The Champions League returns with Juventus hosting Real Madrid drawing most of the attention, in what has become almost a must win for the Italian champions. Manchester United playing in Real Sociedad is an opportunity to see if the league success in recent matches is sustainable to European clashes as well.
Group D offers an interesting chance to see Manchester City use a different goalkeeper, with Joe Hart being benched and Costel Pantilimon taking his place. The European champions, Bayern Munich, should have no problem winning a fourth consecutive match, playing in the Czech Republic.
Real Sociedad vs Manchester United
Both teams seem to be finding their form in their leagues, with Manchester United climbing to 8th place after winning three of their last four matches, getting the most out of their attack, which includes Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Adnan Januzaj in excellent form. For Real Sociedad, the same bit of form has brought them up to 7th place, enjoying the return of Antoine Griezmann. United are the better team, but if Sociedad play in the same way they did at Old Trafford, they won’t lose.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Bayer Leverkusen
Something isn’t working as expected for the Ukrainian champions, who are also second in their domestic league, losing their last match to Volyn. Bayer Leverkusen are also coming after a loss to Braunschweig and can’t be heading to this away match with too much confidence, although a draw is possible if they score early, because they will concede at some point.
FC Copenhagen vs Galatasaray
Copenhagen aren’t the easiest team to play against, especially at home, but Stale Solbakken’s team has scored 8 goals over their last two league matches and weren’t that easy of prey when they played in Istanbul. Galatasaray are fourth in Turkey, having won their last three league matches, and will be desperate to win knowing that it might almost clinch them a surprising ticket to the next round, leaving them slightly vulnerable.
Juventus vs Real Madrid
Traditionally, Real Madrid have struggled when playing away against Juventus, but there’s quite a lot of difference between the two teams these days. If last season Juventus were able to rely on their defense, this season it’s quite different, not to mention Giorgio Chiellini not playing, suspended for his red card in the previous match after a Cristiano Ronaldo dive. Real Madrid will be without Coentrao, giving Juventus a chance to attack through Marcelo, who doesn’t excel in defensive assignments. Real Madrid’s wacky form lately does suggest Juventus have a shot at this one, but knowing that a loss almost ends their chances of qualifying, they’ll probably be a bit more aggressive than usual.
Olympiakos vs Benfica
The Greek champions have dropped only two points in the league this season, heading calmly towards another championship. Benfica are catching up with Porto and Sporting, and it seems that the Champions League might be getting in the way this year of building up from the ashes of last year’s disappointments. Benfica are the better team, but in Pireus it’s hard seeing Olympiakos losing this match.
PSG vs Anderlecht
In the French league, PSG have scored 8 goals over their last two home matches, adding to their 5-0 win against Anderlecht in Belgium. Anything but a convincing win for the French champions will be a very big surprise.
Manchester City vs CSKA Moscow
The Russian side have won three consecutive matches since losing at home to Manchester City, but it won’t matter that Costel Pantilimon is going to be starting instead of Joe Hart. Manchester City are on a tear lately, beating Norwich 7-0 in their last match, and will win comfortably once again to join Bayern Munich in the next round.
Viktoria Plzen vs Bayern Munich
Since beating Plzen 5-0, Bayern Munich have made it quite complicated for themselves recently, needing comebacks against both Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim to pick up wins in the league. However, Viktoria Plazen winning 6-1 against Jabolenc in their most recent match won’t help them in this one.