[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ction across Europe last night in eight centres produced eight (8) goals. Are we likely to see more tonight? We have a comprehensive preview for you.
Real Madrid versus Juventus became the stage’s marquee matchup when the teams were drawn in the same group. The teams currently exist on subtly different levels. Real Madrid has made three straight Champions League semifinals while Juventus is still trying to regain their European footing. They’ve yet to threaten for a UEFA honours since returning to Serie A.
Real Madrid cruised through opening matches against Galatasaray and Copenhagen, scoring 10 times while conceding once. Juventus have yet to win a game in the group.
Ins and Outs: Xabi Alonso’s still out for Real Madrid, but that’s it as far as their absences. Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Fabio Coentrao and Raphaël Varane are eligible to feature tonight.
For Juventus, Mirko Vucinic, Fabio Quagliarella and Stephan Lichtsteiner are all out.
Prediction: Real Madrid 2-0 Juventus
CSKA Moscow (Russia) vs. Manchester City (England)
Until Manchester City claim a spot in the knockout round, there’ll always be doubts about whether they’ve made the changes necessary to transcend their previous failures. They have brought in Manuel Pellegrini, a good manager and a handful of players, Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic but until they’ve actually clinched a spot in the tournament’s second round, it’s all means without an end.
A Wednesday win over CSKA would be a huge step forward. The Russians are going to be City’s biggest obstacle to reaching the second round, an obstacle they’ll be through with in a forth-night. If City can take four points in these next two games, they’ll put one foot into the final 16.
Without Dzagoev in the team, CSKA look completely lost and while they overcame Viktoria Plzen last time out in Europe, City are a much tougher proposition and it’s expected that the Premier League side will come away with all 3 points.
INS AND OUTS:
For CSKA, Alan Dzagoev is out while Igor Akinfeev may recover in time to start between the sticks. Seydou Doumbia made his long awaited return from injury in the 2-0 defeat to Zenit on Friday, but may start from the bench against Manchester City and Aleksandrs Cauna will certainly miss out through injury.
For Manchester City, Manager Manuel Pellegrini will be without Martín Demichelis, Jack Rodwell and Vincent Kompany for the trip to Russia, meaning Joleon Lescott or Javi García will start alongside Matija Nastasic at centre-back. Jesús Navas wasn’t involved against West Ham, with Samir Nasri expected to keep his place in the midfield for the encounter.
Prediction: CSKA Moscow 1-3 Manchester City
For Bayern, Pep Guardiola’s trying to say the right, respectful things of his visiting minnows, but the emphasis is on the defending champions. Philipp Lahm’s expected to be back at right back, Bastian Schweinsteiger should resume a holding role, and the newly healthy Mario Götze will be back in midfield. How well Bayern plays with something resembling their first choice team will be as interesting as their opposition.
INS AND OUTS:
For Bayern, Jerome Boateng is suspended and with Dante now sidelined with an ankle problem, Guardiola’s hand has been forced somewhat with veteran Daniel van Buyten set to come into the side. Javi Martinez has just returned to training but he won’t be fit enough to fill in on Wednesday so summer signing Jan Kirchoff will make his first start for the club. David Alaba was rested at the weekend but should return to the XI while Franck Ribery was left out of the squad entirely as a precaution, but should also be back in contention.
For Plzen, Centre-back Marian Cisovsky is back available having missed the previous two group games and he should return to the side with Roman Hubnik dropping out. Fellow defender David Limbersky is set to continue to miss out having not played over the past month due to a thigh injury. Marek Bakos should continue to lead the line after scoring in Moscow earlier this month but faces competition from Tomas Wagner.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 4-0 Viktoria Plzen
Having started the season poorly, Manchester United remain unbeaten in Europe and will look to continue that record with the welcome of Real Sociedad. The Premier League champions must pick up a win here in order to ease the pressure building on manager David Moyes.
Real Socieded on the other hand have endured a similarly tumultuous start to their domestic campaign and need to pick up a positive result if they’re to stand any chance of making it through Group A. They’ll be buoyed, however, in that United have lost their last 2 competitive fixtures at the hands of Spanish sides at Old Trafford. However, without the services of key man Esteban Granero, United are tipped to come away with a victory here, but it’s likely to be a close encounter at Old Trafford.
INS AND OUTS:
For United, David Moyes will be without the services of long-term absentee Darren Fletcher, while Nemanja Vidic is sidelined and will miss out. Rio Ferdinand, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley are all doubtful and may not be available.
For Real Sociedad, will be without the services of injured trio Esteban Granero, Diego Ifrán and Daniel Estrada for the trip to Manchester United.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Real Sociedad
In Brussels, Paris Saint-Germain will try to maintain their perfect record against an Anderlecht side again struggling to make an impact in group stage. PSG coach Laurent Blanc has said a win is a “must,” a demand looking more toward the knockout rounds than Group C’s dynamics. If his team is going to accomplish it’s bigger goal (having a real impact in Champions League), they need to manage the smaller ones.
INS AND OUTS:
For Anderlecht, Ronaldo Vargas misses out through injury and Goalkeeper Silvio Proto isn’t expected to recover in time so Thomas Kaminski should continue to deputise.
For PSG, Christophe Jallet is expected to miss out after being forced off during the win over Bastia at the weekend. Javier Pastore and Thiago Silva remain absent, while Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti are available after missing out due to domestic suspension. Gregory van der Wiel is one yellow card away from a European suspension.
Prediction: Anderlecht 1-2 PSG
- Galatasaray (Turkey) vs. Copenhagen (Denmark)
- Coming off a draw at Juve, the Turkish champions hope their new coach, Roberto Mancini, can help them push for a second straight appearance in the knockout round. That goal means getting the best of Copenhagen, with a home win on Wednesday crucial to their upset hopes. It’s uncertain how the Danes will cope with the Istanbul crowd.
- INS AND OUTS:
For Galatasaray, Manager Roberto Mancini has made a few changes since his appointment, starting Sabri Sarioglu and Ceyhun Gülselam in his first two league matches in charge. The Italian went with one up front against Juventus in his first match in charge but he may revert to a 4-3-1-2 against a more favourable opponent, with Yilmaz partnering Drogba in attack. Semih Kaya and Aurelien Chedjou are the preferred pairing at the back with Wesley Sneijder, who scored twice at the weekend, given the free role behind the strikers.
For Copenhagen, Left-back Pierre Bengtsson has missed the last two league matches through injury so youngster Cristoffer Remmer may continue to deputise. Stale Solbakken may be keen to avoid disrupting his team’s flow after an impressive 3-0 victory over AaB at the weekend so the starting XI could remain unchanged.
Prediction: Galatasaray 2-0 FC Copenhagen
Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)
Two teams with similar levels of talent meet with vastly different Champions League experience. Mircea Lucescu’s Skakhtar side has been in this situation before, whereas a Leverkusen team that has less experience showed their nerves against Manchester United. Both teams are extremely dangerous going forward, potentially testing who blinks first. Will Sami Hyypiä be the first to protect his defense? Or will Lucescu feel the need to offset the threats of Stefan Kießling and Sidney Sam.
INS AND OUTS:
Bayer Leverkusen’s Coach, Sami Hyypia will be without the services of Lars Bender and Levin Mete Öztunal through injury, while Son Heung-Min could come into the starting XI after being an unused sub last time out.
For Shaktar Donetsk , the Ukrainian side may remain unchanged from the weekend’s victory in the domestic scene with head coach Mircea Lucescu facing no troubling injury concerns.
Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Shaktar Donetsk
Benfica (Portugal) vs. Olympiacos (Greece)
Paris Saint-Germain is going to win this group, but Benfica and Olympiacos are vying to claim Group C’s second knockout stage spot. Both teams have beaten Anderlecht and lost to PSG, results that could be replicated in the group’s last two rounds. How these two do against each other should decide who’s still in this tournament come February.
INS AND OUTS:
Benfica have a number of injury worries, with attacking players in Lazar Markovic and Rodrigo both forced off at the weekend and doubtful for this game as a result. Gaitan could play on the left in Markovic’s absence, while Rodrigo may not have been involved anyway. Miralem Sulejmani is also a doubt, while Eduardo Salvio and Silvio are both still out.