UCL Preview Matchday 3 – Groups E,F,G,H

The UEFA Champions League resumes this week with Matchday 3 of the group stage. Let’s take a look at the games on Day 1 of Matchday 3:

Group E

AS Roma vs FC Basel

In the first clash of this group, AS Roma take on bottom-placed FC Basel. Roma are going through a horrible phase in domestic league, currently placed at the 14th position with a goal difference of -5. A home victory against Genoa over the weekend might catalyze Roma for more positive things to come. A victory in this match would enhance their chances of reaching the knockout stage. Roma will be encouraged by the fact they have never lost to a Swiss side in the Italian capital. A repeat of last year’s Europa league group stage victory over FC Basel would certainly be on Ranieri’s mind.

Their opponents, FC Basel are currently placed at the bottom of the group, losing both of their games so far. The team has however fared well in their domestic league, and are currently positioned at 2nd place. This could be their best chance to snatch a point or more against a Roma side struggling to open their account in the group.

May 01, 2010 - Parma, Italy - epa02139417 Captain of AS Roma Francesco Totti celebrates after scoring against FC Parma during their Italian Serie A soccer match in Parma's Ennio Tardini stadium on 01 May 2010.

A lot depends on the shoulder of ‘Er Pupone’

Bayern Munich vs CFR Cluj

In the other game of the group, Bayern Munich host CFR Cluj at Allianz Arena. Die Roten got back to winning ways in the Bundesliga over the weekend, thanks to a brilliant hattrick by Mario Gomez. Bayern are currently placed on top of Group A, winning both their games against FC Basel(away) and Roma(home). Though Bayern will miss Klose and Van Bommel through injury, the group favorites are expected to win against their not so fancied opponents at home.

Cluj, their opponents, have not done well in away games of late. They have lost four out of their last five away fixtures. Although, a home victory over FC Basel has kept their hopes of reaching the knockout stages alive, it is expected that Bayern, however depleted their side maybe, would roundoff the showdown with no less than a victory.

Group F

Spartak Moskva vs Chelsea FC

The Spartak Moscow vs Chelsea FC tie is the game of the group. Both the teams are yet to drop a point. Spartak have won four out of their last five home games, including a 3-0 drubbing of Zilina. Spartak will sorely miss influential Brazilian playmaker Alex through injury. With the confidence that Spartak have right now, they will certainly give Chelsea a good run for their money.

Villa Park, Aston Villa v Chelsea , Premier League 16/10/2010  Chelsea Manager / Head coach, Carlo Ancelotti Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom
Carlo can only laugh at the injuries coming in thick and fast!

Chelsea, on the other hand, are struggling to keep fitness issues at bay with Ramires also joining the injured party. Ace striker Drogba will miss this clash due to fever. Lampard is yet to recover from the problem on his adductor. Kalou and Benayoun are out injured while Alex too missed their weekend premiership match against Aston Villa. The only good news from the medical room was that Jose Bosingwa is finally back after a year, but the Portuguese will not take part in the game in Moscow.

This clash also brings Chelsea back to their haunted home in Moscow. Luzhniki Stadium is a cause célèbre to Chelsea fans since their defeat to Manchester United in a penalty shootout in Champions League 2007-2008.

Olympique de Marseille vs MSK Žilina

In the other game, MSK Žilina pay a visit to Marseille. Both the teams are yet to open their account. Marseille, fresh off a victory over Nancy during the weekend at home, will probably look to ride on that wave of confidence and earn all three points against minnows Žilina. The latter are no pushovers, being comfortably placed at the top of their domestic league.

Group G

Ajax Amsterdam vs Auxerre

Ajax host Auxerre at the Amsterdam Arena. Ajax’s recent home record in UEFA club competitions has been abysmal. They have only won once in their last five outings. Their head-to-head record against Auxerre is also not that impressive – three wins apiece. Currently Ajax are only 1 point ahead of Auxerre, placed in third position, thanks to their draw with Milan. This game is very important to them because a victory might lift their position in the group, provided Milan drop points at the Santiago Bernabéu. Injury to Siam De Jong has ruled him out of the game.

Auxerre, have lost both their games so far and are duly placed at the bottom of the group. Their head-to-head record indicates that they are unlikely to be overawed by the occasion at the Amsterdam Arena. But the kind of form Auxerre are in right now – placed 17th in the French Ligue 1 and having earned only one point from their last three away games – Ajax faithful might expect their team’s first victory is just a game away.

Real Madrid vs AC Milan

The clash of the night belongs to the game between two of Europe’s most successful football clubs- Real Madrid and AC Milan. Between each other, the two teams have won the top prize in European Club Football a whopping 16 times.

Madrid are sitting pretty at the top of the group, with two wins out of two. Last year in the same fixture Milan did get the better of Madrid, clinching the thriller by a margin of 3-2. But the home team’s record, under the stewardship of the ‘Special One’ has only gotten better. Madrid have won all their home fixtures so far in the season, and conceded only once. They are currently placed at the top of La Liga, something quite evident in the confidence of the Madrid team.

Milan, on the other hand, under the management of Massimo Allegri has done reasonably well and are currently at second place in the group, as well as in the Serie A. His team has done well in away fixtures of late, winning once in the last three away games, and claiming draws in the other two.

Real Madrid have a score to settle with Milan and a victory would more or less ensure their path to the knock out stage. Milan, on the other hand, would try their best to repeat their feat from last year and top the group. The player to watch out for is Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during their Spanish first division soccer match against Levante at the Ciudad de Valencia Stadium in Valencia, September 25, 2010. REUTERS/Heino Kalis (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Finally, the prayers are being heard!

Group H

Sporting Club de Braga vs FK Paartizan Belgrade

In the first game of the group, the group strugglers vie to get off the mark. Sporting Club de Braga take on FK Partizan Belgrade in the clash of the minnows. Braga were comprehensively beaten in their last two outings against Arsenal and Shakhtar and this is their best chance to record their first ever victory in Champions League history.

Partizan, on the other hand, did put up a good fight against both the table toppers, although have never won an away game in their Champions League history. But if they somehow manage to produce a stroke of genius against Sporting in Tuesday’s upcoming clash, they might be able to find those elusive three points.

Arsenal vs Shakhtar Donetsk

The big game of the group is between group leaders Arsenal and second placed Shakhtar Donetsk. Both the teams are yet to drop a point. Arsenal have done well in the first two matches of the group. A weekend victory over Birmingham City has presented them with the momentum needed ahead of a big clash. But while Van Persie has been ruled out of the game, Fabregas has recovered from his injury. Still Wenger might choose to leave him out of the game keeping in mind the all important encounter with Manchester City at Eastlands. The good news for Arsenal is that Bendtner, Gibbs and Walcott are back.

Their opponents, Shakhtar Donetsk’s quest to snatch top spot in this group sustained a heavy blow when their star midfielder Douglas Costa was ruled out for 2 weeks following a thigh injury. The midfielder had to be replaced during Shakhtar’s victory over their arch rivals Dynamo Kyiv. The return of Chygrynskiy, however, is encouraging news for them.