Fixture list, previews and predictions for all 16 matches being played today and tomorrow.
Tuesday, October 17th 2006
Dynamo Kiev vs Lyon
Lyon are impressive in the way they are able to control games against lesser opposition, and are Chelsea-esque in the way they can ruthlessly kill games. Dynamo Kiev suffer from the ignomity of being hit for 4 goals by Steaua Bucharest in the opening game, and then 5 away at the Bernabeau. Lyon will not be any less charitable, so expect a goal-feast as Lyon qualify for the second round in style.
Prediction: Dynamo Kiev 0-4 Lyon. How many can Lyon get, that’s the question.
Steaua Bucharest vs Real Madrid
The first of two matches that will define Madrid’s season. Steaua are not a particularly strong side, and Madrid at full strength should be able to win this clash without stretching themselves too much. Of course, this is Madrid we are talking about, so the potential for a catastrophy is always there.
Prediction: Steaua Bucharest 1-2 Real Madrid. Beckham and Ruud to score and Madrid to come from behind for the win. Oh wait, this isn’t Manchester United?
Celtic vs Benfica
Another second-place clash. Both sides have injuries to contend with, but Benfica will know that Celtic are capable of leaking goals. It’s going to be a question of how well Celtic attack early on and whether Benfica can hit them on the counter or not.
Prediction: Celtic 1-1 Benfica. A draw that allows Manchester United to qualify with ease and makes life difficult for Celtic, who have a very good chance of finishing second if they win here.
Manchester United vs FC Copenhagen
A full preview is coming folks, if I can be bothered to talk about how we will score 6 goals (excuse the arrogance, but it’s about time, aint it?). I’m betting that Carrick will score here, and that Alan Smith will play as well.
Predicition: Manchester United +2-0 FC Copenhagen. United will not hit top gear but should finish the game off quite comfortably.
CSKA Moscow vs Arsenal
CSKA Moscow went to Porto, got a draw, played Hamburg at home and won. They’re now second in the group and with a very good chance to qualify from this group. CSKA is a strong, efficient, talented side and will look to control the game by negating Arsenal’s quick-passing game.
CSKA Moscow vs Arsenal preview (Arsenal News Review)
Prediction: CSKA Moscow 1-1 Arsenal. Arsenal have the potential to stumble, and while they might be favourites they are not always so good against physical sides that have a smattering of talent.
Porto vs Hamburg
Both sides were tipped to join Arsenal in the second round, and both are struggling with just a point between them after the first two games. Porto should edge this one.
Prediction: Porto 2-1 Hamburg.
Lille vs AEK Athens
Possibly the least interesting group of them all. Lille, along with Anderlecht, are most likely to get through with Milan, and with Anderlecht drawing with AEK last time around Lille will be looking for a win to put pressure on their qualification rivals. AEK Athens? I don’t think they have it in them to do more than play tight and draw games.
Prediction: Lille 2-0 AEK Athens. Lille should climb out of their own defensive shell to put a couple past AEK.
Anderlecht vs AC Milan
A test of Milan’s resolve. They are good enough to win the Champions League, although the draw against Lille last time showed that they don’t have the same penetration to beat defensive sides as before. Anderlecht will play for a draw, but I don’t see anything else other than a Milan win.
Prediction: Anderlecht 0-1 AC Milan. Dry, but effective.
Wednesday, October 18th 2006
Chelsea vs Barcelona
Arguably the biggest match of the group stages (bigger than Inter and Bayern, bigger than Madrid and Lyon). You can catch the match preview of the Chelsea vs Barcelona game here.
Prediction: Chelsea 1 – 2 Barcelona. Chelsea will fight hard and close the game down, but Barcelona will also be going all out to win this one. If Chelsea score first the game will be over as a contest, but I expect Barca to put a couple past Hilario, that is, assuming Cudicini doesn’t make a miraculous recovery.
Werder Bremen vs Levski Sofia
Werder Bremen will be praying that Chelsea are able to beat Barcelona in both their group matches – their draw against the Spanish champions means that Bremen have an outside chance of reaching the second round of the Champions League. They still have to beat Levski Sofia first, although this should be an easy game at home.
Prediction: Werder Bremen 3-0 Levski Sofia. Klose to score a couple, if he’s fit and playing.
Inter Milan vs Spartak Moscow
Inter Milan are living up to their new tag of paper champions, with a shambolic start to their Champions League campaign and an equally unconvincing start to their domestic league. Spartak managed to hold Sporting to a draw at home, so they’ll be a handful for the ‘Italian Champions’. Milan must win this to stand a chance of qualifying – this is the easiest game for them in the group stages.
Prediction: Inter Milan 1-0 Spartak Moscow. Milan don’t look likely to go through, but you never know…
Sporting Lisbon vs Bayern Munich
Bayern will be going into this match flush with their away win at Inter and knowing that after this, there are only home matches (and an easy away trip to Spartak Moscow). A win here puts them virtually through to the second round. Sporting will put up a fight, but they don’t have the quality to upset Bayern unless they can overrun their midfield.
Prediction: Sporting Lisbon 2-2 Bayern Munich. Both sides will do with a draw here.
Bordeaux vs Liverpool
Another Liverpool match, another boring draw? Liverpool have had another slow start to their season but there are signs that the team is hitting form and it’s just a matter of getting things right for 25-30 minutes in the game where they can kill the game off with a couple of goals. The Galatasaray comeback is unlikely to happen again, although Liverpool have the tendency to make life difficult for themselves.
Prediction: Bordeaux 0-1 Liverpool. Liverpool scrape through, but they won’t be this lucky in the second round.
Galatasaray vs PSV Eindhoven
A match on which Eindhoven’s qualification hopes hinge – win here and they’ll be sure of beating Bordeax and Galatasaray at home to qualify from this group in style. On the other hand, Galatasaray know that defeat here will kill their chances, so they’ll be going all-out for a win here.
Prediction: Galatasaray 1-1 PSV Eindhoven. Not that it’s going to happen or anything…
Olympiakos vs Roma
It’s a question of which Roma turns up to the game – they have the ability to beat Olympiakos, but like Valencia saw in the first game Olympiakos are strong at home and will always score, so it’s a question of being defensively strong and quick on the counter. Roma’s direct style and Olympiakos playing aggressive at home will make this into one of the best matches of Matchday 3.
Prediction: Olympiakos 1-3 Roma.
Valencia vs Shakhtar Donetsk
Easy, easy pickings for Valencia. They’ll be more worried about Roma’s result and their return trip to Rome for the match that could decide which team qualifies top of the group. Expect Valencia to play for goals here.
Prediction: Valencia 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk. 3 or more.
Head over to UEFA’s official website and download press kits for all the matches – be warned though, they are overflowing with (needless ?) stats and you might spend a couple of hours just poring through them.
I’ll add more to this section as I add to Soccerlens and BlogFC over the next couple of days.