It’s match day two in the UEFA Champions League and after the first round of matches, players and managers seem to be gradually getting in their stride. Here’s a look at this week’s fixtures.
Arguably the biggest game of the week, Paris St Germain host Spanish powerhouse and Group F leaders Barcelona albeit without Zlatan Ibrahimovic. PSG are unbeaten in nine matches this season but have drawn six of those fixture. Barcelona however have won all their matches bar one and not conceded any goals this season, strange for the side from Catalunya. Barcelona knocked PSG out of the Champions League last season and it must have hurt the Parisians. Barcelona coming off a 6-0 victory in LaLiga are in boisterous mood with Messi and Neymar firing on all cylinders. Key for PSG would be Edinson Cavani, taking your chances is critical against Barca and he must be on top form to give the Spaniards things to ponder. Ajax travel to APOEL after an impressive display against PSG on Match day 1.
Chelsea travel to Lisbon in Group G, capital of Portugal, a country they have never lost in the Champions League. Coming off the back of a draw in their first game against Schalke 04, the blues must respond and star striker Diego Costa would feature despite his troublesome hamstrings. Expect Chelsea to be too powerful in midfield though Sporting would be dangerous on the counter-attack. With Nani eager to impress after poor performances over the last few seasons with Manchester United, Sporting have the drive they need in the team. Champions League football returns to the Jose Alvalade stadium for the first time in five years, it’s been long awaited. Schalke 04 host Maribor in the other fixture and are expected to take all maximum on the back of their impressive Ruhr derby victory over Dortmund at the weekend.
In Group E, Manchester City have never played Roma in any competition, but striker Stefan Jovetic returns after missing the last few weeks with an hamstring injurie. Roma have injury concerns of their own as well but talisman Francesco Totti is fit to play. Midfield battle between Danielle De Rossi and Yaya Toure should have a say on who wins this one but after a spirited display at the Allianz Arena last time out, City are in pole position for the win, although defensive frailties might be their undoing as Roma look like a strong force especially on the break with the likes of Gervinho leading the attack.
The Citizens have failed to keep a clean sheet since they defeated Newcastle United 2-0 on the first day of the season and please don’t count Sheffield Wednesday in the cup. Contrast Roma who have keep four of five clean sheets in Seria A and whipped five past CSKA Moskva on match day 1. In the other fixture in the group Bayern travel to CSKA Moskva in the early fixture.
In Group A, Atletico Madrid were stunned in Greece on match day 1, and would be eager to get back to winning ways at the first time of asking, facing Italian champions Juventus doesn’t make it any easier. Juventus have won all matches this season in Seria A and also strolled past Malmo last time out. Atletico are missing the presence of Diego Simione on the touch line but still have enough in them to take the match to the Old Lady. The other fixture in the group sees Olympiakos visit Malmo in Sweden, another win for the Greeks puts them in pole position to be the surprise packages of the group.
In Group B, Real Madrid travel to Bulgaria to face Ludogorets Razgad, a repeat scoreline against Basel on match day 1 might not be too far fetched. With the attacking form Madrid are in, the goals should flow in Razgad. Ronaldo has 10 goals in five games, while the team have 20 in their last six away champions League ties. Liverpool travel to Basel and must be wary of the Swiss outfit who pipped Chelsea at the St Yacob park last season. Liverpool were nervy against Ludogorets on match day 1 and haven’t been in the best of forms in recent weeks. Basel are their closest challengers in the group, getting on over them is absolutely crucial.
Group D sees Galatasaray arrive at the Emirates having never defeated an English team in England, but all records are meant to be broken and Cesare Prandelli’s men would look to get something from a wounded Arsenal. Aaron Ramsey is out with an hamstring injury and it seems despite the signing of Danny Welbeck that the gunners do miss Olivier Giroud. Who would have thought that. Nevertheless Arsene Wenger’s lads should be too much for the Turkish lads despite only winning two of their last nine matches in all competition. Dortmund make the short trip to Belgium to play Anderlecht.
Other matches on Match day 2, confident Porto take on Ukrainian powerhouses Shakhtar Donetsk in Lviv amidst violence in the country while Athletic Club travel to Bate Borisov. Andre Villas-Boas has won almost every game as Zenit boss, they host Monaco on match day 2 while Benfica travel to leverkusen.