UEFA Champions League (UCL) Fantasy got back underway last week, as Salzburg came within minutes of shocking Bayern, whilst Liverpool broke Inter’s resistance to win 2-0 at the San Siro.
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Tonight sees reigning champions Chelsea host Ligue 1 strugglers Lille, whilst inconsistent and unpredictable duo Villarreal and Juventus face off at the Estadio de Ceramica.
Five things we learned over the weekend
Bayern back to winning ways after first-half shock
They’d lost 4-2 to newly-promoted VfL Bochum, then drew 1-1 to RB Salzburg having been behind for nearly the whole game. When Bayern went into half-time against bottom-ranked Greuther Fürth 1-0 down, some were announcing that the rot had set in. Yet it was 4-1 by full-time and all Bayern fears had been allayed. TO Robert Lewandowski brace, a Fürth own goal and a Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting injury time finish saw them glide through the gears to win. Salzburg should be worried for their tie in a few weeks time if they’re back in form.
Manchester City are not unbeatable
They were extraordinary in the 5-0 win over Sporting a week ago, which took them to 13 games unbeaten. And yet they fell 3-2 to Tottenham at the weekend. Manchester City are not invincible. There actually is a way to defend against them. Potential rivals will be thrilled to see this. Of course, Harry Kane’s brilliance puts something of an asterisk next to the win, as very few teams have someone of his quality from him, but Spurs’ narrow, deep defending did expose a way of stopping City. There might be a way of beating them after all.
Liverpool show their squad-depth to run over Norwich City
As with Bayern, Liverpool went into half-time 1-0 down to a side in the relegation zone. They finished 3-1 up, having brought on a game-changer from the bench in Thiago. Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino were out injured, plus Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson were on the bench. Yet they looked at their best in the second-half.
Jordan Henderson and Thiago sprayed brilliant passes across the pitch and louis diaz played like a lifelong Jurgen Klopp disciple. Their issue in the latter stages of the UCL has often come from a lack of squad depth, which no longer looks like an issue. This is a side with UCL-winning pedigree who now have top reinforcements across the pitch.
PSG’s weaknesses were exposed in loss to Nantes
Alban Lafont got a rare 10 rating from L’Equipe and PSG had 72% possession alongside nine shots on target but a close to full-strength PSG shouldn’t be losing games like this. Whoever the manager is, we see these issues year after year. They were disjointed and ripped apart early on. Heads went down and they never really recovered. Whilst they might have the most impressive squad in terms of individuals, those superstars won’t carry them to a UCL title.
Benfica continue poor form with draw at Boavista
A 2-2 draw means Benfica now only have two wins from their last five. They’re six points behind and in much poorer form than Sporting, who were turned over 5-1 by Ajax in the group stage. Benfica face the same Dutch side tomorrow, who’ve now only conceded one goal in their last ten in all competitions. This doesn’t look good for Jorge Jesus’ men.
Five things to expect in tonight’s matches
Out-of-form Chelsea to struggle for goals
Chelsea have won their last five games without looking impressive in any of the last four. They were heavily unconvincing in the Club World Cup, slipped past minnows Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup and didn’t deserve their win against Crystal Palace at the weekend. They have scored more than one goal in 90 minutes just once in their last eight games. up-front, Romelu Lukaku is being slated from pillar to post for his performances and no-one else seems to be stepping up to the plate. This could be a painful watch, even against a poor Lille side.
Danjuma to continue good form after weekend hat-trick
Arnaut Danjuma got four goals and an assist from five group stage games before hitting a hat-trick away to Granada in his second post-injury start at the weekend. Villarreal will rely on the Dutchman for their goals against Juventus tonight.
Villarreal and Juventus battle to continue unbeaten runs
Their win over Granada took Villarreal to four games unbeaten, including a 0-0 draw with Real Madrid. Juventus are seven unbeaten, with draws against AC Milan and Atalanta. It’s hard to call which way this game will go but both teams come into it in good form.
Low-scoring Lille to add to already defensive Chelsea tie
With two wins in their last seven, sitting 11th in Ligue 1 after just two goals from their last four league games, Lille are not in the best of form. However, neither are Chelsea, which gives both of them a good chance this evening. This is a shadow of Christophe Galtier’s league-winning side from 2020/21, but with jonathan david and Burak Yilmaz up front, you still can’t write them off.
Juventus’ attacking hopes to depend on newcomer Vlahovic
Although they sit fourth in Serie A, this Juventus side are inconsistent and have struggled for goals at times, especially in the big games. The responsibility to change that will fall at the feet of £72million man Dusan Vlahović. He scored on his debut against Verona and has looked solid since but the Old Lady will need him at his best to get past a stubborn Villarreal side.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism