The second round of fixtures in the 2010-2011 UEFA Champions League produced some thrilling encounters, upset results and no shortage of talking points. Ger McCarthy analyses the impact of the most recent results involving the competing British clubs and also looks ahead to Matchday 3.
Tottenham Hotspur and Inter moved into pole position in Group A following convincing Matchday 2 victories over Twente Enscehede and Werder Bremen respectively. A Rafael Van der Vaart inspired Spurs ran out 4-1 winners over Dutch champions Twente at White Hart Lane to maintain their unbeaten start. Van der Vaart saw a first half penalty saved, scored a cracking individual effort before being sent off for second bookable offence. Spurs fans cared little as their side recorded a first European Cup win at the Lane for 48 years. Inter registered their first victory in Group A thanks to a Samuel Eto’o hat-trick at home to the German side Werder Bremen at the San Siro. Eto’o was in sparkling form, linking play intelligently and scoring a brace of goal in the opening half. The former Barcelona hit-man completed his hat-trick after Wesley Sneijeder had also found the net to complete a miserable night for Bremen.
Spurs travel to the San Siro to take on the reigning Champions Inter on October 20th without their talisman Rafael Van der Vaart (suspended) where a draw or better would set the London club up nicely for the return leg at White Hart Lane. Werder Bremen are in Enschede to take on Twente on the same evening where neither side can afford to drop points on the front two.
Despite Spurs recent upturn in form Rafa Benitez’s Inter will begin as hot favourites to take all three points. Tottenham’s defence will face the stringiest of tests but are capable of coming away with a draw. Twente have produced flashes of brilliance in each of their CL ties thus far and home advantage should swing the result in the Dutch Champion’s favour.
Inter 1 Spurs 1 and Twente 3 Werder Bremen 1
Manchester United left it late win 1 – 0 away to Valencia on Matchday 2 at the Mestalla with substitute Javier Hernandez coming off the bench to score a terrific winner. United followed up a dour draw with Rangers in their opening group match with a performance full of conviction and effort that eventually wore down a dogged Valencia side who dominated possession for much of the tie. The hosts are enjoying a tremendous start to their domestic campaign and are currently rubbing shoulders with Barca and Real at the summit of the Spanish league.
United were indebted to their Mexican international who was sprung the bench with 15 minutes left and hit an upright before netting the all important winner. On the same evening Manchester United chalked up their first win of the new CL campaign Rangers were doing likewise at a packed Ibrox. Steven Naismith’s 18th minute strike proved enough to see off current Turkish table-toppers Bursaspor. It had been over three years since Ranger’s last victory in the Champions League but the Scottish Champions were good value for their win on Matchday 2 despite some late scares and now sit proudly joint-top of Group C alongside United.
Manchester United play host to Bursaspor on Matchday 3 at Old Trafford with the visitors still in search of both their first goal and points in this year’s Champions League. A victory for the hosts would see the English club just three points off the target of ten set by manager Sir Alex Ferguson prior to the tournament. Rangers host Valencia on the same evening at Ibrox knowing a victory would open up a four point gap on the Spanish side heading into the return leg at the Mestalla.
Manchester United’s attacking weaponry which will most likely include Wayne Rooney and / or Dimitar Berbatov should prove too strong for a Turkish defence which has already conceded five goals in their opening two games so we will go for a home win. Rangers should be roared on by a vociferous home support on the same evening but Valencia are in rude health and could spring an away victory.
Manchester United 3 Bursaspor 0 and Rangers 1 Valencia 2
Chelsea made it two wins out of two in Group F of the Champions League following a routine 2 – 0 victory at home to Marseille on Matchday 2. John Terry and Nicolas Anelka (penalty) strikes earned the Pensioners a second consecutive win. Devoid of the talents of such first team regulars as Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba Chelsea still and enough to overpower the Ligue 1 champions and are now in pole position to qualify as group winners. Elsewhere in Group F Republic of Ireland international Aiden McGeady was in sparkling form for Russian outfit Spartak Moscow as they brushed aside the challenge of MSK Zilina 3 – 0 in the Luzhniki Stadion. The Brazilian tandem of Ari (who grabbed a brace) and Ibson got on the score sheet as Spartak recorded a second consecutive win in Group F.
The eagerly anticipated Group F showdown between Chelsea and Spartak Moscow in the Luzhniki Stadion is one of the highlights of Matchday 3. Both sides have 100% records heading into the tie so victory for either will go a long way to securing passage to the knockout stages. Later that evening Marseille welcome MSK Zilina to the Stade Velodrome with both sides seeking their first points in the competition.
Spartak know they need to take at least a point from Chelsea as they face a daunting trip to Stamford Bridge on Matchday 4. The Russians possess enough quality to end Chelsea’s 100% record so we’ll go fro a draw in this tie. Marseille desperately need to get a win on the board and home advantage will prove pivotal in overcoming the challenge of Zilina.
Spartak Moscow 1 Chelsea 1 and Marseille 2 MSK Zilina 0
Arsenal made it nine goals in two Champions League Group H fixtures following their gutsy 3 – 1 win away to Partizan Belgrade on Matchday 2. Andrei Arshavin broke the deadlock at the FK Partizan Stadium before Brazilian striker Cleo equalised from the penalty spot for the hosts. Arshavin then had the opportunity to fire Arsenal back in front from the penalty spot but fluffed his lines. Partizan made a game of it despite being reduced to ten men but late strikes from Chamakh and Squillaci earned the Gunners an impressive away victory. Shaktar Donetsk kept pace with the North London club at the summit of Group H following their second win in as many games away to Braga. A converted Costa penalty and a brace form Luiz Adriano earned the Ukrainian side a terrific 3 – 0 victory over a Braga side struggling for form since they sensationally ousted Sevilla in the qualify round.
Braga has the opportunity to kick-start their Champions League Group H campaign when the Portuguese side entertain Partizan Belgrade on Matchday 3. Neither Braga nor Partizan has registered a point thus far so a loss for either could prove fatal to any lingering hope of making it through to the knockout phase. The Emirates Stadium hosts the battle of the top two ranked Group H sides on the same evening with Arsenal hoping their home support can inspire them on to a third consecutive victory.
Arsenal should prove too strong for a talented Shaktar Donetsk side despite the Gunners’ recent lack of form in the Premier League which has yielded zero points from their last two league games. Braga have yet to recapture their early qualifying rounds form which saw the Portuguese side surprisingly make it through to the group stages. Partizan showed enough quality in their defeat to Arsenal that they have enough to grab at least a draw in Portugal.
Arsenal 3 Shaktar Donetsk 1 and Braga 1 Partizan Belgrade 2
Ger McCarthy is author of the book entitled ‘Off Centre Circle’ about a lifetime spent playing amateur football in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.