Champions League Preview: Uphill Struggles for the English sides
Image Credit: [The Guardian.ng]
The second round of the Champions League group stage will be played out on Tuesday and Wednesday night, with the English sides having a mixture of fortunes in their opening fixtures.
Danny Rose: Spurs must win
Danny Rose admitted over the weekend that Spurs must win when they host Barcelona at Wembley on Wednesday night.
After squandering the points in the last five minutes at the San Siro on opening night, Spurs now face the Spanish giants in a game which if they lose, puts them in a difficult position for qualification at such an early stage.
Spurs were given another setback after Mauricio Pochettino revealed they will be without Dele Alli due to ongoing injury problems. In addition, Christian Eriksen is also unlikely after sitting out the 2-0 win at Huddersfield at the weekend.
Spurs will take comfort in Barcelona’s dip in form as of late, with Valverde’s side failing to win any of their La Liga matches since the 4-0 win over PSV a couple of weeks ago. Also to Spurs advantage is the improvement of Harry Kane, scoring both goals at the John Smith Stadium on Saturday.
Both sides have played 3 games in domestic competitions in the past week, with Spurs being dragged to penalties in the cup last Wednesday. As a result, fatigue is likely to play a part in Wednesday night’s fixture.
Spurs will struggle against the five-time winners, but Pochettino will be hoping that the home advantage will get them the points they crucially need.
City look to bounce-back
Manchester City will be hoping to get their first points on the board as they visit Hoffenheim on Tuesday night.
It was a tough start for the English Champions after Lyon stunned them at the Etihad two weeks ago, heading back to France with all three points.
Pep Guardiola will take refuge in Hoffenheim’s difficult start to the Bundesliga season. The Germans have only managed to win 2 of their opening 6 games, sitting 12th in the table. Meanwhile City, other than a blip against Wolves early on, look as strong as they did last season.
It is likely City will lay out a typically attacking side. The quality of their squad, with the likes of Sane, David Silva and Aguero, can expose the gaps that have been appearing in the Hoffenheim backline in the early stages of the season. After just 7 games, City have scored 21 goals, as opposed to Hoffenheim’s 10, conceding the same number, versus City’s 3.
City could potentially dominate all 90 minutes, and Pep will be expecting his side to return to Manchester with all 3 points.
Jose in need of a distraction
Pressure on Jose Mourinho continues to build as Manchester United were defeated 3-1 at the London Stadium last weekend.
United will hope to turn their fortunes around on Tuesday night, however, as they host Valencia at Old Trafford, and the United boss will hope it can distract the Old Trafford faithful from calling for his head. An impressive 3-0 victory over Swiss outfit Young Boys gave United the perfect start to their Champions League campaign; a win on Tuesday could see them in a comfortable position before Juventus visit Old Trafford later this month.
Valencia share United’s misery in the league, after enduring a poor start to their domestic season, drawing 5 of their opening La Liga games. They also set off their Champions League campaign on the wrong foot last time out, losing 2-0 to a ten-man Juventus side absent of Cristiano Ronaldo after a first-half red card.
The current whirlwind at Old Trafford makes it hard to predict how United intend to line up, or what game plan they will execute. The toxicity surrounding Manchester United of present favours Valencia, but, the Spanish outfit do not have much going forward to threaten United, scoring just 5 goals in their opening 7 fixtures.
Mourinho needs his players to do him a favour on Tuesday night, but a Manchester United win might not only alleviate some of the pressure on the United boss, it could also put United on a steady path to the knock-out stages.
Liverpool hope to continue dream start
Jurgen Klopp will be hoping his side can build on their opening game elation when they face Napoli on Wednesday night. The reds are in fine form; they are the only Group C team to have 3 points as their Wednesday night opponents struggled to get past Redstar Belgrade two weeks ago. Despite dominating the majority of the game, Napoli failed to convert 1 of their 20 chances. That result means they head into the game needing the points. No team can afford to fall behind so early on if they’re looking for those qualification spots. For Liverpool, on the other hand, a victory on Wednesday night could provide the momentum required to consolidate a place in the knock-out stage.
Liverpool faced Chelsea twice last week in the Carabao Cup and the league respectively, and in both games, their attacking style of play at times left them exposed at the back. Napoli have got the quality to punish that. Klopp will need to work on addressing his team’s defence fragility in training, making sure no gaps are left in the middle of the park that can be easily countered and exploited by Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli side.
The game could go either way, but considering how desperate the Italians will be for all three points, Klopp may be happy to settle for an away point.Jonathan Massey