Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid eye Champions League goal spree as Leicester City look to stay perfect
Porto and Juventus among 16 teams in action on Wednesday morning (Hong Kong time) as group stage heats up
Last season’s winners Real Madrid are the headline act among a host of Champions League blockbusters scheduled for early Wednesday morning (Hong Kong time), with heavyweights Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund also taking to the field.
Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham look to relieve pressure
Tottenham’s surprise home defeat to Monaco on the opening day has put a spanner in the works in this group, putting both the English side and Leverkusen under pressure coming into their home-and-away series.
Spurs bounced back with a win in Moscow over CSKA and are the only remaining unbeaten side in the Premier League. Leverkusen, on the other hand, have had a difficult start to the Bundesliga season and sit in the bottom half. They also drew their first two pool matches.
Before the season began, these two would have been considered the group favourites but neither can afford to fail to pick up at least a win in these back-to-back encounters or they risk leaving themselves with too much to do in the final two fixtures.
Monaco to roll on against CSKA
Monaco will seek to build on their opening 2-1 victory over Tottenham when they travel to Moscow to tackle CSKA, who sit third in the Russian Premier League after a 1-0 win over Ufa at the weekend. Monaco dropped to third in Ligue 1, falling four points behind Nice after losing 3-1 at Toulouse on Friday night, while the leaders beat Lyon 2-0. CSKA are bottom of the group and need a win, while one suspects pool leaders Monaco would be happy to go home with a point.
Real Madrid hungry for goals against minnows Legia Warsaw
Given Legia, the first Polish qualifiers to this stage in 20 years, have already conceded eight goals in their first two group games, anything other than a Real avalanche would be a surprise. Madrid warmed up for this match with a 6-1 thumping of Real Betis, who are probably a better side than Warsaw.
Real coach Zinedine Zidane praised his side for playing with “intensity” on the weekend and a similar display would likely blow away a Legia side that was thumped 6-0 at home to Dortmund.
Dortmund eye edge over Sporting
In what could likely develop into a battle for second place behind Real, this match takes on crucial importance. Sporting came close to a stunning upset on the opening weekend, leading 1-0 at Real until late.
They lost but will have been buoyed by that performance and a win at home to Dortmund would foster the belief that they have the ability to get through this toughest of groups. Borussia, though, have been regular fixtures in the knock-out stages in recent years.
They’ve been banging in the goals for fun this season, too, behind only Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga on that count.
They were unlucky to only draw at home to Hertha at the weekend, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a penalty and hit the bar before notching a late equaliser. If luck doesn’t desert the Gabon striker in Lisbon, it could be a difficult night for Sporting.
Ailing Leicester to bounce back against Copenhagen
Leicester’s season is developing a Jekyll and Hyde quality to it – struggling to defend their shock Premier League crown but flying high in Europe.
Claudio Ranieri’s men host Copenhagen top of the group with a perfect six points, a far cry from their domestic form, their four defeats already one more than they suffered over the whole of last season. Their Danish guests are placed second, two points adrift, so a third straight win for the Foxes would bring a ticket to the knockout stage in their first ever Champions League campaign significantly closer. Leicester will have to bounce back from a 3-0 loss to Chelsea at the weekend. Ranieri rested last season’s player of the year Riyad Mahrez, one of three key players.
Brugge, Porto hunt first win
Pointless and goalless Brugge host Porto with both sides targeting a first win to keep tabs on group G’s pacesetters.
The pair last met in the 1972-73 Uefa Cup, Porto prevailing 5-3 on aggregate. Belgian champions Brugge suffered heavy losses to Leicester and Copenhagen, but have a good home record against Portuguese sides.
Brugge coach Michel Preud’homme has valuable insight into the Portuguese football mentality as a former Benfica player.
Porto welcome back Jesus Corona, who has recovered from a thigh problem and was among the scorers in their Portuguese Cup win at the weekend. Brugge line up after a league loss to Charleroi last Friday.
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Flying Juventus to carry on against Lyon
Juventus are setting the pace in the Serie A title race, their 2-1 win – Paulo Dybala scoring both goals – over Udinese on the weekend placing them five points clear of Roma.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri, who guided Juve to the 2015 final, cut a frustrated figure the last time out after a goalless draw with Sevilla as he tries to plot his team’s path to a first Champions League crown in 20 years. Juve followed that draw with an emphatic 4-0 win at Dinamo to lead the table.
The teams’ last encounter came in the 2013-14 Europa League quarter-final, the Italians winning both legs.
Dinamo Zagreb tackle in-form Sevilla
Dinamo took decisive action after 3-0 and 4-0 losses to Lyon and Juventus, with former Bulgaria coach Ivaylo Petev replacing Zlatko Kranjcar as manager.
In three-time Europa Cup winners Sevilla they face no easy task, the Spaniards having drawn 0-0 with Juventus and beaten Lyon 1-0 to sit level on points at the top of the table.
Sevilla are also sitting pretty in La Liga, one point off the summit after a win at Leganes on the weekend, their first away league win since the final day of the 2014-15 campaign.