October 3, 2018 By Kevin Omondi
The UEFA Champions League, the world’s most elitist club competition, where the Big Boys of European football and Manchester United, compete for the opportunity to lose to Real Madrid in the finals, is on the second round of fixtures.
S.L Benfica survived the second half onslaught from hosts AEK Athens to win 3 – 2 at the Spiros Louis Olympic Stadium, despite playing the entire second half, a man down, after Centre Back Ruben Dias, got his second yellow card, just before the break. Meanwhile, at the Allianz Arena, Bayern Munich allowed Ajax to grow into the game and settle for a 1 – 1 draw. Consequently, Ajax sits atop the standings of Group E, ahead of the Bavarian champions on goal difference.
English champions, Manchester City, survived the 1st-minute goal from 1899 Hoffenheim, to win 2 – 1 at the Rhein-Necker Arena as Olympique Lyon came back from 2 goals down to level the score against Shakhtar Donetsk. Lyon sits pretty at the helm of Group F with Manchester City in second.
Champions Real Madrid, without the services of injured captain, Sergio Ramos, World’s Best Player, Luka Modric, Isco, Marcelo and Gareth Bale, were beaten 1 – 0 by CSKA at the Luzhniki Stadium with Igor Akinfeev collecting a red card for dissent and another (rare) clean sheet in the Champions League. Roma’s resurgence continued in fine form, with the complete annihilation of Viktoria Plzen 5 – 0 no thanks to an Edin Dzeko hattrick. CSKA Moscow leads the standings with Roma and Madrid in second and third respectively.
Finally, at the Allianz Stadium, Turin, the Old Lady welcomed Young Boys and made little work of their youth. Paulo Dybala providing the first of two Italian hattricks, dispatching the 10 men Swiss 3 – 0. Finally, minnows Manchester United continued their display of football poverty, in a barren draw against fellow strugglers Valencia. Valencia ended the match with 6 yellow cards, in the day’s delayed kickoff, due to some breakdown of United’s bus. Juventus has maximum points with Manchester United in second in the log.
Tottenham v Barcelona
Wembley hosts the Spanish Champions, whose domestic form, has been, put mildly, wanting! Ernesto Valverde has to arrest the passive defending on display from his charges over the last two game weeks in the league. Samuel Umtiti is suspended for the fixture and Clement Lenglet, though notorious for some ludacris decision making in defence, is expected to start in his place. Messi, has been instrumental in sparing his manager the blushes, and even though that hasn’t been evident in the league, God knows, he’ll be raring to go against English opposition in the Champions League!
Spurs are expected to welcome back Hugo Lloris in goal and perhaps captain the team, away from the capitulation they suffered in their opener against Inter! Lloris’ inclusion barely reprieves the long injury list that has robbed Mauricio Pochettino of captain, Hugo Lloris (he remains doubtful all the same), Christian Ericksen, Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Dembele (all of whom might not be fit enough to start) and Alli, Aurier and Janssen who are ruled out completely.
All in all, these are the kind of games that Poch relishes: the opportunity to be world beaters and draw out every little bit of tactical nous from the opposing manager.
Over 2.5 goals.
Napoli v Liverpool
If Chelsea v Liverpool and Liverpool v Chelsea on the island, were anything to go by, this fixture, would have been everything an enjoyable, all-out attacking football game should be. Sadly, Napoli is still adapting to a manager who has actually won trophies, Carlo Ancelloti’s methods. Carlo’s methods, however, seem painfully at cross purposes to those of Sarri of the previous regime. Captain and breaker of Maradonna’s goal-scoring record, Marek Hamsik can barely get a run into the team; fullbacks are not spending 95 per cent of the game in the opponent’s half, Callejon, isn’t cutting in, Milik is playing pretty much in the number 10 role and Insigne isn’t starting counter-attacking moves, because he isn’t on rigid defensive duties. Napoli, are already comfortably chasing Juventus, against whom they lost 3 – 1 in the Serie A going into this match. Despite, drawing 0 – 0 to Serbs, Crvena Zvezda, respect has to be given to Carlo, 3 UCL trophies with 2 different clubs; and so far, Napoli is unbeaten at home.
Liverpool hasn’t reached the rowdy, riotous levels of electric music that Jurgen Klopp would have. Nevertheless, they’re in the business of getting results and except for some mercurial individual performance from an opposite attacker, look every bit on course to bamboozle the opposition with 3 goals in the first half then allow the Italians to flirt with the possibility of a comeback courtesy of Joe Gomez meek ball-watching, only for them to shut the door in their face with two minutes to go! Final score 4-3 to Liverpool!
Lucien Favre’s Borrusia Dortmund host AS Monaco in a game which BVB will comfortably win with a 2 goal handicap against the side from the principality, whose lavish summer spending hasn’t translated to results on the pitch. Elsewhere in Group A, Atletico Madrid, host Club Brugge at the Wanda. The Belgians will surely get nothing!
Group B, will have Inter away to PSV Eindhoven, the former Italian and European Champions first away trip in the Champions League for a minute, where Inter‘s form should carry the evening. Group C, sees Paris Saint-Germain weirdly assembled squad, host FK Crvena Zvezda in what should be a straightforward win, and in every bit reminiscent of the agricultural, average opposition the Parisians destroy week in week out in the league.
Domenico Tedesco’s Schalke 04 got their first win of the season, last time out against Mainz and hope to carry that form into their trip to the RZD Arena, Moscow, against Lokomotiv. Naldo not giving away two penalties will be as crucial in this game, as the Russians’ shaky form, being beaten 3 – 0 to Galatasaray in their opener. Finally, FC Porto and Galatasaray go head to head to seal the most non-illustrious of groups, group D.
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