Champions League – Matchday 3 Preview (Part II)

by Ger McCarthy

The second half of Matchday 3 in the Champions League takes place on Wednesday night with Arsenal facing a tricky away assignment in Marseille and fellow Londoners Chelsea hosting Belgian side Genk at Stamford Bridge. AC Milan, Porto and Barcelona are also in action on a busy night of European football as the group stage hots up with clubs across the continent looking to book their place in the knockout phase.

Wednesday October 19th

Group E

Bayer Leverkusen host Valencia on Matchday 3 of the Champions League in a crucial fixture for two clubs battling to gain safe passage through to the knockout phase. The German club bounced back from an opening day 2-0 loss to Chelsea by overcoming Belgian side Genk on Matchday 2 thanks to goals from Lars Bender and former Chelsea stalwart Michael Ballack.

Leverkusen remain in mid-table in the Bundesliga following a weekend 2-2 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach but a victory at home to Valencia on Wednesday evening would open up a 4 point gap in Group E. Valencia visit Germany with two draws from their opening two Champions League games this term. A 1-1 weekend draw with Mallorca kept Valencia in touch with the Primera Liga pace-setters but a victory is needed in the Bay Arena to kick start the Spaniards champions League campaign.

Stamford Bridge is the setting for Chelsea’s third Champions League fixture of the 2011-12 season on Wednesday night with Genk the visitors. Andres Villas-Boas can expect a tough encounter as the Belgians secured a notable 0-0 draw on Matchday 1 at home to Valencia and pushed Leverkusen all the way in their most recent Group E defeat.

Three consecutive Premier League wins over Swansea, Bolton and Everton has seen the Pensioner’s rise to third in the league standings with Juan Mata in particular in scintillating form. Anything other than home win would be a major surprise on Wednesday night that would solidify Chelsea’s position as favourites to progress as Group E winners.

Group E – Matchday 3 predictions: Bayer Leverkusen 1 Valencia 1, Chelsea 2 Genk 0

Group F

Arsenal travels to the South of France on Wednesday night to take on Marseille on Matchday 3 of the Champions League with the Gunners enjoying an upturn in domestic and European form. Robin Van Persie scored twice in the 2-1 weekend victory over Sunderland and Arsenal take on a talented Marseille side having accrued 4 points from their opening Group F fixtures. Manager Arsene Wenger knows an away win would see Arsenal leapfrog Marseille to the top of the group but a draw would not constitute a bad result either considering the French side has a 100% record thus far.

Current Ligue 1struggles have been forgotten in Europe with Marseille currently topping Group F following back-to-back victories over Borussia Dortmund and Olympiacos with André Ayew, Loic Rémy and Lucho Gonzalez finding the net. Saturday’s 0-0 draw away to Toulouse saw Les Olympiens drop to 15th in the standings so a morale-boosting win over the Gunners could help kick-start a disappointing start to the French league this season.

Elsewhere in Group F Borussia Dortmund will be anxious to record their maiden Champions League win of the season when Olympiacos visits the BVB Stadion on Wedne3sday night. Dortmund were trounced 3-0 away to Masrseille on Matchday 2 despite dominating possession but a win over their Greek opponents is crucial if Jurgen Klopp’s side are to retain hope of qualifying for the knockout phase of the tournament.

Olympiacos are yet to register a Champions League point and were held 0-0 by AEK Athens at the weekend in a result that leaves in a four-way tie at the summit of the Greek Super League. A point away to an in-form Dortmund is a big ask this Wednesday.

Group F – Matchday 3 predictions: Marseille 1 Arsenal 2, Borussia Dortmund 3 Olympiacos 0

Group G

APOEL travels to FC Porto looking to maintain their slender one point lead at the top of Group G on Matchday 3. A 2-1 victory over Zenit was quickly followed by a gutsy 1-1 draw away to Shakhtar Donetsk to surprisingly elevate the Cypriot side to the top of Group G.

Gustavo Manduca, Aílton and Ivan Tričkovski have each found the net for APOEL in Europe this term but a daunting assignment waits in Portugal on Wednesday night if one of the surprise packages of this year’s Champions League are to maintain their encouraging start. Porto suffered a 3-1 defeat away to Zenit St. Petersburg no Matchday 2 and will be hoping to rebound with a much-needed win over APOEL in a tight group.

The Donbass Arena is the venue for Shakhtar Donetsk’s home fixture with Zenit on Matchday 3 with both sides hoping for an upturn in form following Matchday 2 disappointments. Donetsk were held 1-1 by APOEL while the St. Petersburg based club lost 3-1 away to Portugal.

Group G – Matchday 3 predictions: FC Porto 3 APOEL 1, Shakhtar Donetsk 2 Zenit St. Petersburg 2

Group H

The top two ranked sides in Group H, Barcelona and AC Milan, are both at home on Matchday 3 of the Champions League. AC Milan welcomes BATE to the San Siro while Barca has home advantage in the Camp Nou for the visit of Champions League debutantes Plezn.

Lionel Messi bagged a brace of goals and Xavi got on the score-sheet for Barcelona in their routine 3-0 win over Racing Santander at the weekend in the Primera Liga. That expected win keeps Pep Guardiola’s side a point clear of nearest rivals Real Madrid at the top of the table and a Champions League win over BATE on Wednesday evening will all but guarantee a place in the knockout phase for the Catalans.

AC Milan proved too strong for Palermo in Serie A at the weekend in a welcome victory for the Silvio Berlusconi owned club. Milan’s second domestic win of the season came courtesy of Nocerino, Robinho and Cassano strikes in a morale-boosting 3-0 win that keeps the Rossoneri within 2 points of the top four.

Group H – Matchday 3 predictions: AC Milan 3 BATE Borisov 1, Barcelona 5 Plezn 0

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