Champions League Preview: Arsenal may have met their match while Chelsea desperately need a win
It’s Matchday 2 of the UEFA Champions League are there are some mouth-watering clashes to look forward to. All eyes will be on Chelsea and Jose Mourinho as they look to bounce back from a shock home defeat on the opening day against FC Basel. Dortmund too, were beaten on Matchday 1 and last season’s finalists will look to put things right. Celtic vs Barcelona brings back some incredible memories from last season, while Arsenal vs Napoli has its fair share of plots and sub-plots.
If you’re planning to drive to one of the football stadiums hosting this round of Champions League matches make sure that you already have your car insurance sorted out – get a quote from Express Insurance if you haven’t already. In any case, whether you’re in the stadium or watching from home, we’ve put together a comprehensive preview of each Champions League game taking place today (with another preview to come for tomorrow’s game).
Enjoy the previews, and do give us your predictions and feedback in the comments at the end.
Steaua Bucharest vs Chelsea:
Of all the English sides in this season’s competition, Chelsea’s group was considered by many to be the easiest. But after the opening day 2-1 defeat at the hands of Basel at home, Jose Mourinho’s side face an uphill task to put things right and stay in the UEFA Champions League. The Blues exited the competition in the group stages last season and will be keen to avoid another occurrence of the same.
Early Trouble: Jose Mourinho and Chelsea will look to get register their first win in this season’s UEFA Champions League
Eden Hazard is out for Chelsea due to injury, while Kevin De Bruyne hasn’t travelled with the side. Fernando Torres and Juan Mata are both in line for starts after impressing at the weekend.
Their opponents Steaua also lost on the opening day to Schalke but will be buoyed by the fact that they beat Chelsea 1-0 at home in March earlier this year. Even though that was the last 16 tie of the Europa League, the side that Chelsea put out will be quite similar to the one that they will field on Tuesday.
Steaua manager Laurentiu Reghecampf has a fully fit side to choose from.
Chelsea are absolutely desperate for a win and though the Romanian side will make it as difficult as possible for them, Mourinho’s side should be good enough to scrape through and get the three points they so vitally need.
Steaua Bucharest 0-1 Chelsea
FC Basel vs Schalke 04
Basel shocked the UEFA Champions League by coming from behind to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Matchday 2. In the past seasons, they have eliminated both Manchester United and Liverpool in the group stages and are looking to do the same to the Blues this time around. Their next task though, is a home game against German giants Schalke. A win here will see the Swiss side take a big step towards qualification to the knockout rounds.
The only injury worry for manager Murat Yakin is Fabian Schar, who is nursing a knee problem. Yakin though, is optimistic that Schar will feature on Tuesday.
Schalke also won on the opening day and a win here for them will also be a huge step towards qualification to the last 16. The Germans face Chelsea twice in the next couple of Matchdays and will therefore be looking for three points here against Basel to put themselves in a relatively comfortable position.
Julian Draxler missed Schalke’s 3-3 draw at the weekends against Hoffenheim with a knee injury but could be fit for this one. Manager Jans Keller is though without Christian Fuchs, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Jermaine Jones and Chinedu Obasi.
Both the managers know each other very well and will know exactly how to set up to get the best result out of the game. Schalke look the better side on paper, but with Basel having the home advantage, the two sides may well cancel each other out.
FC Basel 1-1 Schalke 04
Arsenal vs Napoli
Arsenal come into this game against Napoli in outstanding form, with a run of 7 wins in 7 in all competitions. They are currently top of the Premier League and sit pretty in the UEFA Champions League group as well. They beat Marseille in their first group game in France, putting in an impressive show in a 2-1 victory. But there is a long way to go in Group F, billed as this season’s Group of Death in the Champions League. A win here against Napoli though, will see the Gunners in a very comfortable position indeed.
Arsene Wenger has a long list of injury worries as Theo Walcott (abdominal muscle), Santi Cazorla (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Abou Diaby (knee), Lukas Podolski (hamstring) and Yaya Sanogo (back) are all.
Napoli beat last season’s finalists Borussia Dortmund 2-1 on Matchday 2 and come into this game against Arsenal full of confidence. Rafa Benitez’s men are unbeaten in Seria A so far and will be more than a handful for Arsenal. Gonzalo Higuain, who nearly joined Arsenal in the summer before sealing a move to Italy, has been brilliant for the Partenopei this season and it will be interesting to see how he performs at the Emirates.
Higuain though, is in a race to be fit after suffering a thigh injury in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Genoa. His former Real Madrid teammate Raul Albiol also suffered a similar injury in that game and may miss out against Arsenal.
This is probably the best game of Matchday 3 as two in-form sides go head to head. Arsenal should be favourites with home advantage at their side, but Napoli may spring a surprise and get something from this game.
Arsenal 2-2 Napoli
Borussia Dortmund vs Marseille
German powerhouses Borussia Dortmund will be looking to bounce back from their opening day defeat against Napoli when they take on Marseille on Matchday 3 at the BVB Arena. It is vital that Dortmund pick up a win here to stay in touch with Arsenal and Napoli, as falling behind even this early on in the campaign may prove costly. Manager Jurgen Klopp has said that there is ‘revenge on the cards’ for Dortmund, as they were beaten both home and away by Marseille in the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League group stage.
Klopp and goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller were both sent off during the game against Napoli and will therefore be absent again from the action. The only injury casualty for Dortmund is Marcel Schmelzer.
Marseille are favourites to finish last in the Group of Death, but the French side are sure to give it a fight. Their loss to Arsenal at home on Matchday 2 did them no favours whatsoever and now they face the mountainous task of having to get a result against Dortmund, who are absolutely imperious at home.
Striker Andre-Pierre Gignac misses out with a toe injury, while full-back Jeremy Morel is also injured. Manager Elie Baup will also be without Benoit Cheyrou, who hasn’t travelled to Germany due to personal reasons.
It is very difficult to see any result apart from a Dortmund win in this one. The Germans are in good form and also desperately need the three points to open their account in Group F. It should be a comfortable outing for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Marseille
The two favourites from Group G go head-to-head on Matchday 3, looking to build on their opening day victories. With both these sides in pole position to qualify, this game is more about deciding who finished top of the group.
Porto are unbeaten at home in 75 games in the Portuguese league and will be looking to bring that form into the UEFA Champions League. They won 1-0 at Austria Wien in their first group game, but will need to step it up to the next gear if they are to beat Atletico.
Manager Paulo Fonseca’s only injury worry for this key game is centre-back Maicon.
Atletico Madrid have made the most incredible start to the season, with 7 wins in 7 games in La Liga. Their latest win against Real Madrid confirmed that they are a real force to be reckoned with this season. Their 3-1 win over Zenit in their opening group game saw them put in a really impressive show, and there is no doubt that they are favourites to qualify as group winners of Group G.
Manager Diego Simeone will be without in-form striker Diego Costa, who serves the last of his European ban. Mario Suarez and Adrian Lopez are also out.
Porto boast of a fantastic home record in the league but doing it against the elite from the whole of Europe is a completely different ballgame altogether. They will cause problems for Atletico in some areas of the pitch, but the Spanish side should be good enough to come away with all three points.
FC Porto 1-2 Atletico Madrid
FC Zenit vs FK Austria Wien
Zenit go into their home game against Austrian outfit Wien is really good form. Their recent outings in Europe at St. Petersburg have been extremely fruitful, yielding 6 wins in 7 matches. They have lost just once in the last 23 games at home in Europe and will be looking to continue their good run against a Wien side in torrid form. Despite losing 3-1 to Atletico on the opening day, Luciano Spalletti’s men will be hopeful they can make it to the last 16 if they can continue their good form in their own backyard.
Spalletti has no injury worries for Tuesday, with Roman Shirokov set to return after recovering from a groin problem.
Austria Wien go into this game in both poor form and with a long list of injuries to key players. They will need something close to a miracle to stand a chance of making it through the game after their opening defeat to Porto, and even qualifying for the Europa League seems extremely unlikely.
Manager Nenad Bjelica will be without Alexander Grünwald, Marko Stankovic, Alexander Gorgon and Kaja Rogulj.
This fixture has a home win written all over it and there shouldn’t be any change in the script.
FC Zenit 3-0 Austria Wien
Ajax will be looking to bounce back from their 4-0 thrashing by Barcelona on Matchday 2 when they take on European giants AC Milan at the Amsterdam Arena. The Dutch side were expected to put in a better account of themselves against the Catalans, but were completely overwhelmed by an imperious Lionel Messi. To stand a chance of qualifying, Frank De Boer’s side need all three points against Milan.
The only absentee for Ajaz is striker Bojan Krkic, who injured his hamstring in Saturday’s 6-0 win over Go Ahead Eagles in the Eredivisie.
Milan will be looking to make it two wins in two games after a scrappy and late 2-0 win over Celtic in their opening group match. They were less than convincing in that game, and will need to play much better against Ajax, who are more than capable of beating anyone at home. A win for the Dutch side will throw the group wide open, but three points for the Rossoneri will see them take a huge step towards qualification.
Massimiliano Allegri faces a slight injury crisis as Stephane El Sharaawy, Daniele Bonera, Giampaolo Pazzini, Mattia De Sciglio, Matías Silvestre, Kaká and Riccardo Saponara are all absent.
Ajax are desperate for a win, while AC Milan have been extremely unconvincing thus far in both Europe and Serie A. With home advantage to boot, Frank De Boer’s men may be too hot to handle for the 7-time European champions.
Ajax 3-1 AC Milan
Celtic vs Barcelona
Lionel Messi will be absent for the Catalans as they travel to Glasgow to take on Scottish champions Celtic.
Neil Lennon’s men will be licking their lips after beating Barcelona 2-1 last season in this fixture. In what was one of the greatest nights in the history of the club, Celtic more than stood up to their opponents in a 2-1 win. They need a similar result here to stand a chance of making it into the last 16, after being beaten 2-0 at the San Siro in their opening group game.
Joe Ledley has been ruled out with a groin injury while Derk Boerriger is also a doubt for Neil Lennon’s side.
Barcelona have now gone two seasons without winning the UEFA Champions League, and at a club of that stature and with such high standards, that’s a long time. New manager Gerardo Martino won his first European game in charge comfortably, as a Lionel Messi hattrick saw his side beat Ajax 4-0 at the Noe Camp. A win here against Celtic will all but seal qualification, but they have to wary of the Scots, who are sure to make it as hard as possible.
Lionel Messi is the most conspicuous injury casualty for Barcelona as the Argentine has been ruled out with a thigh injury picked up in the weekend’s 2-0 win over Almeria. Jordi Alba, Javier Mascherano (both hamstring), Carles Puyol, Isaac Cuenca (both knee) and Ibrahim Afellay (thigh) are also out.
Crocked: Lionel Messi has 62 goals in the UEFA Champions League, and Celtic will be only too happy to see him absent through injury
Like last season, Celtic will make it as difficult as possible for Barcelona by not allowing them any space whatsoever and playing on the counter attack. It worked last time around, but Barcelona will come prepared this time and even without Messi, should have more than enough to get all through points.
Celtic 1-3 Barcelona