Champions League matchday 3: Real Madrid can’t afford to fail vs. Inter
This week will mark the halfway point of the Champions League group stage, and matchday three has plenty of big games — and big implications — to cover. There’s the stress piling up on Real Madrid, for example: they host Inter Milan and need a good result, having drawn vs. Borussia Monchengladbach and lost at Zenit to open their campaign. Can Zinedine Zidane & Co. get back on track?
Elsewhere in the groups, Liverpool face a tough away trip to Atalanta in Group D, Borussia Dortmund need a win at Club Brugge on Wednesday to get back on track in Group F, Juventus can wash away their defeat to Barcelona by thrashing Ferencvaros in Group G, and PSG take on RB Leipzig, with second place in Group H at stake heading into the final three matchdays at the end of November.
With that in mind, we run you through all the action ahead of what promises to be another unpredictable, dramatic week of Champions League action.
Standings: Bayern (6 pts), Atletico Madrid (3 pts), Lokomotiv Moscow (1 pt), FC Salzburg (1 pt)
Lokomotiv are on a poor run of form, having lost their past two games in the Russian Premier League and boasting just one point from their first two Champions League matches. They have Vedran Corluka and Stanislav Magkeev missing against an Atletico Madrid side likely to be without Diego Costa and Yannick Carrasco, but have Saul back in the mix after an injury.
Diego Simeone’s side won 3-1 at Osasuna on Saturday with Joao Felix scoring twice and Lucas Torreira also grabbing a goal. With one win from their opening two, they’ll aim to get a result in Moscow to further cement themselves in the top two of Group A, and we expect they’ll get all three points.
Jan Aage Fjortoft breaks down Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund’s victories ahead of Der Klassiker.
Salzburg are sweeping all before them in the Austrian Bundesliga, winning 5-0 at the weekend with Noah Okafor grabbing a hat trick against WSG Wattens alongside Sekou Keita’s brace. Star striker Patson Daka is still absent, but they’ll still look to be more than just a bump in the road for the reigning European champions.
Bayern Munich are without Niklas Sule, who tested positive for COVID-19, while Alphonso Davies is still out injured. But they are still on track in the Bundesliga, winning 2-1 at Cologne at the weekend even with Robert Lewandowski rested. They’ll hope to park the off-field drama over David Alaba‘s future when they travel to Austria ahead of Tuesday’s match.
The German side should be too strong for Salzburg even with one eye on next Saturday’s “Der Klassiker” against Borussia Dortmund.
Standings: Shakhtar Donetsk (4 pts), Borussia Monchengladbach (2 pts), Inter (2 pts), Real Madrid (1 pt)
Shakhtar are ticking along nicely in Group B. They also won 4-1 against Mariupol on Friday, with Taison grabbing two goals along with one each from Heorhii Sudakov and Alan Patrick. But they will be without Yevhen Konoplyanka, Fernando and Dentinho while Borussia Monchengladbach are pretty much at full strength, bar long-term absentee Denis Zakaria. They got an impressive 1-0 over RB Leipzig at the weekend with Hannes Wolf scoring.
While one might expect a high-scoring draw between two attack-minded teams, ‘Gladbach have the quality in depth to get all three points.
Real Madrid are incredibly still without a win in the Champions League this season but will take heart from battling back from two goals down to draw at Gladbach in the last round. They won 4-1 at the weekend against Huesca with Eden Hazard back fit and firing with a remarkable goal alongside two from Karim Benzema and one from Federico Valverde. They will be without Eder Militao for Tuesday as he’s ruled out with the coronavirus, while they are still struggling at right-back with Alvaro Odriozola, Nacho and Dani Carvajal all absent.
This is a must-win for either side, and you’d be hard-pushed to bet against Madrid with the pressure on.
Standings: Man City (6 pts), FC Porto (3 pts), Olympiakos (3 pts), Marseille (0 pts)
Man City ground out a 1-0 win at Sheffield United on Saturday, with Kyle Walker scoring, but are still likely to be without Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus on Tuesday. But they have made a perfect start to their Champions League campaign with two wins from two, while Olympiacos have grabbed three points from a possible six. They lost to Porto last time out, but won 2-0 at the weekend against Apollon Smyrni with Ahmed Mahgoub scoring twice.
All signs point to a commanding home win despite City struggling to recreate the high-scoring form that’s defined the Pep Guardiola era.
Porto fell to a surprise 3-2 defeat at Pacos Ferreira on Saturday, but will back themselves to make it two from two in the Champions League when they welcome Marseille. Andre Villas-Boas’ side are zero from two in Europe and had their Ligue 1 match against Lens called off at the weekend due to COVID-19. They have a full-strength squad to pick from and the required rest to put on a strong showing in midweek.
Standings: Liverpool (6 pts), Atalanta (4 pts), Ajax (1 pts), FC Midtjylland (0 pts)
Midtjylland suffered a surprise 4-1 defeat to Nordsjaelland on Saturday and host Ajax looking for their first points and goals in the Champions League this term. Ajax won 5-2 at the weekend in the Eredivisie, with Davy Klaassen (two), Brian Brobbey, Dusan Tadic and Quincy Promes all scoring against Fortuna Sittard, but will be without Nicolas Tagliafico and Mohammed Kudus for Tuesday’s match in Denmark.
The news has since gotten worse for Ajax, with 11 first-team squad members absent due to a rash of positive COVID-19 tests prior to traveling to Denmark. Ajax are required to play if they have 13 squad members on their “A list” available.
Craig Burley says Diogo Jota’s performance could make Jurgen Klopp adjust his tactics going forward.
Atalanta’s topsy-turvy season continued with a 2-1 win at Crotone on Saturday in Serie A, as they prepared for the visit of Jurgen Klopp’s side. They are without Marten de Roon and Mattia Caldara for Tuesday’s game; meanwhile, Liverpool are getting positive news on the injury front with Naby Keita and Joel Matip both potentially available.
Thiago and Virgil Van Dijk will miss out, but Liverpool have a perfect record in the Champions League this term and will hope to build on Saturday’s 2-1 win over Sheffield United. This one might be too close to call.
Standings: Chelsea (4 pts), Sevilla (4 pts), Krasnodar (1 pt), Rennes (1 pt)
Chelsea are building nicely with their 3-0 win over Burnley on Saturday, where Hakim Ziyech, Kurt Zouma and Timo Werner all scored, but they are likely to be without Christian Pulisic for Wednesday’s match after he was injured prematch at the weekend.
Frank Lampard’s side have four points from six and will entertain a Stade Rennes side who will likely be without star midfielder Eduardo Camavinga and defender Daniele Rugani. They edged past Brest on Saturday with Damian Da Silva and Nayef Aguerd both scoring.
Chelsea have the class and the options to get all three points this week.
Steve Nicol feels Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Burnley was their best performance of the season so far.
Sevilla are having a rough time of it at the moment with no wins in four in La Liga, but will look to the Champions League to rediscover some of their best form after defeating Rennes last week. Suso missed their past two games but could be fit for Wednesday’s match.
Krasnodar’s dismal season continued Saturday as they lost 2-0 at Akhmat Grozny, and they have a lengthy injury list that includes Remy Cabella, Evgeniy Markov, Viktor Claesson, Wanderson and Sergey Petrov. This should be an easy home win for a side that could use one.
Standings: Lazio (4 pts), Club Brugge (4 pts), Dortmund (3 pts), Zenit (0 pts)
Zenit won 2-0 on the road at Khimki on Sunday, with Andrei Mostovoy and Aleksandr Yerokhin both scoring, but they are without any points in Europe so far. Malcom is out injured for the hosts while Lazio travel with a number of players absent.
The Serie A side won a remarkable game at Torino 4-3 on Sunday, with Andreas Pereira, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Ciro Immobile and Felipe Caicedo all scoring. They could be without Manuel Lazzari, Djavan Anderson and Luis Alberto due to COVID-19 protocols while Stefan Radu, Gonzalo Escalante, Denis Vavro and Adam Marusic are all doubtful.
Expect Zenit to shock Lazio given the stress and effort exerted by the Italian side in Sunday’s comeback victory.
The Belgian side have four points from six in Europe, but drew 2-2 at the weekend with Mechelen at the Jan Breydel Stadium. They will likely be without Federico Ricca. Borussia Dortmund won 2-0 at Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday but star defender Mats Hummels is a big concern after he limped off late in the game after grabbing both goals. Erling Haaland is also a doubt but Borussia are confident he will feature after recovering from his knee injury.
The outcome might depend on how much Dortmund are willing to risk with a Bundesliga top-of-the-table clash with Bayern Munich up this weekend. If Brugge are to remain in the hunt for a last-16 place, they could catch their German visitors off-guard this week.
Standings: Barcelona (6 pts), Juventus (3 pts), Dynamo Kiev (1 pt), Ferencvaros (1 pt)
Barcelona drew 1-1 at Alaves at the weekend with Antoine Griezmann scoring, although they’ll be without Coutinho for the visit of Dynamo Kiev. They are hoping Samuel Umtiti is fit for Wednesday with Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet set to continue in central defence while Marc-Andre ter Stegen could return after injury.
Dynamo Kiev are battling a huge absentee list, according to reports, with as many as 11 players missing after a COVID-19 outbreak at the club. They have one point from their first two matches and will be big underdogs for Wednesday’s match. Barcelona’s indifferent La Liga form shouldn’t matter in the Champions League.
Ale Moreno feels Lionel Messi is hurting Barcelona by trying to create everything himself.
The Hungarian side were hammered by Barcelona in matchday one, but drew with Dynamo Kiev last time around. They were also held at the weekend 1-1 at Fehervar. Juventus welcomed back Cristiano Ronaldo in their 4-1 win at Spezia on Sunday, with the Portugal legend scoring twice alongside other goals from Alvaro Morata and Adrien Rabiot. They lost to Barcelona last time out so will look to get back to winning ways in Budapest, but they will be without Giorgio Chiellini and Alex Sandro.
That said, Juve have more than enough firepower and defensive resolve to emerge with a big win and a nice boost to their goal difference should tie-breakers be an issue in determining who advances.
Standings: Man United (6 pts), PSG (3 pts), RB Leipzig (3 pts), Istanbul Basaksehir (0 pts)
Gab Marcotti believes Arsenal’s win against Man United was partly because they couldn’t handle “disruptive” Thomas Partey.
The Turkish side won 2-1 at Konyaspor on Sunday, moving them up to seventh in the Super Lig, though they’re still searching for their first points in the Champions League this term after losing both matches 2-0 to RB Leipzig and PSG. They have a number of players unavailable with Nacer Chadli, Mahmut Tekdemir and Enzo Crivelli all absent.
While Manchester United have been brilliant in the Champions League, with two impressive wins from two, their Premier League form has been poor. They fell to a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford to Arsenal on Sunday and will probably be without Alex Telles for Wednesday’s match due to COVID-19. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would take an away point and no injuries, but they should be able to remain perfect in CL play.
Leipzig suffered their first defeat in the Bundesliga this season on Saturday against Borussia Monchengladbach and will still be smarting from their 5-0 defeat to Manchester United last time out in Group H. They have Konrad Laimer, Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg all absent.
PSG won 3-0 at Nantes on Saturday thanks to goals from Ander Herrera, Kylian Mbappe and Pablo Sarabia and are searching for their second victory in the Champions League this season. Neymar will miss Wednesday’s match while Julian Draxler, Leandro Paredes, Mauro Icardi, Marco Verratti and Juan Bernat are also likely absent.
The winner of this game would get a big edge heading into matchdays four through six given Man United’s hot start, although as Atalanta showed in last season’s competition, there’s still plenty of time left to turn things around.