The Champions League returns with Groups E-H and the European champions, Chelsea, travelling to Ukraine and facing a very strong Shakhtar Donetsk. Barcelona and their defensive holes host Celtics while Manchester United, with similar problems, have Braga home for dinner at the Old Trafford.
Group E – Nordsjælland vs Juventus
On paper? No real chance. The Danish champions haven’t scored a goal in the competition yet, and their league form (3rd) isn’t suggesting there’s something special brewing there. Juventus, on the other hand, are due their first victory of the campaign and come into this match after an impressive 2-0 win over Napoli in the Serie A.
Group E – Shakhtar vs Chelsea
A juggernaut of a match, in which Di Matteo will probably deploy similar tactics to those that won him the Champions League. Meaning? Chelsea won’t be playing the same way they did against Tottenham in the Premier League this Saturday. Donetsk will probably dominate most of the match, but do they have enough to beat one of the hottest teams in Europe? Doubtful.
Group F – BATE Borisov vs Valencia
The surprise of the competition so far, Borisov are on an easy route to yet another championship at home, while they keep stumbling upon wins in the Champions Leauge. Valencia are off to a disappointing start in Spain (9th), but won’t be arrogant like Bayern and should deflate the Borisov balloon with at least a point.
Group F – Lille vs Bayern
Despite Bayern’s shocking loss to Borisov, it’s hard looking past them in this one. They’ve won 8 straight in the Bundesliga to start the season, not conceding a single goal in their last five matches. Lille are 11th in France, with only one home win (Ajaccio) so far this season.
Group G – Barcelona vs Celtic
Celtic did come up with a surprising away win against Spartak, but this isn’t even close to being a close contest against a Barcelona team that might be struggling defensively, but has scored at least two goals at home in five of their six matches this season, not to mention winning all but one match in the league so far.
Group G – Spartak Moscow vs Benfica
Benfica are rarely impressing so far this season, but it’s enough to stay toe to toe with Porto at the top of the league in Portugal. They’ve yet to score a goal in the Champions League, but a chance against a fading Spartak Moscow, struggling to cope with league and Europe this season, is a good chance to start.
Group H – Manchester United vs Braga
Somewhat of a similar time for United as Barcelona are going through. Their defense can’t stop teams from scoring, but their attack, with Van Persie and Wayne Rooney is so lethat compared to most Premier League teams and those in Europe, that it should be enough to get by. Braga are a deadly with their counter attacking, which could be quite a problem for the slow United midfield and defense.
Group H – Galatasaray vs Cluj
Two matches in, Gala find themselves with no goals and two defeats. Just like the national side, they’re struggling in finding out ways to open up defenses that hold out against them. Cluj, who already won a tough away match at Braga, wil play a very similar style, hoping to hold on as much as possible before striking with a quick counter.