Matchday 4 of the UEFA Champions League will kick-off on Tuesday, a day that will see sides from Groups A through D clashing . The biggest feature of the night is a rematch between two giants Juventus and Real Madrid, while both Manchester clubs will be participating on the back of a good weekend in the Premier League, where the two sides scored 10 goals between them.
1. The Rematch – Juventus Looking To Get Back On Track
The reverse fixture that took place on Matchday 3 was easily the most eagerly awaited fixture of the night. As the 9 time Champions League winners faced off against the previous season’s Italian Champions (who have lifted the cup twice but have been runner-ups 5 times), Antonio Conte and Carlo Ancelotti faced off in an engaging tactical battle. Unfortunately, the result that night was not determined by tactics, but by the actions of one player: Giorgio Chiellini. The Juve defender had a horrible outing as he practically threw away the match by first conceding a penalty in the first half, then getting sent off after the break. Juventus ended up losing a match they could have won, considering that they looked more in control of proceedings till Chiellini’s mistakes.
It will be interesting to see if the two teams line-up in a similar manner as last time. Juventus’ formation was a makeshift 4-5-1, with a 3-man central midfield where Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal sat in front of a deep-lying Andrea Pirlo, with Claudio Marchisio and Carlos Tevez in wider positions. Real Madrid’s 4-3-3 featured a central midfield with Asier Illarramendi in a similar position as Pirlo, and Sami Khedira and Luka Modric ahead of him. Out of the two, Conte’s setup looked to be clearly superior as Pirlo exerted much more influence than the Spanish youngster.
Juventus are struggling near the bottom of the Group B table, with only 2 points to show from their 3 outings, whereas Real sit on top with 9 points out of the possible 9. But if Juventus will be counting on home support to help see them through, with Turin being something of a fortress in the Champions League. Real Madrid haven’t won at Juventus since the 1960-61 season.
2. Should Man City Rest Star-Man Aguero Against “Racist” CSKA Moscow?
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero is a man in sublime form. In the weekend’s 7-0 destruction of Norwich City, he scored one goal and provided two assists in a Man-of-the-Match performance. He has been City’s talisman this season, and is currently the Premier League’s joint-top scorer (8 goals, tied with Daniel Sturridge) and joint-top provider of assists (4, so far). It would be understandable if Manuel Pellegrini decided to play the Argentine in this key tie which would nearly ensure progress from the group stages for his team. However, Pellegrini should keep in mind that he has spent a fair amount in the last transfer window, including bag-fulls of money used to gain the services of forwards Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo. While Negredo has seen some playing time alongside Aguero in the league, Jovetic and Bosnian Edin Dzeko have spent a lot of time warming the very expensive Man City bench. Surely one of the biggest reasons for having 4 top quality forwards in your squad is to rotate them between the Premier League and Champions League, so as to avoid burn-out for the likes of Aguero?
Sadly, despite Aguero’s brace helping City come back from behind to win the previous tie, that match was in the news more for non-footballing reasons. City’s Yaya Toure accused CSKA Moscow fans of racially abusing him throughout the match, and UEFA had to step in with a punishment: closure of one section of their home stadium in their next European fixture. One can only hope that this tie will be devoid of any such unsavory incidents, and will instead be a good footballing spectacle.
3. Leverkusen’s Kiessling Can Scalp Shakhtar Donetsk Again
Aside from the final goals tally, the statistics from the reverse fixture give the impression of a fairly even match.
Unfortunately, having similar levels of possession and shots on goal is not the same as having an equally good night out. The biggest difference in the two sides, besides the 4 goals scored by the German side, was Stefan Kiessling. The striker had three attempts throughout the match, out of which two were on target, both finding the back of the net. Shakhtar failed to convert any of their 11 attempts on goal (5 on target).
Leverkusen are in second place, only one point behind leaders Manchester United (who have 7 points), and a win could all but ensure progress to the next stage. Shakhtar are in third place with 4 points, and will be hoping to engineer a home win to go ahead of the Bundesliga club in the table.
4. Mancini Could Prove Managerial Mettle By Taking Galatasaray Ahead
One of the reasons Roberto Mancini was shown the door at Manchester City was their poor showing in Europe. Unable to make any impact in the Champions League during his tenure at City, he was shown the door and replaced by Manuel Pellegrini. He now has the opportunity to get his Galatasaray side’s one foot into the next round by beating lowly FC Copenhagen, a team sitting at the bottom of the table with a singular point to show from their three matches.
Galatasaray will be without talisman Wesley Sneijder and Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, but still have enough talent in their team to see through a victory. In the previous face-off against the two in Gala’s home ground, Emmanuel Eboue (No. 27) had a great outing as he dominated the right flank, contributing in both attack and defence. He linked up regularly with Bruma who played on the right-side of midfield, and got 2 assists to his name. Galatasaray can also count on frontmen Didier Drogba and Burak Yilmaz to bring in the goals.
5. Paris Saint-Germain Look Unstoppable In Group C
Stating that PSG have a star-studded line-up would be an understatement. The French club currently top their League, and Laurent Blanc’s side have the distinction of having the best goal-difference in the Group Stages so far (11).
They scored 5 goals past Anderlecht, and will be confident of getting a win at home in Paris, despite being without French Ligue top-goalscorer Edison Cavani and the larger-than-life Zlatan Ibrahimovich, who was responsible for four of the five goals scored against the Danish club in the reverse fixture (Matchday 3). They still have firepower in the shape of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Jeremy Menez. Incidentally, Anderlecht’s Matias Suarez has also been ruled out with a season-ending cruciate knee ligament injury.