BLOG: RWD’S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PREVIEW
Resident sports correspondent Ben Rebuck assesses the British teams chances for Matchday 3...
Matchday 3 is usually the semi-pivitol point in the Champions League group stage. Teams can take a large step towards qualification or really see their hopes start fade away.
Schalke vs Chelsea-Group E
Chelsea head to Schalke as the German’s look to extend their 100% record in the competition this season. The Blues come into the game on the back of three straight wins, and haven’t lost to that shock defeat to FC Basel on Matchday 1. Chelsea will be boosted by the news that talismanic Schalke striker Klass-jan Huntelaar is still injured, but should be weary of the threat posed by the expected return of former Premier League star Kevin Prince Boateng.
Should Chelsea win, it will set the West Londoners up nicely for qualification, with the return fixture at Stamford Bridge in just over two weeks likely to prove decisive.
Schalke shouldn’t be underestimated, and have only lost two of their last 13 home Champions League matches.
Expect a tight game with Chelsea looking to counter effectively and happily let Schalke come at them.
Prediction Schalke 1-2 Chelsea
Arsenal v Borussia Dortmund- Group F
The Gunners welcome last years beaten finalists Dortmund to the Emirates in what is sure to be an interesting encounter.
Arsenal have hit form of late, playing some explosive football as well. Wins over Marseille andNapoli see Arsenal sit pretty on top of Group F, but know Jurgen Klopp’s men pose a real threat.
Both teams play a similar style of so called ‘tikka-takka’ football, and this is looking likely to be an open, free-flowing game with either side well poised to take the points.
Arsenal’s good run of form sees them as slight favourites, as well as having home advantage. Expect Mesut Ozil to play a big part once again tonight; the German played against Klopp’s side four times for Real Madrid, scoring in the 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu in the group stages.
Prediction Arsenal 2-1
Celtic v Ajax-Group H
Celtic know a win tonight is pivotal in what is looking more likely to be Europa League qualification. The Glaswegians face Ajax, with both sides having unsurprisingly struggled against Barcelona and AC Milan. Ajax do have a point to their name, but the two teams know their home and away fixtures against one another are their best chances of picking up points.
Neil Lennon will be hoping the famous Parkhead atmosphere will drive his team on tonight, knowing full well that a loss tonight will more than scupper all chances of qualifying.
Celtic know all about the threat Ajax pose, and their young side are more than capable of picking up all the points tonight.
I fancy Celtic to win, despite a poor result against Hibbs at the weekend. The home crowd will see them through, and with Fraser Forster using the Champions League as his own personal stage, I can even see them keeping a clean sheet in the process.
Prediction Celtic 1-0 Ajax
Man United v Real Sociedad-Group A
David Moyes’ men welcome Sociedad to Old Trafford knowing they need a win to relieve a bit of pressure they’ve been feeling recently. A late equaliser by Southampton on the weekend piled more misery on the Manchester club, who’ve struggled for consistency in the post-Ferguson era.
That said, and despite another late equaliser in Donetsk, United should have enough in the ranks to come through this game.
Sociedad travel to Salford with no points to their name, but with enough talent to cause United a few problems.
Former Arsenal frontman Carlos Vela has scored five goals this season, and in Ruben Pardo, Sociedad have a real talent on their hands. A 2-1 win away to Valencia at the weekend will give the Spaniards the confidence they need going into the game, and will look to cause an upset against a less than convincing United side.
Prediction United 2-2 Sociedad
CSKA Moscow v Mann City-Group D
City face a tough away trip to Moscow on Wednesday, with concerns over the playing surface already an issue. CSKA had to play their last game in St Petersburg due to the surface of the pitch at the Arena Khimki being deemed unplayable. The pitch has passed an inspection for the game tomorrow, but City’s style of play may suffer.
The Manchester side like to play the ball of the deck, and Manuel Pelligrini’s men may have to change their game plan. City’s form away from home has been indifferent, winning just one league game on their travels. The four-hour trip to Moscow isn’t ideal, but CSKA have lost their last two league games and City should capatalise on this fact.
Despite the pitch and the distance, I more than expect City to score a few goals after their convincing win at Upton Park on the weekend.
Prediction CSKA 0-3 City
Words by Ben Rebuck