Football is back after another long International break and so is UEFA Champions League. Matchday 2 lived up to its expectations as 46 goals were scored in 16 matches. The results were along the expected lines with Manchester Uniteda��s 3 a�� 3 draw with Basel being the only exception.

 

Matchday 3 brings with it some appetizing clashes as teams from group E, F, G and H clash with each other on Wednesday night. While teams at the tops will look to stretch their lead to make sure a safe passage to the next round, for others its time to crawl back into contention.

Group E – Chelsea (England), Valencia (Spain), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Genk (Belgium)A�

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Leverkusen v Valencia a�� BayArena, 19 October 2011

Leverkusen are currently placed at second place in the group, thanks to a comprehensive victory over Genk. The team is going through an underwhelming period in the domestic front (currently placed at 8th position). They managed to salvage a point against Monchengladbach, thanks to an Andre Schurrle-screamer over the weekend. Leverkusena��s history against Spanish teams has never been good – losing 12 times in 23 appearances. They have not won even once in the last seven encounters against a La Liga opponent. The German outfit will miss the services of midfield ace, Renato Augusto, through a knee injury.

Their oppositions, Valencia are experiencing a purple patch on the domestic front. They have tasted defeat only once in last five competitive games – in an away game at Sevilla. Last month they managed to hold off Barcelona and Chelsea in La Liga and in Champions League respectively. This is the first time the two teams will meet each other and the Spanish team too doesna��t boast of a good record against their German counterparts. In Germany they have won only once and lost seven times in 11 games. This fixture is expected to be a thriller with end-to-end stuff and might just finish with sharing the spoils.

THT Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Valencia

THT Players To Watch Out For: Andre Schurrle (Leverkusen), Pablo Hernandez (Valencia)

Chelsea v Genk a�� Stamford Bridge, 19 October 2011

Pacesetters Chelsea take on the apparent whipping boys of the group, Genk, in their third group league game at home. Chelsea, as usual, have made a solid start to their domestic campaign, are currently placed at third spot, only one point behind second placed Man United. Fresh from a thumping victory over Everton, Chelsea would like to extend their unbeaten streak at home in the group stages of the continental competition. In the last 24 home fixtures in group stage, they have won 18 and drawn the rest.

Old war horses

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For the first time in their history, Genk will take on an English team, that too away from home. After starting their second European campaign with an encouraging stalemate against Valencia at home, the minnows were completely undone by the Werkself, pushing them to the bottom of the table. Genk will miss the crucial services of defender Jeroen Simaeys through a broken toe. The medical room reports suggest that even skipper David Hubert, attacker Jelle Vossen and another defender Nadson could also miss out due to injuries. Present playing condition suggests a rout in the favor of Chelsea.

THT Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Genk

THT Players To Watch Out For: Juan Mata (Chelsea), A�Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

Group F a�� Arsenal (England), Marseille (France), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Olympiacos (Greece)

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Marseille vs Arsenal a�� Stade VA�lodrome, Marseille, 19 October 2011

Marseillea��s abysmal domestic form hasna��t so far hit their European adventure hard. The league leaders have won both their group stage games, most notable being the victory against the Bundesliga champions. Marseille have won only one game in Ligue 1 this season so far and currently stands at 15th place in the league. They are not so fresh from a stalemate at against Toulouse. Marseille are sweating out on the fitness of forward Gignac who has just returned from injury.

Arsenala��s domestic woes are pretty similar to their French counterparts, having won only three games in the league so far. An unconvincing victory over Sunderland puts them somewhat at a better position morally against a team, who have not won a single domestic league game in almost a month. Arsenal have plenty of injury worries. Gibbs suffered a stomach injury over the weekend and Ramsey might just miss out as well with a hamstring injury. Both Sagna and Vermaelen are already out injured and Koscielny and Djourou have just returned from injuries. It is going to be interesting to see how Arsenal defense copes with Marseillea��s versatile attack and vice versa. Good news for them is the sight of Arsene Wenger back in the dugout.

THT Prediction: Marseille 1-1 Arsenal

THT Players To Watch Out For: Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille), Robin van Persie (Arsenal)

Olympiacos vs Dortmund a�� Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus, 19 October 2011

The Greek giants must be desperate to break their group F duck by registering a victory in front of their home crowd. A�A draw at AEK Athens ended their 100% record in the domestic season. They have so far failed to convert their domestic supremacy in the European competition, having lost both their games. The team has proved to be defensively weak, having conceded in all six games in all competitions this season. Good news is that ace forward Marko PanteliA� has scoredA� ten goals so far and whenever he has scored his side has won the game. Both David Fuster and Francisco Yeste are expected to miss out this tie.

Can the young talisman guide his team to their first victory?

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Dortmunda��s European rendezvous hasna��t proved to be an encouraging affair as yet, having earned only one point (as well scored only one goal) from their first two matches. Fresh from a solid outing against Werder Bremen away from home over the weekend, Dortmund would like to emulate their Bundesliga form to their Champions League excursion. Striker Barrios picked up an injury during training and is likely to miss the tie and so would Owomoyela through injury. This game could just bring Dortmund back into the contention of making it to the next round.

THT Prediction: Olympiacos 1-2 Dortmund

THT Players To Watch Out For: Marko PanteliA� (Olympiacos), A�Mario GA�tze (Dortmund)

Group G a�� Porto (Portugal), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Zenit St.Petersburg (Russia), APOEL (Cyprus)

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Shakhtar vs Zenit a�� Donbass Arena, 19 October 2011

One of the biggest games of the night where two east European heavyweights engage themselves in battle for supremacy that was evident during the Soviet era. Shakhtar, who are at the bottom of the table are in a must win situation now. They are fresh from an away victory over Tavriya Simferopol and have remained unbeaten in the domestic league for 13 matches. Their home form brings some encouragement to the side as the Ukrainian giants have won all their seven home games in the league so far. Rakitskiy will be serving a suspension.

Zenit are presently placed at second spot, equal in point with third placed Porto. This game is very vital for the Russian outfit to keep up their chances to qualify for the next round with Porto hot in their trail. A stalemate against Dinamo Moscow have not dented the enthusiasm of a side who have scored 21 goals in their last seven league games, winning 13 out of their last 19 games in all competitions. Zenit will miss the services of Kerzhakov and Anyukov who have not travelled with the team to face Shakhtar.

THT Prediction: Shakhtar 2-1 Zenit

THT Players To Watch Out For: Willian (Shakhtar), A�Danny (Zenit)

Porto vs APOEL a�� EstA?dio do DragA?o, 19 October 2011

Porto, who are placed third in the group, must win this game to keep their hope to qualify for the next round alive against the surprise runaway leaders from Cyprus. Porto are currently at the top of Portuguese league, sharing the honor with Benfica after seven games. Over the weekend they earned a mammoth victory by a scoreline of 8-0 against CA PA?ro Pinheiro in Portuguese Cup. Good news for the team is that striker Kleber is back with the side and Fredy Guarin is coming back from suspension as well. Porto will include Brazilian striker Walter in the squad following the Braziliana��s domestic performance where he scored five goals in two matches, which includes a four-goal haul over the weekend.

The dangerous Hulk


Their opposition, APOEL are the table toppers. The Cypriot side registered their first ever Champions League victory when they inflicted a 2-1 defeat to Zenit. This is the second these two sides have been put into the same group after 2009-10 season. At that time Porto call the shots on both the games, winning both the ties. APOEL have lost their game over the weekend to Limassol, conceding their position on top as well. No Cypriot sides, in club or national level, have ever beaten any Portuguese sides. Could this be the night?

THT Prediction: Porto 2-0 APOEL

THT Players To Watch Out For: JoA?o Moutinho (Porto), A�Ailton (APOEL)

Group H a�� Barcelona (Spain), AC Milan (Italy), Bate Borisov (Belarus), Viktoria PlzeA? (Czech Republic)

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Milan vs Bate a�� Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, 19 October 2011

Milana��s domestic season form is yet to catch up with their European fervor, as the Italian side is sitting pretty at the summit of Group H, equal in points with Barcelona. A 3-0 victory over Palermo in the weekend gives them the perfect springboard to start favorites against the European minnows. Milan, however, have won only twice in the last ten games at San Siro. They have, though, kept a clean sheet in three of their last four games in all competitions. Interestingly Milan are just one goal away from reaching 200 Champions League goal. Boateng is back from injury and is likely to play this game and even Thiago Silva may turn up despite taking a knock over the weekend. Seedorf is likely to miss out through injury.

The Belarusian league leaders face an uphill task after being obliterated by Barcelona in their last European tie. The team is enjoying a fascinating domestic season though, where they are nine points clear at the top with only six games remaining. More importantly for them, the side has broken their seven-game winless run over the weekend. The team is yet to win a Champions League game.A� In 2001-02 Bate were pitted against Milan in Uefa Cup first round where the Italian side prevailed on aggregate without conceding a single goal. Bate will miss the services of Vitali Rodionov and Yawhen Kuntsevich through injury.

THT Prediction: Milan 3-0 Bate

THT Players To Watch Out For: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Milan), A�Mateja Kezman (Bate)

Barcelona vs PlzeA? a�� Camp Nou, 19 October 2011

Barcelona, the La Liga toppers are expected to run amok at Camp Nou as the game is anticipated to be a goal fest for the defending champions. Fresh from a victory over the weekend, Barcelona have now won four games on trot in all competitions. Barcelona ace Messi is in perfect rhythm to run riot against the apparent hapless oppositions. Barcelona will miss Pique through injury but might find both Alexis Sanchez and Fabregas fit for this game.


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Plzen, another of the whipping boys of this group, are aware of onslaught that awaits them. Pitted into a group with European heavyweights Barcelona and Milan already sealed their fate in the group stage. But they could still keep their European dreams alive by finishing above Bate to qualify for the Europa league. In the words of their ace midfielder, Daniel Kolar, a�?Playing against Barcelona is in itself frightening. But even so I’m looking forward to the game. Barcelona and Plzen are in different dimensions. But Barcelona are in a different league to most clubs in the world.a�?

THT Prediction: Barcelona 4-0 PlzeA?

THT Players To Watch Out For: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), A�David Villa (Barcelona)

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