After some interesting results in the opening group matches on Matchday 1, Matchday 2 promises to bring us more of the same. Here’s what’s happening on Day 1 of Matchday 2:
After a last gasp victory over Inter in Serie A, Ranieri’s men have gotten back the confidence before their Champions League showdown against CFR Cluj. This match is very important for AS Roma as they are yet to open their account in the group and are currently placed at the bottom.
Even though Cluj are not enjoying a successful domestic league campaign, not even featuring in the top ten, a home victory over FC Basel has given them breathing space. Roma must continue with the new found confidence to break what is expected to be a resilient defense of Cluj.
Can Vucinic do it again?
In the other match group favorites Bayern Munich travel to Basel. Even though the midweek fixture against Hoffenheim helped Bayern end their goal draught in Bundesliga, the weekend fixture against surprise leaders FC Mainz buried any hopes of resurgence. Last year’s finalists will be without influential wingers Robben and Ribery.
On the other hand, FC Basel trounced their arch rivals FC Zurich 4-1 at home over the weekend in the Swiss Super League. It will be a real test for the Bavarian giants to salvage a point in this match as the home team must be desperate to open their account in the group.
Spartak Moscow take on MŠK Žilina at their own backyard. Currently Spartak are having difficult time in the Russian Premier League. But an away victory over Marseille in the first game has given them the belief that they can go further, beyond the group stage.
Žilina, their counterpart, faced Chelsea in their first match and the result did not reveal their tenacity and exuberance. The Šošoni were hitting Chelsea hard on the break and managed to produce more than 20 attempts on goal. They are currently sitting at the top in Slovak Superliga and have won comprehensively against closest rivals Sparta Prague recently.
Though Spartak Moscow are favorites to win this match, they must watch out for the slalom runs of Ceesay and Vladavic’s long rangers.
Chelsea have lost much of its steam over the past week. They were eliminated by Newcastle United in a rollercoaster match from the Carling Cup. To add to their misery, the runaway leaders suffered their first defeat in the Premier League at the hands of Manchester City over the weekend. They take on Olympique De Marseille at Stamford Bridge.
Marseille, after the stutter against Spartak Moscow at home, have managed to steady the ship with two convincing victories over Arles and Sochaux in Ligue 1. This is a very important match for both the teams as Marseille are yet to win a point in the group and Chelsea must be desperate to muster some confidence by winning this match before facing Arsenal in the London derby over the weekend.
Auxerre are going through a bizarre phase as the team has not registered a single win in seven matches in Ligue 1. After a drubbing at the hands of AC Milan they face Real Madrid at home. Real Madrid had a brilliant start to this year’s Champions League campaign, following a convincing victory over Ajax in their first match. They are unbeaten in the last 6 matches having conceded only once. Real Madrid are expected to run riot at the expense of Auxerre.
The biggest match of the night, in terms of the history associated with the two teams, is the match between Ajax Amsterdam and AC Milan. The two teams have met each other twice in the Champions league in the last ten years. In 2002-2003 Milan eliminated Ajax in the quarter final. In the following year they were paired up in the same group. Milan prevailed in both home and away games. The two teams are again at loggerheads.
Ibrahimovic back at the Amsterdam Arena
Ajax were left nonplussed by Real Madrid in their first game of Champions League. But the team managed to bounce back with a victory over Feynoord and a pulsating 2-2 draw away at FC Twente. They are currently sitting at the top of Eredivisie. Milan, on the other hand, have not had a smooth run in the domestic season.
A victory against Auxerre in the first match relieved the pressure on them. They must be aware of Ajax’s desperation as the home team has managed to win 4 home matches so far. The cynosure of the match would be Milan’s newest acquisition Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It would be interesting to see how the ex-Ajax hitman is received by the Ajax faithful in the Amsterdam Arena.
Group favorites Arsenal sealed an emphatic victory on the opening night against Sporting Club de Braga. They continued their fine run of form in the Carling Cup as well where the notched up their biggest win at White Hart Lane in 32 years in the first North London derby of the season. But a slapdash effort saw them succumb to West Brom at home over the weekend. The match against Partizan Belgrade could be cruicial as it would be Arsenal’s chance to get back to winning form before they set up date with Chelsea next week.
The Frenchman is in flying form
Partizan are rollicking at the top of their domestic league, but lost their first match of the group stage to Shakhtar Donetsk away from home. With their famous fans, the Grobari , chanting their support, Partizan must get their act right to snatch a point or more from Arsenal.
The other match in this group features newbies Sporting Club de Braga and Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk. Braga had to endure a footballing lesson at the hands of Arsenal in their first ever Champions League match. Braga have to play like the way they did against Sevilla during the qualifier, to win a point against their seasoned opponents.
Shakhtar are, however, favorites in this tie. Shakhtar have won their first game against Partizan. They are sitting pretty at the top in the Ukraine Premier League as well, five points clear off closest rivals Dynamo Kiev. They would like to win this match and take a step forward towards the knockout stage.