As Champions League matchday 2 hits grounds across Europe and airwaves all around the world, some things are becoming clear. For some of the previously thought contenders a win is a must, other teams just need to continue staying the course.
The beauty that was matchday 1 also set a high bar for drama, upsets and amazing performances. Can the second go-round in the UEFA Champions League live up to that kind of hype?
If it will, then these five games are likely to play a massive role in making it happen.
5. APOEL at Ajax (Group F)
Ajax managed a tie against perceived favorite, Paris Saint-Germain, on matchday 1 in this group. It means that early on they are right in the thick of things with PSG and Barcelona. Winning against the alleged minnows of the group, APOEL, would do wonders towards helping the chances of advancing out of this group.
Sure, it is early, but having four points out of the first two matches is more than most thought Ajax would garner. A three-point result also puts pressure on PSG and Barcelona, who need to avoid a tie in their contest to keep pace with the Amsterdam club.
4. Chelsea at Sporting Lisbon (Group G)
This is more about Sporting than Chelsea, but this game could also be very entertaining. The blues have dominated so far in EPL competition, but were held to a 1-1 draw by Schalke in the UCL opener. In fact, both games in this group ended in a 1-1 draw and that means the winner of this game is in the drivers seat of its own fate.
Chelsea have a chance to show the power we’ve seen on a weekly basis in domestic competition on the European stage tonight. However, Sporting Lisbon won’t go down easy at all. Nani, who is on loan from Manchester United was the goal-scorer against Maribor on matchday 1, and he’ll start against the familiar foe on Tuesday too.
The English side should be favored, but we’ve seen trips abroad be tricky for many an English club in the past. Given the attacking talent Sporting have, this could be a very entertaining match for neutral fans to keep tabs on.
3. Benfica at Bayer Leverkusen (Group C)
When the draw was announced for this group it was one of the closest groups put together, and in matchday 1 we saw why. Instead of seeing Benfica and Bayer Leverkusen (the two teams with bigger pedigree) on top, we got Zenit St. Petersburg and AS Monaco with a full three points.
That means for the two “bigger” names, matchday 2 is a must-win scenario. If there is a loser in both matchups that means the loser of this game is six points out of 1st place and already down on goal differential in the race for 2nd place.
2. Galatasaray at Arsenal (Group D)
Matchday 1 was no fun for English teams in the Champions League and arguably the most surprising of those results came from Arsenal, who got smoked 2-0 at Borussia Dortmund. With the Galatasaray-Anderlecht match ending in a tie, that means Arsenal is in dead last.
Sure, it’s early days in the competition, but failing to win two games to start really puts a team on the back foot. It also doesn’t help Arsenal that they are going to face Turkish competition once again. For some reason (not including the obvious off-field connotations), Turkish teams give English teams fits on the pitch. Let’s remember it took nearly every moment of the two-legged tie in the playoff round for Arsenal to dispatch Besitkas.
Getting full points and a few goals back in the goal differential category would be ideal for Arsenal. The question is, have they finally turned the corner on the European stage like they have on the domestic stage.
1. AS Roma at Manchester City (Group E)
This was supposed to be the year when Manchester City got it going in the Champions League, but matchday 1 was anything but fun for the sky blue part of Manchester. Now they take on an AS Roma squad who has a three point lead on Man City, which means a win is necessary for Manuel Pellegrini’s bunch to still control its own fate in this group.
When the groups were drawn this was one of the two “groups of death” out there, so pressure is always on the four teams to win every time they go out there. That’s even more so in the case of Manchester City, who hasn’t had a winning tradition in this tournament.
If it wants to be taken seriously on the European stage, winning at home is a must. It will be interesting to see how Pellegrini choses to line up on Tuesday night, that’s for sure.