By Gbenga Isaac Abuja—
Group A leaders Manchester United will travel to take on CSKA Moscow at the VEB Arena. United have had a fl ying start to the season so far, unbeaten in all competitions and picking up 16 out of a possible 18 points in the Premier League. Having made their return to the Champions League group stage they brushed aside Basel 3-0, but they will recognize that it’s a tricky encounter as CSKA themselves recorded a shock 2-1 win over Benfi ca in their opener. United will have Eric Bailly available after suspension, but Phil Jones, Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba are unavailable.
Basel and Benfi ca will be desperate to pick up their fi rst points when they face off at St. Jakob Park. Points are guaranteed to be dropped by either United or CSKA and they will look to get themselves back on track. Group B serves up a cracker as PSG entertain German giants Bayern Munich at the Parc Des Princes. Both sides made winning starts to their campaign and the winner here will go a long way in deciding who fi nishes top of the group. PSG were 5-0 winners over Celtic, with trio Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe all getting on the scoresheet.
Th ey also boast a strong home record, with Barcelona the only team to defeat them in the Parc Des Princes in the last 5 seasons. Bayern have lost just one game in the Bundesliga this season to nemesis Hoff enheim. Th ey were 3-0 winners over Anderlecht in their opener, but they will have to do without infl uential stopper Manuel Neuer for the rest of the year. It’s a big blow that the Parisiens will be hoping to exploit. matchday one, will contest the other game at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.
Atletico Madrid and Chelsea clash at the Estadio Metropolitano in Group C. While Atleti were held to a goalless draw by Roma on matchday one, Chelsea were 6-0 winners over FK Qarabag. Th ey have however won 3 games in a row and will look to make their new stadium a fortress. Chelsea have responded well to their opening day defeat to Burnley in the Premier League. Th ey have won 6 out of the 7 games that followed and are on the back of a 4-0 win over Stoke which featured an Alvaro Morata hat trick.
Atleti have had the upper hand in their last 5 meetings, winning 2, drawing 2 and losing 1. AS Roma will target their fi rst points against FK Qarabag at the Tofi q Bahramov Stadium. Th eir debut game against Chelsea didn’t go according to plan as they were thrashed 6-0 by the English side. Th ey will be aiming to avoid another embarrassing defeat against last season’s Serie A runner-up. Roma though haven’t won an away game in the Champions League since November 2010.
Th at’s a record they need to change under new tactician Eusebio Di Francesco. FC Barcelona will take on Sporting Lisbon at the Estadio Jose Alvalade in Group D. Sporting rode their luck on matchday one against Olympiakos, racing to a 3-0 lead and half time before a lapse in concentration almost saw them throw the match away. Th ey managed to win 3-2, which was their fi rst away win in the group stage since 2008. Barcelona have won 7 straight La Liga games, with Lionel Messi being the standout performer.
He has scored 11 goals in those games and netted a brace in an emphatic 3-0 win over Juventus on matchday one. It will be their fi fth meeting, with Barca winning 3 of those and losing one. Juventus will face Olympiakos at the Juventus stadium. Th ey will be keen to bounce back from their humbling defeat to Barcelona, and what better way to do that than against Olympiakos? Th eir last 6 meetings have yielded 4 wins for the Turin giants, while Olympiakos have considerably underperformed on Italian soil, losing 7 out of 11 games. Moreover, Juve have star man Paulo Dybala in good form and he will look to open his account against the Greek side.