Real face Dortmund test; PSG take on BayernArchive
LONDON: Borussia Dortmund welcome title holders Real Madrid while Bayern Munich visit ambitious Paris Saint-Germain in two heavyweight Champions League clashes this week.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real have never won in Dortmund and the omens don’t appear good again as they seem to lack firepower and face a team that has conceded just once in the Bundesliga and scored 19.
Dortmund top the Bundesliga while champions Bayern are third after being held 2-2 by VfL Wolfsburg on Friday. But PSG also failed to shine as they dropped their first Ligue 1 points in a 0-0 draw at Montpellier and are sweating on Neymar’s fitness.
Elsewhere, Kazakhstan’s Qarabag host their first-ever match in the elite event against AS Roma, Moscow clubs Spartak and CSKA host English opponents in Liverpool and Manchester United and Atletico Madrid will try to extend their successful home streak when they make their Champions League debut at the new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium against Chelsea.
Real top Group ‘H’ from a 3-0 over APOEL Nicosia, ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, who are in Cyprus on Tuesday after beating Dortmund 3-1 in their opener.
But Real face a difficult trip to Dortmund, missing first choice left-backs Theo Hernandez and Marcelo with injury, and forward Karim Benzema sidelined as well from the once feared front line which is struggling for form and fitness.
Real have been wasteful this season in which Ronaldo is yet to score in the league but coach Zinedine Zidane believes that will change.
“The key for us is to keep creating those chances,” he said. “Whenever he [Ronaldo] doesn’t score, you always ask about him, but he’s fine. He’s keen to score, as is to be expected, but it’s a long old season and, as always, he’ll end up being the difference-maker.”
A bust-up between Edinson Cavani and Neymar combined with a goalless draw at Montpellier have generated a sense of trouble at PSG ahead of Bayern’s visit on Wednesday.
Cavani and Neymar have reportedly made peace after arguing on the pitch, but their dismal performance at Montpellier raised concerns about the side’s dependence on their Brazilian star.
“We need to push more in order to score goals,” PSG coach Unai Emery said. “This match leaves us with a lot of things to analyse in order to continue our progression.”
The Group ‘C’ match against Chelsea on Wednesday will be Atletico’s third at the Wanda Metropolitano which replaced the Vicente Calderon, where Atletico were unbeaten in their last 11 games in the European competition.
Atletico have won both of their matches at the new venue in La Liga and rested Diego Godin, Thomas Partey and Angel Correa on the weekend to have them in the best shape against the English champions Chelsea.
“Chelsea are riddled with extraordinary player and we will pick the team best suited to facing them,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said.
Chelsea routed Qarabag 6-0 in their opener and the Azerbaijan club would hope for a better result against Roma who are looking to end a woeful away record in the Champions League.
Including qualifying, Roma have won only one of their past 13 matches on their travels in Europe’s elite competition.
The Champions League provides Russian authorities with a key test of their World Cup readiness this week, and a glimpse at the welcome fans can expect next year. Two of England’s fiercest rivals, Liverpool and Manchester United, play on consecutive nights in Moscow.
Liverpool are first up against Spartak Moscow on Tuesday, and CSKA Moscow play United the following night. There isn’t typically disorder when the teams separated by about 48 kilometres in northwest England meet on home soil. But since England fans were attacked by Russians at the 2016 European Championship in Marseille, concerns have heightened about hooliganism in the 2018 World Cup host nation.
On the pitch, United and CSKA both won their opening games in Group ‘A’. Liverpool and Spartak are chasing their first wins after starting Group ‘E’ with draws.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will be looking to continue their incredible recent form when they welcome Shakhtar Donetsk to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
City kicked off their Group ‘F’ campaign by cruising to a 4-0 victory at Feyenoord and have scored 16 goals in their last three Premier League games without conceding.
Paulo Fonseca’s Shakhtar could provide a stern test though, after they also notched an opening win with a 2-1 defeat of Napoli.
Barcelona travel to Portugal to face Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday, riding a seven-game winning streak that includes the emphatic 3-0 win over Juventus in their Champions League opener.
Sporting, off to a great start in the Portuguese league, can also make it two wins in a row to start their Group ‘D’ campaign while last season’s finalists Juve aim to rebound from their loss at the Nou Camp at home against Olympiacos.
“It’s vital we pick up the three points on Wednesday because it’s our first home game in the Champions League and because we got off to a bad start at Barcelona,” striker Paulo Dybala said.
Group ‘E’: Sevilla v NK Maribor; Spartak Moscow v Liverpool.
Group ‘F’: Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk; Napoli v Feyenoord.
Group ‘G’: AS Monaco v FC Porto; Besiktas v RB Leipzig.
Group ‘H’: APOEL Nicosia v Tottenham Hotspur; Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid.
Group ‘A’: CSKA Moscow v Manchester United; FC Basel v Benfica.
Group ‘B’: Anderlecht v Celtic; Paris St Germain v Bayern Munich.
Group ‘C’: Qarabag FK v AS Roma (1600GMT); Atletico Madrid v Chelsea.
Group ‘D’: Juventus v Olympiakos Piraeus; Sporting Lisbon v Barcelona.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2017