The games are thick and fast now. Two games a week is the reality for top clubs this season who are in Europe. The importance of the domestic cups could be reduced even further this season with the packed schedule. There is another international break, mid November with matches scheduled for the 14th-18th but that will be no rest for the players from the top teams who have two games scheduled. Liverpool for example have four games in the next thirteen days before the players depart. What I'm getting at here is the strain on squads and these elite players will likely cause a lot more rotation and upsets than we are used to. Only last week was evidence of this, Real Madrid were confident enough to rest a few vs Shakhtar only to be turned over convincingly. Let's look at the second round of group games tonight and see if we can spot an upset.
Lokomotiv Moscow host the holders Bayern Munich and this looks a formality after their impressive 4-0 win over Atl. Madrid. The Russian outfit got a good point away to RB Salzburg but they will have their work cut out in todays 17:55 KO.
The other match in the group sees Atl. Madrid take on RB Salzburg at their impressive Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. The hosts will look to bounce back after being totally outplayed by Bayern Munich but will be without Diego Costa again. It's a good opportunity for them to get their first points of the group but the Austrians will have other ideas. Good in attack with plenty of goals in the team, they will want to cause an upset here to have a chance of reaching the knockouts. The two games these two play against each other will likely be the deciding factors in who progresses. Both will be well aware of this and I can see this being a score draw. Madrid will start the game as short odds on favourites and are doing well in the league but I see this as a potential banana skin. 20:00 KO
Shakhtar Donetsk were impressive on the break against a weakened Real Madrid last week and if they can replicate that sort of form they can cause the Italians problems. I was impressed by midfielder Marcus Antonio, he always wanted the ball and looked to thread smart passes between the lines starting off counter attacks. Inter will have to watch him carefully. Inter had to score a late equaliser last week to get a point vs Borussia Monchengladbach. Inter have some very experienced players and will be aware of the Ukrainians pace on the counter, if they can nullify the threat they should be able to get a draw which I feel is a decent score point. I can see a few goals in this game, Shakhtar's willingness to commit forward runners and Lukaku's form for Inter may see a high scoring match.17:55 KO.
Borussia Monchengladbach will host Real Madrid in tonight's other group game in a 20:00 KO. The big news is that Eden Hazard travels, he may start on the bench but it will be good to see the Belgium back doing what he does best. The German outfit are a good technical team like many in the Bundesliga and are capable of pushing Real Madrid. Madrid's 3-1 victory over Barcelona on the weekend will raise spirits and Zidane's men should have enough to get the points if they put out a strong team which is expected. 3-1 Madrid.
Porto take on Olympiacos and they will want to put the 3-1 defeat behind them. They are not the Porto of old and have a few injuries to deal with but should be the dominant team tonight. The Greek side played in a hard fought 1-0 stoppage time win over Marseille and I can see more of the same tonight, a hard fought contest and a narrow win, this time they may be on the losing side however. Goals may be tough to come by and would think a 1-0 or 1-1 scoreline will be likely.
Marseille will want to bounce back from their last minute loss last week and it might be the best time to face Man City who have some key injuries. With no out and out striker fit for Man City we will probably see Sterling or Mahrerz play furthest forward which is not ideal. Pep has come under some criticism from certain people for the amount of money his side have spent but injuries have really affected them over the past 18 months and have run into Jurgen Klopp's brilliant Liverpool machine domestically. Key men missed large parts of their 19/20 campaign and the injury worries have continued. Peps men will dominate possession and look to kill this game off and take some of their stars off for the weekend, however, if Marseille can battle into the second half with a clean sheet, it's anyone's game. I'll stick my neck out and go for a 1-1 draw.
Both Group C games are a 20:00 KO tonight.
Atalanta vs Ajax, two teams who play attacking football and are brilliant to watch. The hosts, Atalanta have had a minimum of four goals in each of their past six games, won convincingly against FC Midtjylland but will face a sterner test tonight. Ajax who won 13-0 on the weekend, yes 13-0, caused Liverpool some problems last week, especially in the 1st half where they perhaps should have scored more than one. Ajax will know they have to get a draw minimum tonight or will face a real test to get to the knockout stages. Atalanta suffered heavy defeats either side of their last CL match and will want to get that out of their system quickly. One thing for certain in this game is plenty of chances, I expect over 3.5 goals and a hugely entertaining match.
Liverpool play their first home CL game without fans which is a disappointment to me, the Anfield atmosphere on a European night is special, however 3 points will be the minimum requirement. FC Midtjylland are a relatively unknown outfit in European football and were humbled by Atalanta last week. They will enjoy playing at Anfield but I'm sure will also be disappointed there will be no fans. It would have been a great occasion for the club to have a set of their supporters make the journey to Liverpool who also have a huge Danish following. But back to business and Liverpool will likely rest a couple players to cope with the schedule demands injury list, I can't see past a comfortable home win!
Both Group D games are a 20:00 KO tonight.