This week sees the return of the Champions League, as Europe’s elite face off in matchday two with some mouth-watering fixtures. The clubs from La Liga will be looking to emulate last year’s success, which saw an all-Iberian final. Here is a Spanish Champions League preview.
Tuesday 27 September
Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid:
Holders Real Madrid visit the Signal Iduna Park looking to take charge of their qualification group against Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund. Both won their first group match and are tied are the top on three points each. On the domestic front the two sides are going through different patches of form. Los Blancos have drawn their past two matches in La Liga—against Villarreal and Las Palmas—whilst Dortmund have scored 14 goals in their past three Bundesliga games.
The last time the pair met was in 2014 at the quarter-final stage, with Real Madrid running out 3-2 winners on aggregate despite losing the second leg in Germany.
Real travel with 22 players available; Casemiro and Brazilian defender Marcelo out injured, whilst Zinedine Zidane’s men welcome back Portuguese duo Fabio Coentrao and Pepe.
Dortmund have won the four previous games against Real Madrid played in Germany. Tuchel described Madrid as “maybe the biggest name in world football”, knowing that any result in favour of his side will give them a big step forward to finishing top of Group F.
Sevilla v Lyon:
Sevilla have a habit of taking the unconventional route to the Champions League group stages; winning the Europa League. The Andalusians have won European football’s second competition for the past three seasons, giving them credibility and prestige. But Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli will be hoping his side can do more than finish third in the group, especially after a respectable draw away in Turin facing Italy’s Juventus on Matchday One.
Lyon arrive at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán after a good 3-1 victory over Dinamo Zagreb in their first match but face this stiffer challenge without marksman Alexandre Lacazette due to injury. However, they are safe in the knowledge that Sevilla have lost four of their five fixtures against French clubs. Timothée Kolodziejczak returns in defence for the home side following a one match ban served against Juventus.
Wednesday 28 September
Atlético Madrid v Bayern Munich
In a repeat of last season’s semi-final clash, Diego Simeone’s Atleti take on Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern. Although Ancelotti is new to the Munich parish, he will be keen to reverse a trend that has seen Bayern defeated by Spanish sides at the semi-final stage for the past three seasons. The German giants will want to restore some pride, midfielder Arturo Vidal spelling out his aim for this fixture: “We have to eradicate the pain of that defeat,” he said. “We badly wanted to reach the final, but Atlético were more efficient in front of goal. We have plenty to rectify.”
On the other side of the divide, Simeone will be keen to get one back on opposite number Ancelotti. The last time the pair met in European football’s premier competition was the final in 2014 that saw eternal rivals Real Madrid beat Simeone’s Atleti in extra time.
For all Bayern’s dominance under Pep Guardiola, the Bavarians have only won only two of their past ten champions league away matches. Former Barcelona hero, Thiago, praised Atleti for their defensive qualities, stating: “They [Atlético] defend better than us, better than Barcelona, better than any other team in the world”. His opinions are back up by the facts; Atleti have only conceded two goals in all competitions so far this season. This set to be one of the ties of the round.
Borussia Mönchengladbach v FC Barcelona:
The Catalans arrive in Westphalia without talisman Lionel Messi after the Argentine suffered a repeat of a groin injury that has ruled him out until after the next international break. In more positive news, goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen makes an emotional return to his former club and home city. Speaking to Die Fohlen’s website, ter Stegen said “My return to Gladbach has definitely come sooner than expected, and I absolutely cannot wait for it. I had a great time there, and spent my entire career there apart from the last two years. Borussia is my first love and that will always be the case.”
Barça are looking to consolidate at the top of Group C with another win following their 7-0 dismantling of Glasgow Celtic in the previous match. Paco Alcácer could be set to play in the absence of Messi, Rafinha preferred during the previous weekend’s win away at Sporting Gijón’
Squad rotation has played a key part of Luis Enrique’s plans so far this season although Barça will be likely to start with their best available line-up for this match.
All four matches featuring Spanish clubs are likely to be very competitive and hard fought especially as three feature heavyweight Spain v Germany tussles. Fans will have a clearer picture of the respective strengths of big guns, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Atlético Madrid and Bayern Munich following this exciting round of games.