Dortmund find themselves on the brink of qualification for the next round as Madrid travel to City in a crucial round of matches. TheHardTackle brings to you the preview of Group C and Group D ahead of third matchday in Europe’s elite club competition.
Zenit vs. Malaga
Stadion Petrovski, St Petersburg
Málaga have been in sensational form this season and were one of the first teams to qualify for the round of 16 having conceded just one goal in their debut season in Europe. Pelligrini has done wonders at a club that was on the verge of dissolution at the beginning of the season and a win in Russia will confirm as group winners.
The hosts come into this game on the back of a controversial game against Dynamo Moscow that was eventually called off as goalkeeper Shunin was hit by a firecracker. The hostility in the crowd will be kept under check as UEFA have called out for stricter security. Malaga on their part drew a blank against Osasuna in a goalless affair. Malaga might be unfamiliar with the Russian temperatures and playing conditions, something that will clearly work in the hosts’ favour.
Qualification is very much in their own hands for Zenit as they welcome back star summer signing Hulk from a thigh injury. A victory here and Zenit will be right in the mix for a knockout berth and with the chilly conditions in St. Petersburg, they do hold all the aces.
Prediction: Zenit 2-1 Malaga
Anderlecht vs Milan
Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Brussels
This is an extremely important game for both sides given that they are both looking to qualify from this cut-throat group where all three teams except the already qualified Malaga have an almost equal footing. A win for either side would be crucial going into the last day of the group stages. Both teams started their season slowly and have slowly got into their rhythm and that might just make this a very tightly contested game.
Anderlecht were professional in their win over Kortrijk, beating them 1-0 comfortably and saving enough in the tank for the Wednesday night showdown against Milan. Milan went to Naples on Saturday night and came back from two goals down to salvage a draw against Napoli, as El Shaarawy stole the show. Recent revival for the Italian giants will infuse enthusiasm and confidence ahead of their Group C encounter. A win will put Milan on the verge of qualification at the very least. In case Malaga win their game against Zenit and Milan win in Belgium, Milan would join the Spanish club in the round of 16. A win for Anderlecht however will make things interesting, putting the Belgian champions in pole position to qualify from the group.
This will be a cagey affair with both teams too afraid to lose and might be decided on fine margins. Anderlecht’s home form hasn’t been very impressive but they did manage to beat Zenit by a solo goal last time round. A similar scoreline will put them ever so closer to the next round, and push Milan closer to Europa League football.
Prediction: Anderlecht 1-1 Milan
Man City vs. Real Madrid
Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Real Madrid find themselves in a tricky position as they travel to Manchester. Recent outings in the Champions League have been highly disappointing for the Spanish champions as they managed just 1 point in the previous two matches against Dortmund. City are struggling to find their feet in the competition themselves, with just 2 points on board.
Both teams come into this game flying high in their respective domestic league scoring 5 goals each. Man City were rampant on Saturday night as Argentine duo Tevez and Aguero scoring a brace each as they beat Aston Villa while Madrid thumped Bilbao 5-1 at the Bernabeau. Ronaldo didn’t score at the weekend but will be looking forward to getting on the scoresheet against the bitter rivals of his former employees Manchester United.
Roberto Mancini has tried everything in his locker, from 3 at the back to playing 3 uptop but to no avail. The Italian gaffer believes his side can still qualify, a sentiment not many others share. What Man City can surely do, is dent Madrid’s chances of qualification by winning or drawing at the Etihad. With the sort of home record City boast, it’s difficult to imagine how Real Madrid can leave with all 3 points.
Prediction: Man City 2-2 Real Madrid
Ajax vs. Dortmund
Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam
Ajax are extremely unlucky to find themselves in this group but unlike initially they stand a strong chance now. With 2 games left in the group stages the Dutch side have their task cut out as anything short of 2 wins in the remaining games would mean adios Champions League football. Their domestic form continues to impress and would be fairly optimistic before this crucial game.
Dortmund go into Matchday 5 top of Group D, the group of death as they said. Their arrival in Europe has been acknowledged all across the continent after they took the game to Madrid and came out with 4 points out of a possible 6. Jurgen Klopp’s tactical flexibilty has helped the team and they continued their recent good form in Germany with a 3-1 win over Feurth. Travelling to Amsterdam hasn’t been easy for teams in the past bar Real Madrid and Klopp needs his side to put in an A-rate performance and secure qualification with a win.
This is unlikely to be one of those open end games, and might take a while before any clear chances are created. A cagey affair is on the cards, but Dortmund should have enough artillery to get a much needed winner.
Prediction: Ajax 1-2 Dortmund