Back at the biggest match of the group stage, round 2. Barcelona travel to Italy, facing AC Milan for the second time this season after their 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp in September. Manchester City hope to clinch qualification in Napoli, Manchester United will try and find their style again facing Benfica while Arsenal and Dortmund might provide us with the best fixture of the midweek.
AC Milan – Barcelona, Wednesday
Easy one to pick, probably the best match, potentially of the group stage. The first one at the Nou Camp ended in a 2-2 draw back in September, as Milan fished out a late equalizer pretty much out of nowhere. Form? Barcelona are struggling but only when you compare them to Real Madrid. This weekend, however, has been vintage Barca, with a comfortable 4-0 win over Zaragoza with goals from Gerard Pique, Lionel Messi, Carles Puyol and David Villa.
Milan struggled in Florenece, managing a 0-0 draw with Fiorentina. At home, however, their form has been sizzling, with six straight wins since late September at the San Siro.
Prediction – Draw, with goals.
Napoli – Manchester City, Tuesday
The all conquering Citizens can’t be stopped when it comes to the Premier League, having a 5 point lead after 12 matches, winning 34 of 36 possible points. Life is a little trickier in their first venture into Champions League territory, but a win over Napoli tonight will clinch the qualification into the knockout stage. A draw, and they’ll have to beat Bayern Munich on the last day of the group stage, never an easy task.
For Napoli, it’s been an up and down season at the Serie A. Compliments for their style and the 3-4-3 aren’t pushing them up towards the top spot. Right now they are 7th, seven points behind Juventus, but with a game in hand. Champions League juggling has come difficult for the club, who have only one win in their last six matches.
Prediction – Manchester City.
Manchester United – Benfica, Tuesday
Everything started going off track for United even since their visit to Lisbon. It’s not the 1-6 defeat on derby day. United’s first month of football wast the best in Europe, with a 3-2 win over City in the Charity shield, that historic 8-2 win over Arsenal and another thrashing, 5-0 against Bolton. Then came Benfica, and a 1-1 Champions League draw. Not too bad, but it’s been a bumpy road ever since.
Since their humiliating Old Trafford episode United haven’t conceded a goal. They’re not impressing, but Alex Ferguson has won plenty of titles without winning neutral’s love. He just wins.
Benfica are mostly busy in a very tight Liga Sagres race, tied with Porto at the top spot with 24 points. In the Champions League, they’re tied at first with Manchester United, 8 points each. A draw at Old Trafford, something FC Basel have already managed this season, will put them in a very comfortable position ahead of their Galati match in two weeks.
Prediction – Win for United, who else?
Arsenal – Borussia Dortmund, Wednesday
Things change quickly, and Arsenal are once again a trendy side, with the most productive striker in the kingdom among their ranks. Robbie van Persie can’t stop scoring, and Arsene Wenger’s lads are back in the hunt for a Champions League spot with six straight league wins. Champions League? A little different, scoring only four goals in four group matches, but still lead the group with 8 points.
Dortmund must win, sitting at third with 4 points, with Marseille holding second (7 points). Their confidence will be booming after their 1-0 win over Bayern Munich this Saturday, bringing them within 2 points of the Bundesliga leaders. They’ll face a different Arsenal side then the one they met two months ago (1-1 draw), but Klopp knows how to approach tricky away matches.
Prediction – Arsenal. Scorching hot, too hot, even for Dortmund.