UCL Preview Matchday 2 – Groups A, B, C, D

The UEFA Champions League resumes this week with Matchday 2 of the group stage. Let’s take a look at the games on Day 2 of Matchday 2:

Group A

Champions League newbies Tottenham Hotspur take on defending Eredivisie Champions FC Twente Enschede at White Hart Lane. Spurs took a 2 goal lead against Bremen away from home and created enough opportunities to close out the game in their first Champions League night. But unfortunately they had to be content with a 2-2 draw.

Their opponents, FC Twente, came back from behind to take a goal’s lead against holders Inter in the first game. The match, though, ended in a stalemate. But the energy and confidence of the young side was heartening. The former UEFA Cup runners-up have been playing well away from home, unbeaten in their last four outings. In their last league match they drew with league leader Ajax.

It will be a real test for the Lillywhites, who are yet to recover from their shock defeat against West Ham United over the weekend, to snatch points from FC Twente.

White Hart Lane , Tottenham Hotspur v Young Boys, Europa League Play-off 2nd Leg 25/08/2010  Peter Crouch of Tottenham scores the 4th goal and completes his hat-trick from the penalty spot 4-0 Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Hotspur 

In the other game, title holders Internazionale face Bremen at San Siro. After taking the lead, Rafa Benitez’s Inter had to come from behind to earn a point in their first match against FC Twente. The Serie A leaders’ preparations for the match, however, took a hit when the defending champions lost against Roma over the weekend. At home, though, they have won their last two games.

Their opponents, Werder Bremen have had a torrid start to their domestic season. Having lost three out of their four away games, Bremen have been pushed out of the top ten in Bundesliga. Even though Bremen managed to salvage one point from their opening fixture, it is almost a given that Inter will capitalize on the away game woes of Bremen to register their first victory in the group stage.

Group B

Hapoel Tel Aviv’s debut match will not be the stuff of fond memories as the Israeli club were comprehensively beaten by Benfica. This Wednesday, Hapoel play their first ever home game in the Champions League against French giants Olympique Lyonnais. Even though Hapoel haven’t had a good start to their domestic season, they haven’t yet lost a clash at home.

Seven-times French champions Lyon are going through their worst phase in the domestic season. They have won only one in seven games and are currently 18th in Ligue 1. It appeared a victory against Schalke in their first group stage match would restore their self-confidence. But that was not to be the case as Les Gones lost their last two league games, failing to score in both. To make matters worse, they have lost all three of their away fixtures in this season.

With Ultras Hapoel chanting behind their players, Hapoel have a good chance to earn their first points in Champions League at the expense of a hapless Lyon.

In another game, Schalke 04 take on Benfica. Last year’s Bundesliga runners-up Schalke have had a disastrous start to their season. After six games they are placed at 17th spot, one point clear off the bottom of the table. The situation did not improve in the Champions League either as the hapless Die Königsblauen lost their first match against Lyon.

Their oppoenents ,Benfica, are enjoying a recent resurgence. They have won three matches on the trot. A convincing victory over Hapoel in their first match has vaulted them to the top of this group. Schalke will throw the kitchen sink at Benfica to open their account in the group. But the kind of form Schalke are in, Benfica might just romp home bagging all three points.

Group C

Two-times Champions League runners-up Valencia play against three-time winners Manchester United at Mestalla. Valencia are enjoying a fine run of form. They are currently placed at the top of La Liga. They have been unbeaten in six matches. A victory against Bursaspor in Turkey ensured they stay on top in their group.

Manchester United, on the other hand, have played out a dull draw against Rangers at home. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men haven’t yet lost a single match away from home though. The major worry for the English giants is their defence. They have conceded 9 goals in 4 away matches so far.

Rio Ferdinand might return to the team, partnering Vidic in the heart of their defence. Ace striker Rooney has picked up an injury during their weekend Premier League clash and could miss this tie. Michael Owen might get a nod to partner in-form Bulgarian hitman Berbatov at the expense of Rooney.

The two teams have met several times in various Continental Championships. Their last meeting, in 2001 in the Champions League, ended in a 1-1 stalemate. Considering the form the two teams are in, this could prove to be the thriller of the day.

In the other clash in this group, Scottish champions Rangers take on defending Süper Lig champions Bursaspor at their own backyard. Rangers are playing well of late. They are placed at the top of Scottish Premier League. Their home record has been sensational, winning all four of the matches.

After the drubbing at the hands of Valencia, Bursaspor are placed at the bottom of the group and the Rangers might put paid to Bursapor’s ambitions of progressing beyond the group stage.

Group D

Rubin Kazan take on three-time Champions League winners Barcelona in Kazan. This is déjà vu for the two teams as they were pitted against each other in last year’s Champions’ League group stage as well. Last year Rubin shocked the footballing world with a victory against the Spanish champions at Camp Nou and backed it up with a resilient display to hold Barcelona at Kazan.

Rubin, however, have already lost the first match of the group stage to Copenhagen. The pressure is on them to score against Barcelona and keep the match as competitive as possible. Rubin have been barely managing one-goal-a-game in their domestic league at present. Loss of ace striker Aleksandr Bukharov to rivals Zenit and lynchpin midfielders Semak and Dominguez has proved to be detrimental to the team.

Barcelona will be without Argentinian maestro Lionel Messi. Victory over Panathinaikos in the first game has seen them climb to the top of the group. Winning against Sporting Gijon and Athletico Bilbao without Messi in the domestic league should convince even the most ardent skeptics as to how strong the team is. Barcelona are expected to conquer a depleted Rubin even without Messi’s contribution.

In the other group league match Panathinaikos host FC Copenhagen. After the humbling received at Camp Nou against Barcelona, the defending Greek champions must react positively to keep their hopes alive in this group.

Their opponents Copenhagen won their match against Rubin Kazan. Their defense has been miserly of late and has not conceded a single goal in the last three competitive clashes, including their Champions League outing against Rubin. This game is very important for both the teams as Barcelona are favorites to qualify from the group leaving the second spot very much up for grabs.