After an exciting Matchday 3 that was filled with loads of goals and action, Champions league action returns on Tuesday, and one can expect many more twists and turns. Here we look at what can be expected on the first day of Matchday 4 for Groups A,B,C and D.
Tottenham Hotspur vs FC Internazionale Milano
After having an anti-climax in the Premier league on Saturday at the Theatre of Dreams, Tottenham Hotspur will be hoping there will be less of the same and more of a happy ending. Matchday 3 saw Spurs take on the leaders and Champions Inter, which resulted in an enthralling encounter at the Meazza. Whilst Inter were running away in the game, Tottenham, with the help of an outstanding Bale performance, managed to get a decent scoreline. Although Bale was silent in the weekend, he is still an incredible asset for Spurs. Injuries have hit Spurs badly, as they have lost Van der Vaart for the crucial fixture against the Italians. Spurs have 4 points in their group and are reasonably ahead of Werder Bremen and FC Twente. In order to qualify, Spurs have to get atleast a point at White Hart Lane on Tuesday.
Champions Inter have made their group look easy, which is an incredible thing, as many consider this as a Group of Death. The Nerazzurri have 7 points from a couple of wins and an opening day draw. Samuel Eto’o has been in scintillating form for the men in Blue and Black. Inter were dominant in the reverse fixture, until Bale bailed out Spurs. There will be no doubt that Spurs will throw everything at the current Champions, and Inter have to resist them and hit them on the counter. Considering both the sides’ poor record in the defense of late, we can expect a bunch of goals from both the sides.
Werder Bremen vs FC Twente Enschede
The Germans and the Dutch Champions have had a rough ride in the Champions league so far, with both collecting a mediocre two points. Both the teams have been far from their best. The reverse fixture saw a boring match up until the 75th minute, when Twente took the lead, only to be canceled out five minutes later, when a former Twente player Marko Arnautović equalised for the Germans. This time it will be Werder’s den, as both teams look to avoid a draw and get a win. A certain tricky little winger Marko Marin has expressed confidence that his team can pull the rabbit out of the hat. Werder had a decent season last time out, but this term they have been very poor both in the Bundesliga and in Europe. They will be hoping to build some momentum and give their fans something to cheer about.
Whilst Dutch Champions Twente are doing brilliantly in the league, they have been shabby in the Champions league. They made a brilliant comeback against Inter but got whipped against Spurs on Matchday 2. They hoped for revival against Werder and got it up until the 80th minute, when their defense collapsed again. Like the Germans, the Dutch will be desperate for a win to catch Inter and Spurs. If either of them fail to do so, they might as well bid a goodbye to their Champions league aspirations.
Hapoel Tel Aviv vs FC Schalke 04
Group B has been nothing but a two horse race, with French Champions Lyon and Germans Schalke running away from Benfica and Hapoel Tel Aviv. The amateur Israelis have showed their lack of experience in Europe as they are yet to notch a single point. Practically speaking, Aviv are virtually out of the Champions league, and their only remote hope is to try and qualify for the Europa League knock out rounds. To do that, they, being at home, have to make sure they get a win in front of their fans.
Germans Schalke have been struggling in the Bundesliga, as they sit in the relegation zone with just a single win. On the other hand, they would be pretty satisfied with their European form, sitting in a comfortable second place courtesy of the legendary Raul’s goal-scoring exploits on Matchday 3. They need one more win to virtually qualify for the knock out stages, and this is the easiest stage to do that.
Sporting Lisboa e Benfica vs Olympique Lyonnais
Benfica are in the middle of nothing right now, as they only have 3 points and a win to show off. If they win, they might have hopes of getting into the knock outs, but if they don’t, they might have Aviv challenging them for a Europa league spot. They got a beating at the Stade de Greland last time, with no reply from their strikers. Jorge Jesus, Benfica’s coach has been impressed with Lyon’s style of football but he has to make sure that his side will match the French outfit at Lisbon.
Runaway leaders Lyon have been very impressive in Europe, and as usual they are the dark horses to lift the coveted trophy. Lyon have won all their group games, scoring six goals and conceding just one goal in the process. Les Gones can make sure they pass to the next round if they win this match, which might also guarantee a top spot. On the injury front though, Lyon will miss their star Argentinian striker Lisandro Lopez, who faces a three week layoff. But they should have enough quality to at least guarantee a point against Benfica, and if they are to come unscathed from Portugal, they need their star goalkeeper to be at his best.
Valencia FC vs Rangers FC
La Liga contenders Valencia had a dream start to their domestic and European Campaigns till October. But things have started to go down a bit, as they currently sit in third and fourth in Europe and Spain respectively. They faced a rejuvenated Rangers side on Matchday 3 and came out with a stalemate. With the interval over now, Valencia have to buckle up and beat Rangers before things start to slip away from them. Juan Mata has confidence that his team can come out of the difficult phase they are currently stuck up in.
Meanwhile, pacesetters in the Scottish league Rangers are flying high domestically, as they brushed aside arch rivals Celtic in the weekend and moved to the top. Rangers have been criticised for their style of football, which emphasizes on parking the bus. But they wouldn’t mind facing the criticism as long as they finish first or where they sit currently in the group, which would take them in to the second round.
Bursaspor Kulübü Derneği vs Manchester United
Champions’ league newcomers and Turkish Champions Bursaspor have no points in 3 games as was expected. They came out with a loss against Manchester United in the last game although they were impressive in bits against the English Giants. It would be a miracle if they go through to the next stage, and even a Europa league spot seems to be far-fetched for the Turkish outfit. A decent exit from the European Cup would be considered better if they come out with a point or two in their last three matches. That should happen with their next match against United and with their home support, it is far from impossible.
Group leaders Manchester United have been far from their best this term, but they are yet to lose a match this campaign. The Red Devils came out with a slender win against their Turkish counterparts a fortnight ago, which was apparently shadowed by the Wayne Rooney saga. Now that it has been put to bed, Sir Alex will be hoping his team will continue their fine form after they dispatched Spurs on Saturday. Three points will take them well in front of the others in the group and give them virtual qualification.
FK Rubin Kazan vs Panathinaikos FC
Last year’s surprise pack Rubin Kazan haven’t been that surprising, as they currently sit in third place in Group D. They only have two points against their name this campaign, with a couple of draws. Their last encounter against Greek side Panathinaikos was a scoreless draw, which resulted in further putting these two sides away from Barcelona and Copenhagen. Unless they take a victory against their Greek counterparts, Rubin will be sitting in a Europa League spot. Three points against Panathinaikos would be sweet and will put them in a fighting position for that decisive second spot.
Panathinaikos, similar to Rubin, have been below average in their group, as they sit in the last position with just a solitary point. They haven’t been bad in the Greek Super league, as they are second and a point behind Olympiakos. Reality has shown that they are not a good European side and all they can hope is a Europa league spot to avail, for which they have to beat Rubin Kazan away.
FC København vs FC Barcelona
Danish side FC Copenhagen have made a brilliant start to their European endeavors with six points in Group D, just one behind Spanish superpowers FC Barcelona. Although they got beaten in their previous encounter against Barca, all is not gloomy for them, as they chase the pass to the second round. A point against the Blaugrana would put them in place to qualify through the group stages, although a win would be very impressive.
Copenhagen’s opposition for Tuesday, FC Barcelona, have not only been tipped to top the group but also top Europe once again. They trashed Sevilla in the weekend with some fantastic football back at the Nou Camp. Lio Messi mesmerized the home crowd as he scored a brace and made an assist for the Blaugrana as they ran circles around the Sevilla defense. Once certain Xavi has showered praise on La Pulga, comparing him to Diego Maradona. Meanwhile, in their European trip, Barca are in a commanding position, as they look to move to 10 points and seal their qualification against Copenhagen. A solitary point would be an average result for them considering their standards. They will be expected to win this as usual, and there are very few who would bet against them.