The last round of fixtures before the International break, a break some teams will be looking forward to. Injuries, positive Covid results and an intense run of fixtures will mean this break comes as a relief to some managers to let some of their stars have some time off. But the importance of the matches does not alter, after this round we will be half way through the group stages and the writing could be on the wall for some.
In the 17:55 KO, RB Salzburg host Bayern Munich, if the holders continue their impressive run of 13 wins in the tournament and make it 14, Salzburg will have little chance of getting into the knockout stages. This set of fixtures is a double header for all in the competition so Salzburg have their work cut out for them. They are capable of scoring plenty of goals but it's their defence which is the worry, I can see this being 3-1 to the Germans.
At 20:00, Lokomotiv Moscow are home against Atl Madrid, and the Spanish visitors will be looking to put themselves in pole position to qualify to the knockouts stages with a win. The Russiasn outfit made life difficult for Bayern Munich so this may not be a straightforward victory for Atl. Madrid. Diego Costa, Carrasco, Saul Niguez and Vrsaljko are all likely to be missing, this could be a tighter competition than the odds would suggest.
What an exciting group this has become, not many would have predicted the results so far and it's wide open, the opportunity is there for someone to grab it by the scruff of the neck and win the group!
Real Madrid and Inter have a double header which has now become even bigger matches than they were when they were drawn together. Los Blancos are the hosts tonight (20:00), playing at their training ground, the Estadio Alfredo di Stefano while renovations are completed at the Santiago Bernabeu. Both teams have been poor so far and two late goals last week from Real Madrid saved them from a second humiliating defeat. If one team can get 4 points from the 2 clashes then that should set them on their merry way to group victors. The other 17:55 KO is the battle of the supposed lesser clubs in the group and they will be hoping they can dominate these two games against each other and qualify for the next stage of the competition. Shakhtar were lucky to escape with a draw last time out against Inter, they were dominated by the Italians and should have been punished. G'ladbach will be wondering how they only have 2 points from the group so far. 2-1 up vs Inter in GW 1 with only injury time to go and then 2-0 up with 3 minutes on the clock last week vs Real Madrid. This could be very tight but I think G'ladbach will edge it 2-1.
This group is on par for what was expected. Man city have 6 points from their 1st two games and look to make that 9 points tonight when they invite Olympiacos to Manchester for a 20:00 KO. Reports suggest Aguero will be rested for their weekend match vs Liverpool but we will have to wait and see if that happens. Man City have looked a bit better defensively in recent weeks as injured players have returned, most notably Laporte, and will be hoping the back 5 can continue to build a relationship. I see a comfortable 3 points for them tonight.
Porto will play Marseille at 20:00 also and this looks a lot closer. Marseille have no points and will be looking to bounce back tonight to have any hope of qualifying out of the groups, even if it is only the Europa League. Porto beat Olympiacos last week 2-0 but the game was tougher then the scoreline would suggest. I think they will just edge past Marseille again tonight.
A big night ahead for this group. Liverpool are top of the league with 2 wins from 2 matches but their injury crisis worsens and they are away against free flowing Atalanta team. Liverpool will want to get 4 points from these two matches against Atalanta so they can rest players in the last two matches but Atalanta will be eyeing the same sort of points return to give themselves every chance of getting to the knockouts. Both teams are better going forward than they are at the back at the moment and this could be a highly entertaining match. As a Red I'm hoping we can outscore them with the amount of injuries at the back and midfield, there will also be the match against Man City on the weekend in mind so there may be a number of changes made, the five substitution rule will definitely help manage players fitness. Ajax have a mountain to climb with only 1 point from their opening two fixtures but they will fancy their chances tonight. If they can come out on top from two fixtures vs Midtjylland they will be feeling a lot more confident of progressing to the next stage. Midtjylland were very good vs Liverpool. They pressed well in good areas of the pitch and worked their socks off. If they had a bit more quality they may have got the opening goal, they were dominant in the 1st half. Liverpool eventually came through after the Midtjylland players looked to tire but Ajax will have their work cut out. Ajax have reported 11 players have tested positive for Covid and only 17 travel but the names have not been given so the line up will be eagerly anticipated for those interested. If Ajax have their attackers available tonight I can see them getting a well needed result.
There have been plenty of goals in the Champions League so far, let's hope for more tonight!