 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach on Matchday 1.

If they play for a draw, they could get one.

Prediction: Juventus 1-1 Sevilla

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