Last night saw some fascinating action in the Champions League as Barcelona lost 3-2 away to PSG in a superb game in France, Chelsea defeated Portuguese side Sporting CP 1-0 away, Man City were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Roma and Bayern Munich were victorious in Russia against CSKA Moscow. Tonight sees a second night of ties with Liverpool, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Juventus and Atlético Madrid all playing in Round 2 of the UEFA Champions League group stage.
FC Basel v Liverpool, St. Jakob-Park
Liverpool just about scrapped past relative minnows Ludogorets at home in their Champions League return on match-day one, this week their task is somewhat harder. Steven Gerrard and Mario Balotelli will be needed once again as FC Basel host them in Switzerland. Basel will be desperate for a result following the 5-1 demolition at the hands of Real Madrid in Spain.
Basel are missing midfielder Marcelo Diaz, defender Philipp Degen, Ivan Ivanov and veteran Walter Samuel for the visit of the Reds. Former Swansea City boss Paulo Sousa has challenged his side to make history tonight as they have to improve on the Madrid defeat and keep themselves in the Champions League. Their 7 wins in 10 league games should bode well and make St. Jakob-Park a tough place to visit.
Liverpool are still without Daniel Sturridge for this tie as Mario Balotelli is ready to lead the line once again. His only Liverpool goal has come in this competition so expect it him to be desperate to continue that tonight. Joe Allen, Glen Johnson, Emre Can, John Flanagan and Mamadou Sakho are all also injured meaning Brendan Rodgers’ squad is being stretched with domestic and European fixtures. It’s a draw for me, 1-1 with Liverpool not able to snatch victory.
Arsenal v Galatasaray, Emirates Stadium
Arsenal were on the receiving end of a 2-0 thumping to Borussia Dortmund in their opening Champions League tie in Germany. It really could’ve been more but this means Arsene Wenger’s men have to get a result at home to Turkish visitors Galatasaray. Galatasaray drew 1-1 with Anderlecht in their opener and so they need to pick up more points if they have a chance at getting out the group.
Arsenal were dealt a big blow by losing Welshman Aaron Ramsey to a hamstring injury and are also without Mikel Arteta, Olivier Giroud, Nacho Monreal, Mathieu Debuchy, Yaya Sanogo, Theo Walcott and maybe Jack Wilshere too. It’ll mean the pressure will be on those players who have struggled on occasion in the Premier League and a few of those may be tired bodies. The return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is certainly a boost, adding a different side to the Gunners attack.
Former Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has no injury concerns facing him for the trip to London, something that will be important in a tough match for the Turks. Galatasaray secured another victory in the league on the weekend beating Sivasspor 2-1, they will take reasonable form and the need to do better ahead for this game. I think Arsenal will get back on track with a 2-1 victory tonight.
Atlético Madrid v Juventus, Vincente Calderón Stadium
In perhaps the biggest tie of the night, Spanish title holder Atlético Madrid take on the Italian giants and champions Juventus at the Vincente Calderón Stadium. Juventus come to Madrid with a win under their belts in their Champions League opener as they saw off Malmö FF at home but Atléti have to get 3 points tonight following their surprise 3-2 loss to Greek side Olympiacos.
Atléti boss Diego Simeone has little injury worries tonight with only midfielder and captain Gabi out for the game. However the pressure will be on their shoulders to win a home game and not fall 6 points behind Juventus in the race for Group A top spot. Atléti pummelled Sevilla 4-0 at home on the weekend and have started the season fairly strongly so will be hoping to continue some smart form against the Old Lady.
Juventus’ season under new Head Coach Max Allegri hasn’t suffered any blips at all yet. Many feared things may slip backwards with people doubting Allegri but their 3-0 away win on the weekend over Atalanta showcased their might. The legendary Andrea Pirlo will miss tonight’s trip to Spain, as will Andrea Barzagli and midfielder Rômulo. The win against Malmö was as expected but this provides a much tougher test for I bianconeri. I hope for a quality game with plenty of goals, 2-2 as I can’t separate these two!
Other Champions League ties, 1 October 2014:
Malmö FF v Olympiacos
Ludogorets v Real Madrid
Zenit St. Petersburg v AS Monaco (early kick off)
Bayer Leverkusen v Benfica
Anderlecht v Borussia Dortmund