Eintracht Frankfurt v Sporting Lisbon
For the first time since 1959/60, Eintracht Frankfurt will be playing in Europe’s premier club competition this season and will host Sporting on Wednesday in their opening match before taking on Marseille and Tottenham in the following weeks. Despite finishing 11th last season, Oliver Glasner’s side qualified for the Champions League after beating Real Betis, Barcelona and West Ham before edging Rangers 5-4 on penalties in Sevilla after drawing 1-1 in 120 minutes in the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League Final. They began the season with a 4-0 win vs. lower-tier FC Magdeburg before losing 6-1 at home to Bayern in the league opener and losing 2-0 to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, before drawing 1-1 against Hertha Berlin and Köln, beating Werder Bremen 4-3 and thrashing RB Leipzig 4-0 at home. With Daichi Kamada, Randal Kolo Muani, Mario Götze and Jesper Lindstrøm forming a fearsome attacking quartet, Sporting could have a tricky time of it in their trip to the Waldstadion.
After opening the season with a 3-3 draw in Braga, Sporting have defeated newly promoted Rio Ave 3-0, lost 3-0 to Porto, lost 2-0 to newly promoted Chaves, before bouncing back on Friday with a 2-0 win at Estoril Praia, with Dutch center back Jeremiah St. Juste getting his first start at the club and opening proceedings in the 13th minute, with Marcus Edwards doubling the lead just eight minutes later as Sporting rubbed salt in the wound following the deadline day signing of Arthur Gomes from Estoril.
Six of Sporting’s eight Champions League matches last season saw more than 2.5 goals scored, and I’m backing this one to continue the pattern against a side that has scored eight goals in its last two matches. Sporting’s defense is a relic of the sturdy backline that let in 20 goals in 34 games to clinch the 2020/21 Primeira Liga title, with Gonçalo Inàcio, Luís Neto and Sebastián Coates struggling to convince, and Eintracht’s ferocious fanbase and intimidating atmosphere combined with Die Adler’s rip-roaring attack could overpower Rúben Amorim’s side. Sporting do have weapons in attack capable of doing damage to Eintracht with Pedro Gonçalves in fine form and grabbing a brace of assists vs. Estoril, whilst Marcus Edwards and Francisco Trincão showed promising signs in their trip to Cascais. I’m expecting plenty of goals from either side in what promises to be a fascinating encounter in Germany.
Atlético Madrid v Porto
In a repeat of the first group stage match of last season’s Champions League campaigns for these two teams, Porto head to the Estadio Civitas Metropolitano to take on Atlético Madrid. That time, the two teams played out a 0-0 with just three shots on target throughout the full 90 minutes.
Another low-scoring affair looks likely. Atlético have recorded under 2.5 goals in three of their four games this season, only scoring two goals in their last three games. Their fans are still waiting to see their first goal on home turf this season and could expect another struggle against Porto, particularly if Diego Simeone opts to rest Álvaro Morata, who has scored 60% of the team’s goals to date.
Atlético could be without first-choice goalkeeper Jan Oblak after he was forced off late on in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad. Simeone has been coy on the availability of the Slovenian, and Ivo Grbić could be called in to replace him for only his third Atleti appearance. Despite that, Grbić did keep three clean sheets in six Champions League games for Lille while on loan last season.
Porto have also registered under 2.5 goals in three of their five games to date this season, and only scored four goals at all in six games in the Champions League last season. Top scorer Mehdi Taremi recorded just one goal in Europe’s elite competition last season and his goal against Gil Vicente on Saturday was his first since the opening day of the season. With both teams far from firing on all cylinders in front of goal, under 2.5 goals is a strong bet.
Club Brugge v Bayer Leverkusen
Club Brugge (pot 4) entertain Bayer Leverkusen (pot 3) on the first matchday of the Champions League. For Brugge, this match is actually a must-win if they want to fulfil their wish for qualification.
On paper, Leverkusen are the easiest opponent in Group B, which also includes Atlético Madrid and Porto. Leverkusen have also started the season very poorly with 3 out of 15 in the Bundesliga (place 14). It lost 2-3 at home to Freiburg last weekend.
Club Brugge are, as usual, at the forefront of the Jupiler Pro League standings. They proved that they mean business by acquiring striker Roman Yaremchuk, who came over from Benfica for 16 million, on Transfer Deadline Day. This is the all-time record for an incoming transfer in the Belgian league. There was also 10 million paid for defensive midfielder Onyedika. Both players made a good impression when they came on in the derby against Cercle Brugge (4-0 win), especially Onyedika who looked to prove fantastic cover for the back three.
The Champions League is not the Jupiler Pro League of course. Club Brugge have played a German opponent 3 times in the last 5 years, and lost at home 3 times. We therefore expect a tough match for Club Brugge, who are slight favourites. Leverkusen will be happy with a draw, so they will not take the initiative. We expect this match to be similar to Club Brugge’s first match day in 2018, when after a dominant game with few chances it eventually lost 0-1 against Dormund, after a late goal from Pulisic.There are good odds for those expecting few goals.
Inter Milan v Bayern Munich
Inter have had some big disappointments already this season and might have been hoping for a kinder start to their Champions League campaign than having to take on German giants Bayern Munich.
It seems that Simone Inzaghi’s Nerazzurri have fallen short whenever the pressure has been on against the other big sides so far – losing to both Lazio and AC Milan in their opening five Serie A fixtures – and taking on Bayern will be a test on another level again.
Last time out against Milan they looked a little unable to deal with the pressure of the occasion and were made to look like boys by one of Italy’s youngest sides, and so the Bavarians should enjoy plenty of chances against them.
Defensively, Inter are as shaky as they’ve been since their title-winning season. Stefan de Vrij’s best days look to be behind him now and even Alessandro Bastoni was made to look a little amateurish by Rafael Leao in the Milan Derby. Bayern will know that and will be sure to target it. While third in the Bundesliga, Bayern have an incredible 17 goals scored after just five matches.
At the other end, though, Inter are always a threat. Lautaro Martinez has really stepped up as their main man over the last 12 months, and whether he’s playing alongside Joaquin Correa or Edin Dzeko he’s capable of posing problems to any backline. They’re also Italy’s second-highest scorers with 11 goals from their five games so far.
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