Matchday five of the UEFA Champions League is upon us. Matchday four established the group stage as something to look forward to instead of embarrassing mismatches as it served one of the most exciting UEFA Champions League games in recent memory with Celtic’s victory over Barcelona on their 125th anniversary clearly the one that grabbed all the headlines, and rightly so. Chelsea’s last gasp win against Shakhtar, Manchester United making yet another comeback to secure qualification, were among other exciting games. Here, TheHardTackle previews the games from Group E and Group F.
Juventus v Chelsea
Juventus Stadium, Turin
Clearly the most exciting fixture of Matchday five, this game is likely to decide which team will continue it’s run in the UEFA Champions League further than the group stages. Juventus currently sit third at six points while Chelsea sit second with seven points. A victory for Juventus here would mean that a draw would suffice on Matchday six for them, leaving Chelsea relying on Shakhtar. A draw or a win for Chelsea would mean that they would still continue to be their masters of their destiny, with a relatively easier fixture against Nordsjælland at home on Matchday six.
On the domestic front, Juventus continue to sit top of the table, having recovered well after the defeat against Inter ended their 49 match winning streak. They come into the game on the back of a 0-0 draw against Lazio. Chelsea on the other hand are on a miserable run of form, a perfunctory drop in the month of November, having picked up just 2 points in their last four league games and come into the game on the back of a disappointing defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion, wherein several key players were rested with one eye on this fixture.
Had it not been for Victor Moses’ parting of sea…or his last gasp header, Chelsea would not find themselves in this position. Even so, this will so far be Chelsea’s sternest test and could not have come at a worse possible time. Being made to chase shadows for an entire game and coming up with a winner at the end might not be a possibility against an experienced team like Juventus. In the absence of injured John Terry, Chelsea would need someone to take up the role of the leader on the pitch, something they have lacked in their recent performances.
As for Juventus, Andrea Pirlo would like to have much more of an influence on the game and Arturo Vidal, who has been putting in stronger performances after a few ‘less than impressive’ cameos, would like to put in a similar shift as last time around against Chelsea. With Chelsea’s defence and attack little short of absolute shambles, it is the midfield where the game would be won or lost, and on current form Juventus are likely to take advantage of it. Although another surprise from Chelsea could not be entirely ruled out.
Prediction: Juventus 2-1 Chelsea
Nordsjælland v Shaktar Donetsk
Over the course of this season’s UEFA Champions League campaign, Shakhtar have proven that they deserve to be in this competition, that they are willing as well as capable of taking on the Big Boys of Europe, in their performances against Chelsea and Juventus. They were unlucky not to take a point away from Stamford Bridge on Matchday four, and would look to put that behind them. And if they can manage to put in another one of their special performances, it would be very very hard for Nordsjælland to get a result out of the game, even though they play on home turf.
On the domestic front, Shakhtar lost their first game in Ukrainian Premier League this season against Arsenal Kyiv away but stay on top of the league, and will no doubt take heart from European outings so far. Nordsjælland come into the game on back of a draw against Randers FC and an away victory at AGF Aarhus.
Nordsjælland will have the obvious home advantage but it is hard to envisage anything other than a Shakhtar win, if their European form is anything to go by. Fernandinho and Willian have been absolutely brilliant as well as inspirational for Shakhtar and will again be crucial in this fixture, which could very well decide their position in the group.
Prediction: Nordsjælland 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk
Valencia CF v Bayern Munich
Mestalla Stadium, Valencia
The one time UEFA Champions League finalists will face off once again on Matchday five, with far less at stake, although come the end of group stages, this game’s result could well dictate who ends up on the top spot with the winner of this game being the most likely to top the group. Valencia, save for the defeat at the hands of Bayern on Matchday one have won all their games and sit below Bayern in second spot.
On the domestic front too, Bayern sit top of the Bundesliga with a comfortable eight point lead over second placed Schalke. They come into the game on the back of an uninspiring away draw to Nürnberg, but will look to bounce back for an important fixture and rely on their UEFA Champions League experience and know-how. Bastian Schweinsteiger has been gradually coming back to his best after his lenghty injury lay off. Him and Franck Ribery would be instrumental for Bayern, especially after Ribery was rested against Nürnberg.
Valencia on the other hand have had a topsy-turvy season and currently sit seventh in La Liga. Roberto Soldado too has been in fine form after an unconvincing start to the season and will be key to Valencia’s fortunes. They come into the game on the back of a 2-1 victory over Espanyol and are on a five match unbeaten run.
Prediction: Valencia 1-1 Bayern Munich
BATE Borisov v LOSC Lille
Dinamo Stadion, Minsk
Contrary to expectations, Lille have had a dreadful UEFA Champions League campaign, having lost all four of their group stage matches, and will not qualify for the knockout rounds. They could still qualify for Europa League, although they would have to rely on others for that. BATE have had a considerably successful campaign, with the victory over Bayern Munich being the flashpoint of their campaign. They will most likely make it to the Europa League, but going through to the knockout stages cannot be ruled out.
On the domestic front, BATE Borisov sit top of their domestic league with a four point advantage over second placed Shakhtyor Soligorsk and come into the game on back of a resounding 5-1 win over Minsk. Lille have been on the other hand been poor, and the French champions of a two seasons ago seem only a shadow of themselves as they occupy the eighth spot on the league table. They come into the game on the back of a 2-0 defeat to FC Lorient. Successive departures of Gervinho and Eden Hazard have not them much good. On current tun of form, anything other than a victory for BATE Borisov is unlikely.
Prediction: BATE Borisov 1-0 LOSC Lille