UEFA Champions League preview/predictions for week three

Courtesy of Champions League
Courtesy of Champions League

The Champions League is well under way with week three upon us. And many fans across the globe are wondering what is to become of each team in their respective groups. As seems to be the case every year, the tournament has been quite unpredictable, with ridiculous upset victories and a rare four-way tie among Group B, leading a few teams to have unexpectedly high expectations.

Notable Injuries: To little surprise, there has been a rash of injuries throughout the Champions League thus far, here are a few of the most notable:

  • Sergio Kun Aguero, Striker, Manchester City: Being already unable to play in previous league games due to concerns over a developing hamstring injury, Sergio Aguero has been closing out every game with less than a total of 10 minutes of game time. This, however, is going to be impossible, since that injury has fully developed and has caused him to be out for the next four weeks. On top of David Silva, Aleksander Kolarov and Gaël Clichy being out for a bit, the future of Man City seems uncertain.

  • Lionel Messi, Striker, FC Barcelona: Spanish giants Barcelona have had their top player, one of the best in the world for that matter, Lionel Messi, put out on a knee injury for the next 3-4 weeks as well. With Iniesta and Messi out, the attacking side of Barcelona seems rocky and uncertain for the future.

 

This Year’s Group of Death:

Group D: So, first, a little explanation of the group of death. With the way the drawings work for the UEFA Champions League, it turns out that every year there is a group that leaves a good amount of talented teams in one, highly-competitive group. This is deemed the group of death. The group usually has three or four equally good teams that leave the outcome of that group the most uncertain, but at the same time, the most exciting. Manchester City this year has been unfortunate enough to be placed in this group with other clubs like Juventus, Sevilla and VfL Borussia. This is cause for concern, because despite Juventus losing their top three players over the summer transfers, they’ve been dominating with a stage-leading six points, leaving Sevilla and City to duke it out for the second spot. Borussia seems to be that 4th team that’s been unlucky enough to be thrown into the mix, saving the bottom spot for themselves with a depressing zero points. The future for this group seems uncertain, but let’s hope that Aguero gets better and City rise to the challenge.

Key Matches/Predictions:

(#) = Predicted goals scored

  • (2) Real Madrid v. (1) Paris Saint-Germain (Group A): In arguably the most anticipated match of week three, these two teams will face off with some notable players not showing up on the pitch. Kareem Benzema, Luka Modric and most recently-injured Sergio Ramos will be missing from the starting squad as all of them are out with injuries. This doesn’t seem like it’ll dampen the competitiveness of Real Madrid in the slightest as the current top scorer of the league is the star of Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has five goals and a very aggressive 10 attempts on target. PSG will need to keep their defensive line strong if they want to stand a chance against the aggressive playstyle that Real Madrid has been offering as of late. Despite this, PSG will be a formidable opponent as star player Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been in top form lately, scoring two consecutive goals against Bastia. On top of this, Paris Saint Germain has had 10 consecutive wins in league matches and has won both of their opening games in the Champions League. Despite this victorious run in recent league games, with the current playstyle of Ronaldo and midfielders like Garreth Bale and James Rodriguez leading the pack, the offensive line will be in good hands. Marcelo along with an injured Ramos and Pepe will also be enough to hold back even the Zlatan. PSG will definitely put on a good show, but Real Madrid’s relentless attacks will ultimately lead them to victory.

  • (1) Manchester United v. (0) Moskva (Group B):  With Range Rooney leading the pack, what could go wrong? Just kidding. But seriously, man. United has been in tip-top shape in the past couple months, earning victory after victory to nab them third place in the table of the English Premier League. Along with their recent victory of three goals to naught over Everton, Memphis Depay and Rooney seem to have it all figured out. It looks like it’ll be a rough ride for Moskva. On the other hand, the proverbial hitmen from Russia have been dominating their league in the land of “The Reds,” taking a recent three-goal victory over FC Ural. The real danger for Man. United lies in the forward line of Moscow. With Ahmed Musa and Seydou Doumbia taking charge, United’s defense could crumble faster than the Soviet Union against these two. Although this may be the case, I think with Ashley Young and Bastian Schweinsteiger holding up the middle, United should be able to pull a victory over the Russians.

  • (1) Atlético Madrid v. (0) Astana (Group C):  Atletico have been holding up quite well despite having someone with a checkered past like Fernando Torres, former Liverpool star, taking the reins. Love him for his recent victories in Atletico or hate him for betraying Liverpool, Torres’ recent performance in the Champions League has shown that he still has something to offer his team. Torres and Antoine Griezmann have been able to keep Atletico afloat, even claiming a draw against Spanish rivals, Real Madrid a couple of weeks ago. Astana, on the other hand, have been doing awful in the Champions League so far as they sit at the bottom of their table with one point. Even if they manage to beat Madrid, there is no hope for them to reach the top two of their table unless Madrid completely bombs the next couple of games. On the other hand, Atletico’s win over Astana could place them at the top of their table or possibly cement the second slot above Galatasaray FC.

  • (2) FC Barcelona v. (0) FC BATE Borisov (Group E):  With Messi out of the picture, people have been wondering how Barcelona will fair throughout the rest of League. Filling his shoes seems impossible, but 19-year-old Munir El Haddidi has done an admirable job of taking his place. His footwork and speed has set him apart from other young strikers in the league and make him a true force to be reckoned with. Barcelona wouldn’t swap out Lionel Messi for just any 19-year-old, but just because Messi is out, there is no reason to doubt the maelstrom that is FC Barcelona. With Neymar, Mascherano, Suarez and the rest of the all-star squad on the field, Barcelona shouldn’t have any trouble against BATE. The Belarusian team recently has taken the top spot in their league, but even with such victories, the quality of the players in the Belarusian league isn’t exactly on par with that of the Spanish league. They’ve done extremely well to make it this far, but with Barcelona playing a tight and fast paced game, BATE won’t stand a chance.

  • (0) Manchester City v (2) Sevilla (Group D): Although I am biased toward my favorite team (City for life), I honestly don’t think they’ll be able to pull it off this time. It’s as if a curse has been placed on the Premier League leaders, as City has had countless injuries, with Aguero, Silva, Kompany, and many more going off the starting squad. On top of that, being placed into the group of death has not been boding well for City as they are currently placed third in the group. While they’ve been able to consistently keep a grasp on first place in the Premier League, the same cannot be said for their current play style in the Champions League. Hopefully, with the new additions of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, City will be able to stay strong and hold out but it seems like Sevilla will take this one. Sevilla isn’t exactly the strongest opponent in the group, however, they’ve been doing decent in the league so far (as well having a hilarious goal against Eibar where Kevin Gameiro scored with his *ahem* nethers). I hope I’m wrong, but as it stands right now, I’m facing reality and predicting a loss for City.

  • (0) Chelsea v. (1) FC Dynamo Kyviv (Group G):  All eyes are on Chelsea to be able to make a comeback in the tournament, as they’ve been performing under par thus far. Despite having a decent team comprised of Cesc Fabregas, John Terry, Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa, Chelsea hasn’t been able to put up a good fight in the Premier League, currently standing at the 11th spot in the tables with no hope in the foreseeable future for them to climb into the top five, let alone the top three. Although they had a good run against Aston Villa with a win over two goals, Chelsea is in rocky shape as of now. Kyviv, on the other hand, have been holding their own this year, leading the top of the group with four points as well as dominating back home in the Ukrainian league to place 2nd thus far in the overall fixtures. Though Chelsea will put up a good fight, if recent games are any indication of the future, I think Kyviv will take this one and secure their spot at the top, leaving Chelsea to fall out of the group stages.

 

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