Champions League football is back again this week for matchday two drama.
With the first three matchdays being squeezed across three weeks due to a shortened 2020/21 season, there is little respite as clubs aim to make an immediate impact in Europe.
Tuesday’s action sees Manchester City at Marseille, while Liverpool are looking to make it two wins out of two as they host Midtjylland.
Real Madrid must bounce back vs Borussia Monchengladbach, holders Bayern Munich are in Moscow to face Lokomotiv, while the likes of Atletico Madrid, Ajax and Inter Milan are also all in action.
- 1755 | Lokomotiv Moscow vs Bayern Munich, Shakhtar Donetsk vs Inter Milan
- 2000 | Marseille vs Man City, Liverpool vs Midtjylland, Gladbach vs Real Madrid, Atletico vs Salzburg, FC Porto vs Olympiacos, Atalanta vs Ajax
Follow all of tonight’s action as it happens LIVE!
Pep Guardiola could be without record goalscorer Sergio Aguero for another month. Aguero, playing just his third match since recovering from the knee operation he had in June, sustained a muscular problem and was withdrawn at half-time in Saturday’s Premier League draw at West Ham.
Guardiola said: “It depends on the injury. When it is minimum it will be 10-15 days. If it is longer it will be three weeks to a month. I don’t know. When you are four or five months out (with) knee problems, always you have a risk when you come back.
“We tried to handle it as well as possible, just 50-55 minutes a game, but it was not enough to get fit for the next games. He will be back as soon as possible.”
Aguero’s absence leaves City without an established centre forward as he joins fellow striker Gabriel Jesus on the sidelines. To compound matters, Fernandinho, Benjamin Mendy and Nathan Ake also miss the behind-closed-doors encounter at the Stade Velodrome, although Aymeric Laporte has travelled and Kevin De Bruyne is back in contention to start.
Bayern’s biggest challenges seem to be how to maintain its outstanding form and meet its own burgeoning expectations. Bayern started its Champions League defense with a 4-0 rout of Atletico Madrid, extending its winning run in the competition to 13 games. Hansi Flick’s team has scored at least four goals in its last three games in the Bundesliga.
Atletico at least managed to stop Robert Lewandowski from scoring, but he answered Saturday with a hat trick against Eintracht Frankfurt to take his Bundesliga tally to 10 goals in five games. Even if he doesn’t score, others can fill in, such as Leroy Sane who marked his return from injury with an outstanding goal against Frankfurt.
Forward Serge Gnabry was released from quarantine on Sunday after testing negative again. Lokomotiv Moscow hosts Bayern in Group A on Tuesday. The teams last met in the UEFA Cup in 1985, when Bayern won 5-0.
Zinedine Zidane wants Real Madrid to play with the same intensity the team showed in its win over Barcelona in the “clasico” on Saturday. Madrid visits Borussia Monchengladbach in Group B on Tuesday and is seeking to bounce back from a surprise opening home loss to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Eden Hazard was added to the Madrid squad and could make his season debut after nursing a muscle injury. Atletico Madrid and Luis Suarez are also looking to rebound. Diego Simeone’s side was thrashed 4-0 by defending champion Bayern Munich and next hosts Salzburg in Group A on Tuesday.
For all his evident talent, Neymar is having a worrying lean spell in Europe’s elite competition. The star forward has not scored in his last four Champions League games, having squandered chances galore during the Final Eight in Lisbon and in last week’s 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United in Group H.
That loss has PSG under some early pressure, and Neymar’s performance was widely criticized. It was back to the Neymar of old, as he constantly gave the ball away trying to dribble past too many players or rolled on the ground claiming fouls. The match at Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir on Wednesday is likely to be a physical encounter and Neymar, who has already been sent off this season, will have to keep his cool. PSG coach Thomas Tuchel must also juggle with injuries, with winger Julian Draxler the latest to be sidelined.
Could this be the week Chelsea manager Frank Lampard finally unleashes his very own “Fab Four”? In the wake of the club’s $300 million spending spree, there was lots of excitement at the start of the season about the prospect of Chelsea deploying a four-man front line comprising Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech behind lone striker Timo Werner.
A mixture of injuries and rotation meant this has yet to happen, but the option is there for Lampard in Chelsea’s match at Krasnodar on Wednesday. Both Chelsea and Krasnodar are seeking a first win after drawing their opening Group E matches against Sevilla and Rennes, respectively.
Talking of Juventus, the highly anticipated matchup of Cristiano Ronaldo against Lionel Messi likely won’t happen because Ronaldo has the coronavirus.
Juventus has not reported many details of Ronaldo’s status but the forward has not played since appearing for Portugal earlier this month and isn’t expected to be named to the Bianconeri’s squad for Wednesday’s visit by Barcelona in Group G.
Ronaldo tested positive while on international duty and has been quarantined at his home in Turin. Alvaro Morata replaced Ronaldo against Dynamo Kyiv last week and scored twice in a 2-0 win.
Juventus should not require a slap to wake up even if the atmosphere at grounds is soporific, coach Andrea Pirlo said after the Serie A champions stumbled to a 1-1 draw against Verona on Sunday.
Pirlo said he could understand players might be influenced by appearing in near-empty stadiums during the COVID-19 pandemic but added that it was something they would have to adapt to.
“We played a wait-and-see game in the first half, we were not aggressive in midfield although we had the best chances,” said Pirlo, whose side fell behind after an hour. There was a good reaction after their goal but we shouldn’t need a slap to wake us up.”
“It’s one thing to play in the Champions League with a crowd that raises your levels of attention,” said Pirlo whose side host Barcelona in the Champions League tomorrow.
“Tonight there was a more soporific atmosphere but you need more determination — these things win matches as well.
“They get you involved in one-on-one battles all over the pitch,” he said. “We worked to avoid their high press and that worked better in the second half. It tough against them but we could have done better.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp does not see debutants Midtjylland as a “small club” in this season’s Champions League.
Tuesday’s clash at Anfield will be the first time Liverpool and Midtjylland have ever met in a competitive fixture.
The game sees six-time winners of the competition Liverpool host a club who were only founded in 1999 and are making their first appearance in the Champions League.
It has been billed as ‘David against Goliath’ by some of the media in Denmark, but Klopp does not see it that way.
“We don’t see Midtjylland as a small club, we see Midtjylland as a proper challenger in this group,” he said. “No one is part of the Champions League because they are nice cities, they are in the Champions League because they earned the right the year before.
“There are no small teams in the Champions League, there are only teams who show how big they are on the pitch, not in the press conferences before games.
“The 4-0 against Atalanta was not a 4-0 – it was because the score was 4-0 but Midtjylland were in the game. Tomorrow it will be a real challenge and we have to be ready for it, and we will try to be.”
Pep Guardiola fears this season could come down to the survival of the fittest after Sergio Aguero dealt Manchester City a fresh injury blow.
Aguero, City’s record goalscorer, could be out for another month after suffering a muscular injury in Saturday’s game at West Ham.
The Argentinian was playing just his third match since recovering from the knee operation he had in June.
City had been trying to ease him back into action but he encountered a problem in the first half of the 1-1 draw at the London Stadium and was withdrawn at the interval.
With Gabriel Jesus also sidelined, the 32-year-old’s latest setback leaves City without a frontline striker for Tuesday’s Champions League Group C clash at Marseille.
To compound matters, Fernandinho, Benjamin Mendy and Nathan Ake also miss out at the Stade Velodrome while Aymeric Laporte and Kevin De Bruyne have only just returned to fitness in a difficult start to the season.
It’s back to back to back for midweek European competition until the turn of the years thanks to this truncated season, meaning the action is coming thick and fast.
Tonight sees Liverpool and Manchester City as the Premier League representatives. Holders Bayern kick things off at 17.55 GMT away at Lokomotiv Moscow.
Stick with us and here’s Olympiacos head coach Pedro Martins, because why not.
Champions League 2020/21 group stage results and standings
Champions League | Group A
- Salzburg 2-2 Lokomotiv
- Bayern 4-0 Atletico
- Lokomotiv vs Bayern
- Atletico vs Salzburg
Champions League | Group B
- Real 2-3 Shakhtar
- Inter 2-2 Gladbach
- Shakhtar vs Inter
- Gladbach vs Real
Champions League | Group C
- Man City 3-1 Porto
- Olympiacos 1-0 Marseille
- Porto vs Olympiacos
- Marseille vs Man City
Champions League | Group D
- Ajax 0-1 Liverpool
- Midtylland 0-4 Atalanta
- Atalanta vs Ajax
- Liverpool vs Midtjylland
Champions League | Group E
- Rennes 1-1 Krasnodar
- Chelsea 0-0 Sevilla
- Krasnodar vs Chelsea
- Sevilla vs Rennes
Champions League | Group F
|3||Zenit St Petersburg||1||0||0||1||-1||0|
- Zenit 1-2 Club Brugge
- Lazio 3-1 Dortmund
- Club Brugge vs Lazio
- Dortmund vs Zenit
Champions League | Group G
- Dynamo 0-2 Juventus
- Barcelona 5-1 Ferencvarosi
- Juventus vs Barcelona
- Ferencvarosi vs Dynamo
Champions League | Group H
- PSG 1-2 Man United
- Leipzig 2-0 Istanbul
- Man United vs Leipzig
- Istanbul vs PSG
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