Dortmund host Manchester City after topping the Group of Death, while Milan and Malaga look for wins. TheHardTackle brings to you the preview of Group C and Group D ahead of third matchday in Europe’s elite club competition.
Malaga vs. Anderlecht
La Rosaleda, Malaga
Málaga host Anderlecht in a game inconsequential for the home side who have secured their status as group winners in their debut season in the Champions League. For Anderlecht this game means a chance to continue their European journey this season, although in the Europa League.
Malaga who started the season in sensational form both in Spain and in Europe have blown hot and cold in recent weeks, throwing away a two goal lead against Zenit, followed by a handsome win against Valencia and then a defeat away to Getafe. Playing at home in a virtual dead rubber will allow Pellegrini to rest some of his players before a hectic December where they aim to get back to the top 4 and close the gap on Real Madrid. Anderlecht will hope to face a depleted side as they compete with Zenit for the 3rd spot.
Outwitted and outclassed against the Italian giants, Anderlecht will hope to end their campaign on a high when they travel to Spain. Youngster Praet will be hoping to help his side restore some pride and propel the team into the Europa League. A win though looks beyond the Belgians who beat Cercle Brugge at the weekend. Expect a draw.
Prediction: Malaga 1 – 1 Anderlecht
AC Milan vs Zenit
San Siro, Milan
Zenit started the season drawing headlines after making high profile signings towards the end of the transfer window. Despite their splurge in the market, their performances in Europe have earned them 4 points in 5 games. They did come back from a losing position against Malaga last time around, but it might just have been a little too late. The Russian club can now best hope to participate in the Europa League which is also currently uncertain.
With the firepower Zenit possess upfront they haven’t been free-scoring in the Champions League with just 5 goals till now. The sooner that changes, the better for the away side who find the odds stacked heavily against them. A win might be asking too much from them but against a weakened Milan side, they might just pull off a mini-upset.
Prediction: Milan 1 – 2 Zenit
Dortmund v Manchester City
Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
The Group of Death was decided on Matchday 5, atleast half of it was. Dortmund are group winners and after a busy past few weeks, Klopp might ring the changes for this one. Playing Bayern at the weekend, Dortmund did appear jaded and with an already thin squad Klopp will appreciate the low magnitude of this game resting the likes of Reus, Gotze and Lewandowski. Young striker Schieber would be hoping for a starting place after getting minimal game time in his early career with the German champions.
Manchester City have yet again struggled in Europe, though the quality of opposition they have faced has been top drawer too. Real Madrid tore them apart at the Etihad, yet they managed to get a draw after Arbeloa’s sending off. Their domestic form has been decent and with a potential title showdown coming up at the weekend, Mancini might be tempted to give some of the fringe players a run out. With a deep squad, it might not prove to be too bad an idea.
Qualifying for the Europa League or pushing for a title challenge? Guess Mancini won’t find that too difficult to answer and his squad selection could prove crucial in this game. Dortmund are usually one of the strongest sides at home and with a terrorizing atmosphere, City might find a victory too far beyond their reach.
Prediction: Dortmund 2 – 2 Man City
Real Madrid v Ajax
Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
Ajax didn’t know what had hit them on Matchday 5 as Dortmund raced to a 2 goal lead and dominated proceedings for most of the game. All this at Amsterdam. To say they deserve to finish above Manchester City would be a pretty fair assessment of their performances in the group stages. The Dutch club beat PSV at the weekend putting themselves back in contention for the Eredevise title and injecting belief in De Boer’s team. Travelling to Madrid is no more unfamiliar territory, after drawing them for the third season running and thus getting eliminated at the group stages itself.
Real Madrid have stuttered in La Liga as well as in the Champions League but their draw in Manchester was sufficient to guarantee them qualification. A comprehensive win against Atletico on Saturday ended a series of bad results for the club which has seen coach Jose Mourinho come under the gun.
Despite Mourinho opting to field a second string side, Ajax might find it extremely difficult to get a win. A draw cannot be ruled out though. Sufficient for Ajax to secure third spot? Should be.
Prediction: Real Madrid 1 – 1 Ajax