Arsenal travel to Olympiakos as PSG and Porto faceoff on Matchday 6. With all the groups as good as decided a lot of second string sides are expected as teams to look to hold back their horses for the knockout rounds. This and a lot more in TheHardTackle’s preview of the UEFA Champions League games from Group A and Group B.
Dinamo Zagreb v Dynamo Kyiv
Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb
3rd place team face 4th place team in a match up that holds no meaning for either side. Zagreb have been poor all season and the points table underlines their incompetence at this level. Having lost all 5 games, they have conceeded 13 in the process and while scoring none. They do play their last game at home and might want to exit the competition on a high with a win in front of their own fans. They haven’t been very good in Croatia either, but won against Lokomotiva on Saturday. Pride is at stake for Cacic’s side and anything other than a defeat will be acceptable to the supporters.
Dynamo Kyiv have impressed in bits and parts but must consider themselves very lucky to have booked third place with just 4 points on the board after 5 games. With Europa League football guaranteed, the Ukrainian side will field a weakened side resting stars like Veloso and Yarmalenko when they travel to Croatia after an assuring 4-2 victory against Hoverla.
This game might be a boring stuck-in-the-middle sort of affair with both sides having absolutely nothing to play for bar respect and pride. That should see Zagreb open their account for the season.
Prediction: Dinamo Zagreb 1 – 0 Dynamo Kiev
PSG v Porto
Parc des Prances, Paris
PSG’s spending spree has seen them reach the knockout stages of the Champions League in their very first attempt unlike a certain Manchester club. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have looked good against the relatively lesser opponents from Kiev and Zagreb and this game might be a proper barometer for them to check how far they have come before the round of 16. Add to that the small matter of finishing group winners and this match has a whole new meaning for both sides.
In France, Nice became the latest team to dent PSG’s title aspirations, beating the capital club by a 2-1 margin. Porto have been in ominous form in the league but were beaten by Braga during the weekend. Sitting on top of the group ahead of the final matchday means that the Portuguese club have a certain room for error and might choose to approach this game with a certain amount of caution.
PSG’s horrible form in recent weeks means Porto do stand a pretty even chance in this game. Fighting for bragging rights in the group, Porto might just settle for a draw here.
Prediction: PSG 0 – 0 Porto
Olympiakos v Arsenal
Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus
Olympiakos came within a whisker to stand a good chance to qualify for the knockouts but for a late goal for Schalke on Matchday 5 combined with Arsenal’s victory. The Greek champions have given a pretty good account of themselves in the group stages and will hope to replicate the same in the Europa League as well. They beat Platanias over the weekend and will be in good spirits when the Londoners visit.
Arsenal have been out of form in recent weeks, losing at home to Swansea, drawing against Everton and Aston Villa and looking nowhere close to their free-flowing best. Champions League qualification was secured a fortnight back as they beat Montpellier in London to progress. Arsene Wenger has constantly reiterated the fatigue levels of his players, and resting a few players would seem to be a fair ploy considering finishing runners-up won’t make much of a difference to the teams this season.
An Olympiakos win will be a brilliant bet if you’re one of those who invest on matchdays. A second string team for Arsenal would hardly be a surprise, but the squad players would hope to grab their opportunities.
Prediction: Olympiakos 2 – 1 Arsenal
Montpellier vs Schalke
La Mosson, Montpellier
Montpellier’s elimination from the Champions League means we can get to see a more relaxed and free performance from the French champions who have looked nothing like the efficient unit they were last season. Defeat at the hands of Lyon meant the defending champions find themselves 13th after 15 rounds.
Schalke are top of group B and would like to ensure things stay the same with a win in France. The Bundesliga club have looked pale recently, losing to Hamburg and then drawing at home against Gladbach. With qualification guaranteed and a lot of changes expected, Schalke would be lucky to get a result away in Montpellier who are no pushovers at home themselves. A defeat or draw for the Germans coupled with a win for Arsenal will mean Schalke go into the Round of 16 draw as a second-placed team.
Squad selection could be critical in this game, but the French champions who have been entertaining will look to end their European journey on a high.
Prediction: Montpellier 2 – 2 Schalke