Arsenal, Schalke and Olympiakos wrestle it out in Group B as PSG and Porto look to book their places in the knockout rounds. This and a lot more in TheHardTackle’s preview of the Champions League games from Group A and Group B.
Dynamo Kyiv vs. PSG
NSK Olympiskiy, Kiev
PSG will be heavily reliant on Zlatan Ibrahimovic as always and the injuries to Menez and Gameiro won’t help their cause one bit. Having beaten Zagreb both home and away PSG are on a good run in Europe but travelling to Kiev isn’t the easiest of tasks. The Swede will be leading the line and would be taking the field for the first time since his heroics against England in a friendly last week. PSG lost at the weekend against 9 men Rennes as Zlatan was suspended for the game. His influence can be best seen on Matchday 4 when PSG ran out 4-0 winners over Zagreb, Zlatan setting up all the 4 goals. Blokhin would issue special instructions to his backline in order to deal with Zlatan’s influence in the box.
Kyiv have a mathematical chance of qualifying though it would take a brave man to bet on that scenario. With PSG requiring just 1 point from the remaining two games, the French club would hardly take anything for granted and would be looking to seal qualification with a regulation win.
Prediction: Dynamo Kiev 1-2 PSG
Porto vs. Dinamo Zagreb
Estádio do Dragão, Porto
Dinamo Zagreb have found life in the Champions League extremely difficult to cope with. No goals, no points and no hopes of further European participation means the Croatian club can play without any inhibitions when they travel to Portugal in search of their maiden win and points.
Porto are in a much better state after having guaranteed qualification and have looked a confident unit so far, having dropped points only once, which came last week away to Kiev. Home form has always been the key for Porto and this season has been no different as they have continued to dominate home territory both domestically and in Europe. Dinamo Zagreb have already conceded 10 goals in the first four games and Porto would be looking to add to their opponents miserable run.
This is expected to be a pretty one sided game and unless Porto get too complacent on the night they should be out of sight by the end of the night. All that is in doubt, is the margin of the victory for the hosts.
Prediction: Porto 3-0 Dynamo Zagreb
Schalke vs Olympiakos
Stadion Gelsenkirchen, Gelsenkirchen
Group B is one of the most poignantly balanced groups in the competition and as Greek side Olympiakos travel to Germany, both teams would be fully aware of all permutations and combinations for qualification. A Schalke win would mean a safe passage into the knockout rounds for the German club while a win for the Greek side will mean this group will be decide on the final day.
Olympiacos have recovered their early European slump over the past two Matchdays as they beat Montpellier in both the games. Their domestic form has been sensational as they romped to a 2-0 home win yet again on Saturday night. Schalke on the other hand had a great opportunity to close the gap on Bayern but lost to Bayer Leverkusen. Coach Hubb Stevens might have his work cut out as this could be a huge match for the Gelsenkirchen club as they look to qualify for the knockout stages. Olympiacos haven’t been great on the road and look to struggle defensively, something the manager needs to fix as Schalke have an imperious home record and have been scoring freely all season. For the goals Mitroglou will again be the go-to man for the Greek champions.
Both teams will have this game high on their priority lists and a defeat could prove detrimental for either side. Schalke will be looking to make the most out of playing at home but Olympiakos will be no pushovers and will put up a fight. This is expected to be a tight affair and a draw will not be a surprise.
Prediction: Schalke 1-1 Olympiakos
Arsenal vs. Montpellier
Emirates Stadium, London
Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud awaits his former employers Montpellier as the French club travel to North London. Montpellier are struggling both in France and Europe as they seem to lack ideas especially away from home. A hint of second season syndrome for the French champions means they are as good as out of Europe with just a solitary point in the bag. Sitting in 13th place in Ligue 1, Montpellier played out a drab 1-1 draw against Valenciennes in domestic action over the weekend.
Arsenal have had a topsy turvy start to the season and head into an extreme juncture in their season. Seven points going into Matchday 5 means the Gunners need to win both their games in order to qualify without being dependent on other results. A 5-2 thrashing of Spurs on Saturday evening will help restore a certain amount of confidence in the team and might bring out the best in the players. The European pedigree of the Londoners will be a huge bonus going into the game against European newcomers Montpellier. The French club would be looking to collect their first win when they travel to England and have almost nothing to play for. Two wins in the next two games might see them qualify for the Europa League provided other results go their way.
Arsenal have more at stake and thus must take the game by the scruff of the neck. Arsene Wenger would be looking for a comprehensive victory as it could boost the morale but such a margin seems unlikely. Despite this a home win should be on the cards.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Montpellier