The last matchday in the Champions League produced some of the biggest shocks in the tournament’s history. With the reverse games beginning this week, the likes of Chelsea, Juventus and Benfica will be hoping to get back to winning ways. TheHardTackle previews the games from Group E and Group F.
Chelsea v Shakhtar Donetsk
Stamford Bridge, London
Shakhtar have been the surprise package of the Champions League this season, and they currently occupy the top spot in Group E and hold an important three point lead over second placed Chelsea. With the top two teams in this group locking horns once again, this tie could easily spell doom for the London side.
Shakhtar completely blew Chelsea aside when these two sides met a few weeks ago in Donetsk, but this is going to be a very different issue. The Blues returned to Premier League action against Manchester United following their loss to Shakhtar and haven’t looked too comfortable since. A controversial 3-2 loss followed by a narrow League Cup victory over the same opposition didn’t do Roberto di Matteo’s men a great deal of good, and their latest slip up against Swansea will make them hungrier than ever as they are set to face the Ukrainian champions.
Shakhtar’s domestic season continues to go unblemished as they extended their hundred percent record to 14 games with a 2-0 win over Metalurg Zaporizhya. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been in blistering form in the league and was a thorn in Chelsea’s plans in their previous meeting. Chelsea will also have to be wary of the dangerous Brazilian quartet at Mircea Lucescu’s disposal. This is undoubtedly going to be the most important and most mouth-watering tie to be played on Wednesday.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Juventus v Nordsjælland
Juventus Stadium, Turin
Juventus’ Champions League campaign has been nothing short of frustrating thus far. The Italian champions have been held to three draws and currently sit in third spot, one point behind Chelsea. Things could have been ever so different for Juventus had they picked up the three points in Denmark when these two sides met on the previous matchday.
Nordsjælland built on their unforgettable draw against Juventus with a victory over fellow title hopefuls Aalborg BK. The Danish champions suffered a setback the following week with a 2-3 loss to FC Midtjylland but bounced back to winning ways this weekend with a win over relegation probables SønderjyskE. The Danish champions will have to bring their A-game to Turin if they hope to pick up any more points in Europe’s top club competition.
Juventus will go into this matchday as one of the hungriest sides in Europe. Their continuous failings in their return season to Europe and their recent loss to Inter will greatly spur the Italian giants and one can see them return to form at the expense of the Danes. Their striker woes continue to grow and it was most obvious in their game in Denmark. Antonio Conte will have to figure something out for their home game on Thrusday if they are to finish Nordsjælland off.
Prediction: Juventus 2-0 Nordsjælland
Bayern Munich v LOSC Lille
Fußball Arena München, Munich
Bayern haven’t looked at their fluid best in the Champions League with the loss to BATE Borisov and their scrappy win over Lille being proof of this. The previous meeting between these teams wasn’t the most entertaining game to watch but a resolute performance from Bayern helped them pick up a crucial win to stay at the same pace as the other sides from Group E.
Lille may currently occupy a mid table position in the Ligue 1 but they are just five points behind the leaders PSG. They may have struggled in Europe, having lost all of their three games, but with the spoils having been shared so far, they surely do have a good chance of staging a remarkable comeback. Lille’s recent form will be a sign of encouragement. Rudi Garcia’s side have now picked up three consecutive wins, two of them against formidable opposition.
Bayern’s domestic campaign was spotless up until their surprise loss to Bayer Leverkusen. Jupp Heynckes saw his side bounce back this weekend with a thumping 3-0 win over Hamburg and will be hoping they can keep this run going. A victory against Lille will see Bayern inch closer to a spot in the knockout stage but if one looks at the trend in this tournament, a surprise just cannot be ruled out at any stage.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 2-1 LOSC Lille
Valencia v BATE Borisov
Estadi di Mestalla,Valencia
Surprisingly, BATE go into this fixture as the toppers of Group F but will be most wary of how close things are between themselves, Bayern and Valencia. The Belarusian side were destroyed by a Roberto Soldado masterclass in Minsk two weeks ago. To add to their misery, their previous and only trip to Spain ended in a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Barcelona.
Valencia will host BATE on the back of a superb performance against high flying Atletico Madrid on Saturday. This was a much needed for struggling Los Che who currently sit in ninth position in the La Liga. A lot will depend on the attacking quartet of Roberto Soldado, Sofiane Feghouli, Jonas and Andres Guardado as Valencia welcome the defending Belarusian champions.
BATE have shocked many with their showings in Europe this season, especially with their thumping win over Bayern. Their league form has been somewhat shaky of late as they have picked up one win in two games, their latest result being a 1-0 loss. With the Belarusian Premier League at the fag end of the season, BATE will have a lot more to worry about than Valencia. The retaining of the domestic title will be of utmost importance to BATE and they might take this Champions League fixture a little lighter than some would expect.
Prediction: Valencia 2-0 BATE Borisov