PSG have a lot of work to do after their lackluster performance against Porto. They currently sit behind Dynamo Kyiv and Wednesday’s game against Dinamo Zagreb will be instrumental in PSG’s bid to qualify through to the knockout stage. Arsenal and Schalke lock horns in a mouth watering encounter at the Emirates Stadium to move one step closer to qualification. This and a lot more in TheHardTackle’s preview of the Champions League games from Group A and Group B.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. PSG
Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb
The league leaders from the Croatian First League face off against the league leaders from the Ligue 1. Yet, this game seems like a complete mismatch because of the difference in caliber between the two leagues. Zagreb were convincingly beaten in both of their earlier Champions League games and going up against a hungry PSG side isn’t going to be any easier.
PSG will be heavily reliant on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, their highest goalscorer this season. The Big Swede relishes playing against weaker opposition like Zagreb and this will be a good opportunity for him to put in a good performance in Europe. Zagreb will have to do whatever it takes to stop this beastly attacker, since closing him down could help them squeeze through with a point. PSG haven’t looked too weak defensively but their new look defense might struggle just a little bit if Zagreb can offer something out of the box.
Zagreb’s hopes of qualification are almost surely wiped out after those unimpressive outings against Porto and Dynamo Kyiv. On the other hand, PSG are currently tied on points and whatever the result may be in Portugal, the French side must pick up three points to stay in the race for qualification. A lot to play for in this game, but only side seems likely to pick up the three points. It will take something extraordinary from Sammir and co. to upset heavy spending PSG.
Prediction: Dinamo Zagreb 1-3 PSG
Porto vs. Dynamo Kyiv
Estádio do Dragão, Porto
With PSG failing to trouble Porto in matchday 2, Kyiv were given a lifeline to qualify for the knockout round. Porto have shown their European experience in the last two games, especially in their victory against PSG. This and the gulf in quality between these two sides could make this game a fairly on sided affair.
Porto have looked a confident side so far and they are yet to lose a game this season. They are sitting at the top of the Portuguese league, albeit only on goal difference. Their defensive unit has been very solid, having conceded just four goals in six league games and none in the Champions League. Their opponents on Wednesday, Dynamo Kyiv, have had a torrid season so far. Dynamo lost just one game last season but their woeful start to this one has seen been beaten on four occasions already. Their recent losses against Metalist and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk will have Oleg Blokhin very worried before this tie.
This should prove to be another one-sided affair with Porto finishing off the game fairly early. Blokhin must ensure that his side can keep the third position and a Europa League spot to themselves.
Prediction: Porto 2-1 Dynamo Kyiv
Montpellier vs. Olympiacos
La Mosson, Montpellier
Montpellier have turned heads in their first two Champions League games and have probably deserved more than just one point. Olympiacos have been the side to be pushed around in this group and will have to get their act together if they are to return from France with some points.
Olympiacos’ league form has been in stark contrast to their Champions League showings. They are yet to drop a single point this season, having won all of their seven games so far. Their attack has been sensational, with 18 goals in just 7 games. Their defense record has been no less impressive, having conceded just 3 in 7 games. Montpellier have been just the opposite in the league as they currently occupy the 16th position and are yet to win at home this season. The French champions have been a shadow of their former selves and will have to hope to turn their season around from here.
Olympiacos’ European experience will be a massive advantage over Montpellier and could possibly be the deciding factor in this game. Montpellier’s highly talented midfield will have to put the Olympiacos defense to the sword early on if they are to leave the La Mosson with three points.
Prediction: Montpellier 2-2 Olympiacos
Arsenal vs. Schalke
Emirates Stadium, London
Arsenal have had a sort of sinusoidal season so far, with that 6-1 thrashing of Southampton as their crest and their recent loss to Norwich as a deep trough. Wenger’s side currently sits in 9th position in the league and can almost surely count themselves out of the title race. Schalke come into this tie on the back of a memorable Revierderby victory over Borussia Dortmund. The Royal Blues have lost just one game this season, and that was against the unstoppable Bayern Munich. They are yet to lose away from and their derby victory will take them into this game with immense momentum.
Arsenal weren’t too impressive against Montpellier and could well have ended up losing two points had the Frenchmen been more clinical. The Gunners were a lot better last time out against Olympiacos, with Gervinho being their hero. Against a defensively sound Schalke side Arsenal will need a more lethal striker if they are to pick up any points. Schalke’s most potent threat has been a ghost of what he was last season, but writing off the Hunter would be blasphemous. Lewis Holtby will be the Germans’ main threat and Arsenal could be in for a tough time thanks to this youngster.
Arsenal will know that a victory at home will almost surely guarantee them a place in the knockout stages and this will also allow Wenger to rest his big names in the future games. Schalke desperately need the three points here to stay clear of Montpellier and Olympiacos, and maybe even push for the top spot in Group B.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-2 Schalke