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 United’s 3 a�� 3 draw with Basel being the only exception.

Matchday 3 brings with it some appetizing clashes as teams from group A, B, C and D clash with each other on Tuesday 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 B a��Trabzonspor AS (Turkey), Internazionale (Italy), Lille (France), CSKA Moskva (Russia)

 

CSKA Moskva v Trabzonspor AS a�� Luzhniki Stadion, 18 October, 2011

Trabzonspor are living a dream at the moment. The team from Turkey, who werena��t even sure of their participation in Champions League sometimes back, are presently the surprise leader of Group B heading into Matchday 3. Trabzonspor are still unbeaten in the first two games after managing an unbelievable win against Inter and a draw against French side Lille. In their upcoming match against CSKA, Trabzonspor will face a Russian team for the very first time. In team news, Burak Yilmaz will serve his final suspension of a three-match ban, while Paulo Henrique, Robert Vittek and BarA�AY AtaAYA� are all out with injuries. Tayfun Cora and Onur Kivrak are back in training for the first time this season and might play some part in the match.

CSKA has had a poor start to their European campaign this season and are at bottom of the Group B table at the moment. The Russians made a valiant comeback against Inter in their last match only for Lucio to score a late winner. More worryingly for CSKA they have conceded 5 goals in the opening two rounds of fixtures as they continue to miss Igor Akinfeev in the goal. Sekou Oliseh, Keisuke Honda, TomA?A? Necid and Mark GonzA?lez are other casualties. Georgi Schennikov is back after a long-term injury and will make it to the bench. CSKA will look to make their home advantage count against an in-form Trabzonspor side as another loss could take them on the verge of elimination.

THT Prediction: CSKA Moskva 1-1 Trabzonspor

THT Players To Watch Out For: Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moskva), Halil AltA�ntop (Trabzonspor)

 

Alan Dzagoev - Future Star!

 

Lille v Internazionale a�� Lille Metropol, 18 October, 2011

Lille have made a slow start to their campaign this season with two draws. The French champions come into this match on the back of an excellent display against Auxerre in the weekend. Eden Hazard has been the shining star for Lille this season and was rested this weekend (came on as a substitute) for this upcoming fixture.Lille is expected to cause lot of trouble to a struggling Inter on their home soil. Interestingly Lille have secured three clean sheets against in their last three games against an Italian team. The French side are also unbeaten in their last 10 matches having lost just once in their last 31 games! AurA�lien Chedjou and Moussa Sowa��s fitness are their only concerns at the moment.

Inter have made a horrible start to the season in all fronts. They are currently second in the group with three points after scraping through against CSKA in their last match. They have suffered another shock defeat to Catania in Serie A last weekend. New coach Claudio Ranieri is under increasing pressure to turn their season around, and they would like to do so in France. Inter have lost five games in eight this season and have quite un-characteristically conceded 13 goals in six league games so far.

The big news for the Italian club is the availability of Wesley Sneijder after a long absence due to injury. The Dutchman will be instrumental is they are to make anything out of this match. Walter Samuel, Countinho and Julio Cesar are out with injuries, while Cordoba, who replaced Samuel this weekend, is not in the Champions League squad. Christian Chivu should start the game and Thiago Motta is doubtful for this match due to a thigh problem.

THT Prediction:A�Lille 2-1 Inter

THT Players To Watch Out For:A�Eden Hazard (Lille), Wesley Sneijder (Inter)

Group C a�� FC Basel (Switzerland), SL Benfica (Portugal),ManchesterUnited (England), FC Otelul Galati(Romania)

 

Otelul Galati v Manchester United a�� National Arena, Bucharest, 18 October, 2011

Otelul Galatia��s Coach Dorinel Munteanu has said in his post match interviews that it would be a�?an honoura�? for his team to be taking on the English Champions Manchester United. OA?elul have suffered two defeats in the opening group stage match ups. Not much were expected of them when the Champions League started. In their last match they were defeated narrowly by Benfica at home. It is a tough time for them to be playing the Red Devils as they have managed to lose five out of their last nine competitive fixtures. Their home form has been a cause for worry as well. Otelul had some good news this weekend though; they welcomed back Cornel RA?pA? andA�Gabriel Paraschiv returned from injury on Friday – both are expected to feature against Manchester United. The Romanian club has nothing to lose and would home to take the game to Sir Alexa��s men.

Manchester United might have been in scintillating form in the domestic league, but they havena��t set Europe on fire as of yet. With two draws in the opening fixtures, The English Champions would look to make their mark on what looks like an easy fixture on paper. In their last fixture, they played out a nerve wrecking 3-3 draw with Basel at the Old Trafford. They will travel to Bucharest on the back of a somewhat shaky performance against arch-rivals Liverpool this weekend. Rafael, Gibson and Cleverly are all injured and out of contention along with Ferdinand who hasna��t traveled. Vidic is back from a back injury as Sir Alex will bring back Nani and Rooney into the team who were not included in the starting eleven this weekend. Last time United failed to win either of their opening two games in Europe was back in 1998-1999 season, when they lifted the cup. Sir Alex would hope his team follows a similar path this season as well.

THT Prediction: Otelul Galati 0-2Manchester United

THT Players To Watch Out For: Marius Pena (Otelul), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

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Is it the repeat of 1998/99 season?

 

Basel v Benfica a�� St. Jakob-Park, Basel, 18 October, 2011

It is a clash at the top of the group with both teams tied at 4 points each. Basel made a wonderful comeback against Manchester United in their last match at Old Trafford. The match ended 3-3, but that gave Coach Heiko Vogela��s men the confidence that they can compete with the best in Europe. They will look continue their wonderful run against Benfica at home. Valentin Stocker (knee ligaments), Gilles Yapi (knee ligaments) and Kay Voser (ankle) are sidelined due to injuries. Marco Streller was rested last weekend due to a muscle strain and is doubtful for this clash.Basel will rely heavily on Alexander Frei, who has been in superb form this season.

Benfica have made a good start to their European campaign as well. Last time around, they won a hard-fought match against Otelul away from home. Jorge Jesusa��s side cruised to comfortable 2-0 victory over Portimonense in Portuguese Super Cup this weekend. They have been unbeaten in 14 matches this season. In team news, Javi Garcia and Enxo Perez are their only absentees.

THT Prediction:A�Basel 2-1 Benfica

THT Players To Watch Out For: Alexander Frei (Basel), A�scar Cardozo (Benfica)

Group D a�� Real Madrid (Spain), Olympique Lyon (France), AFC Ajax (Holland), GNK Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia)

 

Real Madrid v Lyon a��Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, 18 October, 2011

This match-up has been a regular fixture for the past few seasons in the Champions League group stages. Jose Mourinhoa��s men have strong start to their European campaign and have a 100% record in opening rounds. While the Spanish side will look to make their progress into the next round all but certain with another win, Mourinho has some selection headaches. Higuain has scored three hat-tricks in his last 4 games for club and country and the coach has indicated that he might play the Argentine along with Benzema in this match. Raul Albiol, Carvalho, Diarra and Sahin are all injured, while Mourinho and Marcelo return from suspensions.

Lyon has been in good form this season both in Domestic League and Europe. They got a comfortable win over Dinamo Zagreb in their last match at home. There were some good news for the French side last weekend as ClA�ment Grenier, Cris, Ederson and Yoann Gourcuff all made their comeback from injuries into the first team. Grenier is still doubtful to feature in this match along with long-term absentees like JA�rA�my Pied, Anthony Lopes, Lisandro and Yannis Tafer.

THT Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Lyon

THT Players To Watch Out For: Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid), Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon)

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Higuain: Red hot form!

 

Dinamo Zagreb v Ajax a�� Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, 18 October, 2011

Dinamo Zagreba��s campaign has been off to a dismal start. They are yet to open their accounts afterA�sufferingA�two defeats in the opening rounds. In their last match they were beaten comprehensively by Lyon. More worryingly for coach Krunoslav Jurcic , his team are yet to score in this edition of Champions League. Right Back Sime Vrsaljko will serve his three-match suspension, while Captain Milan Badelj and Mateo Kovacic will have to undergo a late fitness test to feature in this match. Arijan Ademi, Mehmed Alispahic, Igor Biscan and Mathias Chago are out for long terms.

For Ajax this nearly a must-win game, after managing just one draw in two matches. Coach Frank de Boer is confident that his lads can turn this around and qualify for the next round. They have not been in the best of form this season, with just one win in their last seven competitive game. Mats Ritsis is back from injury but might not feature in this match. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, Aras Ozbiliz and Nicolai Boilesen are all out with injuries as well.

THT Prediction: Dinamo Zagreb 1-1Ajax

THT Players To Watch Out For: Fatos Beqiraj (Dinamo Zagreb), Christian Eriksen (Ajax)

Group A a�� FC Bayern Munich (Germany), SSC Napoli (Italy),Manchester City FC (England), Villarreal CF (Spain)

Napoli v Bayern Munich, Stadio San Paolo, Naples, 18 October, 2011

It is arguably the most anticipated match of Match day 3. Napoli Coach Walter Mazzarri has sent out a war cry and said his team has a�?no feara�? ahead of the big clash. Napoli has been a shining light in Serie A this season, challenging the established order and making headlines. Last weekend they made headlines for the wrong reasons though, as they suffered a defeat at the hands of Parma. Despite that result they have made an impressive start to the season and in their last Champions League match they strolled past Villarreal at home. They are unbeaten in their last nine matches at home in Europe and havena��t conceded a goal in their last six. Marco Donadel and Goran pandev are doubtful for the clash with injuries.

Bayern Munich has made a perfect start to the season and are undoubtedly one of the best sides in Europe at the moment. They have won their first two games and are now favorites to go through to the second round from what has been billed as the a�?Group of deatha��. They sent out a strong message across the continent after an impressive display against a strong Manchester City team in Matchday 2. Another win will let them sit comfortably at the top as other scrap around for qualification.

They dismantled Hertha Berlin in their league match this Saturday. Gomez, Ribery and Schweinsteiger has been in superb form this season. The only bad news for them is that Arjen Robben is out after under going a groin surgery, but it doesna��t look like they miss him. The visitors must be aiming to seal their first victory of the group stage and the opposition couldna��t have been easier to do that. However, the fact that the Catalonians have never played them before may be a factor for the hosts to string in a surprise or two.

THT Prediction:A�Napoli 2-2 Bayern Munich

THT Players To Watch Out For: Edison Cavani (Napoli), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)

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The commander of Bayern army.

 

Manchester City v Villarreal a�� City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester, 18 October, 2011

The new comers in Europe have found it hard to make their presence felt. For Manchester City, this could well be a pivotal match in their European ambitions. Mancini knows anything short of a win may very well mean exit from Champions League after suffering a defeat in the hands of Bayern in match day 2. City have been in brilliant form in Premier League from the start as last weekend they demolished Aston Villa in a 4-1 victory. Mario Balotelli, who scored against Villa, will serve the last of his three-match suspension. Sergio Aguero is said to have a groin problem which kept him out of weekenda��s fixture, and he remains a doubtful starter for this match.

The yellow submarine are yet to open their accounts in this yeara��s campaign. Villarreal were crushed by Napoli in their last game in Europe and will look to bounce back. They have the odds stacked against them as they travel to England and an early exit looks to written on the cards. Coach Juan carlos Garrido has asked his team to show a�?braverya�? and a�?gutsa�? ahead of the clash. Interestingly they have never lost three games in row in Europe and they have also never failed to qualify from the group stages of an European competition. Injuries havena��t helped their cause either with Mateo Mussacchio, Nilmar, Marco Ruben, Angel Lopez, Javier Camunas and Marcos Senna still unavailable.

THT Prediction:A�Manchester City 2-1 Villarreal

THT Players To Watch Out For: David Silva (Manchester City), Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal)

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2 Responses to “Champions League Group Stage a�� Matchday 3 Preview: Napoli Host Bayern, Man City Look To Keep Their Hopes Alive”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. inder says:

    I have this strange feeling that Villarreal will draw the game:) anyway should be an interesting couple of days, as usual!

  2. Amlan Majumdar says:

    I hope they do…sincerely :)