Chelsea’s Spanish midfielder Pedro (3R) celebrates scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Chelsea and Qarabag at Stamford Bridge in London on September 12, 2017. PHOTO: Adrian DENNIS / AFP
Match-week two of the UEFA Champions League begins today and there are some tantalizing fixtures on the list. In the last match-week, we saw a lot of the ‘big boys’ strut their stuff as the likes of Barcelona, PSG, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid all put at least three goals past their respective opponents and conceded none.
Perhaps the most noteworthy performance was that of Barcelona, who put three unreplied goals past last year’s finalists Juventus, in what was supposed to be a very tough fixture. Talking about ‘tough’ fixtures, there are a few that can be put in that category this weekend, at least on paper, and I will be previewing those games below.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND vs REAL MADRID
Tonight at the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, Borrusia Dortmund will host Real Madrid in what has become a routine fixture at the Champions League over the past few seasons. The Spanish giants have been unable to get a win in Germany against Dortmund in their last five UCL fixtures and the German team will be desperate for a win after losing away to Tottenham on match-day one. They have been on fire in the German Bundesliga, winning five and drawing just once in the six games they’ve played so far in the league and they have also scored nineteen goals and conceded just once.
That is the type of form they will be looking to transfer into the UCL and the stage doesn’t get any bigger than against the two-time defending champions of the competition. Real Madrid began the season in scintillating form, beating Manchester United to win the UEFA Super Cup and dispatching Barcelona home and away to lift the Spanish Super Cup. However, their form has been patchy since then as they have only been able to win three games out of the six they have played in the league so far, drawing against the likes of Levante and Valencia and losing to Real Betis at home. Their defense is brittle as they have conceded in all but one of their six league matches this season and against a high scoring Dortmund side at home, they need to shore it up at the back or they will be terribly exposed.
Borussia Dortmund have not lost a Champions League fixture at home to Real Madrid, winning three and drawing three of their six meetings and they would not want to start now. However, they will be without at least six players through injury for this game as the likes of Andre Schurrle, Marcel Schmelzer, Erik Durm, Raphael Guerreiro, Sebastian Rode and Marco Reus are all out. Real Madrid will be without Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Theo Hernandez and Mateo Kovacic, while Toni Kroos is also a huge doubt for this game. Madrid have only lost once this season but their performances haven’t been anywhere near the level we expect from them, this should be a very interesting encounter filled with goals and can be won by either side.
PSG vs BAYERN MUNICH
Carlo Ancelotti will take his current Bayern team to the home of PSG, his old stomping ground, tomorrow night in what is definitely the marquee fixture of this match-week. PSG sent shockwaves around the football world when they shattered the transfer record to buy out Neymar from his contract at Barcelona during the offseason, a move that showed their intention of becoming a serious force to be reckoned with on the continent. Their squad is arguably the most star-studded in the competition and winning the competition should be their top priority this season. They thrashed Celtic 5-0 away from home on match-week one handing the former European champions their worst home loss on the continent in the process.
They won seven games on the bounce in all competitions before their stalemate with Montpellier in the league last weekend, which coincided with the absence of Neymar in the squad for that game. There’s been some tension between Neymar and Cavani recently and it needs to be settled quickly so that they can concentrate on delivering results on the pitch, before it destabilizes the team. They are almost invincible at home in the UCL as they have only been beaten once in twenty-four home games in the competition, so Ancelotti and his Bayern side have to produce something special if they plan to leave the Parc des Princess with all three points. Bayern started the season with a five-match winning run which came to an end after they lost at Hoffenheim three days before their 3-0 win against Anderlecht on match-week one. They stuttered again last weekend as they surrendered a two goal lead to draw 2-2 at home against Wolfsburg in the league last weekend.
PSG are unbeaten at home against German teams with five wins and a draw, while Bayern have lost six times in fourteen visits to France. Javier Pastore out for PSG, while Angel Di Maria is a doubt and Neymar, who missed the 0-0 draw with Montpellier with a foot issue, should be fit to feature in this game. For Bayern, Arturo Vidal should be back following his suspension, while Tiago Alcantara and David Alaba are doubts and Juan Bernat is out. PSG have an array of weapons in attack and it might just be too much for the Bavarians to handle, but write off any team managed by Ancelotti at your own peril, especially this talented Bayern side.
ATLETICO MADRID VS CHELSEA
This fixture would have had a very interesting sub plot, if Atletico had not been hit with a transfer ban and had acquired Diego Costa in the offseason. The talismanic Spaniard, who guided Chelsea to the league title last season with his goals fell out spectacularly with his coach Antonio Conte and was pushed out of the club. He has returned to Atleti and will definitely be cheering the Spanish side as they welcome Chelsea to the Wanda Metropolitano tomorrow night. The La Liga team is unbeaten in all competitions this season with 4 wins and 3 draws from their 7 matches so far and were held to a goal-less draw by Roma in match-week one. They have a 100% record at home so far this season and haven’t conceded at their new home ground yet.
Chelsea have been on a fine run of form recently with six wins and a draw from their last seven games in all competitions and will head into this tie full of confidence as they have won all their away games in the EPL this season. It will be interesting to watch two very pragmatic and passionate coaches as Diego Simeone and Antonio Conte try to outwit each other in this fixture. Both coaches have almost fully fit squads to choose from and this would allow us see these teams at their finest. Atleti have kept clean sheets in 18 of their last 22 home matches in the Champions League and the only team that has breached their net more than once in that span is Benfica, while Chelsea have been scoring for fun recently with fifteen goals from their last four matches in all competitions. This game has a draw written all over it.