Marseille v Sporting
Marseille may sit second in France’s Ligue 1 just a couple of points behind PSG at the top of the table, but there’s little reason to have much confidence in them ahead of Tuesday’s early kick off against Sporting at Stade Velodrome.
For a start, the usually hot atmosphere in the ground will be tempered by the fact that it is a match that will be played behind closed doors due to fan violence during their previous European fixture against Frankfurt.
Meanwhile, Marseille’s record in the Champions League is infamously poor. They have lost 16 of their last 17 Champions League matches, with the exception of a dead rubber against Olympiacos. While they competed well against Tottenham in matchday one, they were disappointing last time out against the Germans and are once again staring at an early elimination in the face.
By contrast, the Portuguese side are going well. They won 3-0 in Frankfurt on the opening matchday and followed that up with a 2-0 success over Spurs. Domestically, they have not travelled well, notably losing to Boavista immediately before the international break, but they returned on Friday with a commanding win over Gil Vicente, and though they are carrying a handful of defensive injury doubts into this match, they should also be favoured here.
For head coach Ruben Amorim, who is being linked to some big jobs in England presently, this should be seen as an opportunity to impress.
Ajax v Napoli
There is barely a team in Europe that will want to come up against Napoli right now as Luciano Spalletti’s side are in great form, both in Serie A and in the Champions League.
The Partinopei won their first two games of the Champions League group stage as they beat both Liverpool and Rangers in impressive fashion. They can all but book their place in the Round of 16 with a win in Amsterdam on Tuesday night which would be a big achievement for a side that lost so many key players in the summer.
They scored seven goals in those first two games and that is why it would be foolish not to back them to find the back of the net against Ajax in this one. Kvicha Kvaratskhelia is in devastating form and is desperate to keep showing his ability in the Champions League.
Players like Victor Osimhen, Giovanni Simeone, Giacomo Raspadori and Hirving Lozano can all add goals when they want to, whichever combination of those names takes the field at the Johan Cruyff Arena in the early kick-off on Tuesday.
Ajax are also a team that should never be written off though from a goalscoring perspective and they have scored five of their own in the tournament already, despite winning one out of their first two. They have also scored 23 goals in eight Eredivisie games so they could certainly score against Napoli.
Club Brugge v Atlético Madrid
Few expected Club Brugge to be leading Group B after two games, but that is the case for the Belgian club as they welcome Spanish giants Atlético Madrid to the Jan Breydel stadium on Tuesday night. Club Brugge have been the surprise outfit in a tough group, seeing off Bayer Leverkusen in Belgium and then thrashing Porto 4-0 in the last Champions League matchday.
Despite that, Atlético Madrid come into this game with belief strong in the camp after an impressive 2-0 win over Sevilla at the weekend saw them produce arguably their best display of the season yet. Bouncing back from derby defeat to Real Madrid, they dominated the game and looked confident in attack with Matheus Cunha being one of the star performers as he replaced João Félix in the starting line-up.
Diego Simeone may opt to make some changes to that line-up, but would still be able to call upon the likes of Yannick Carrasco, Antoine Griezmann and Félix who all came off the bench in Seville. Brugge conceded three goals to only 0.56 xG against Standard Liège before the international break, and such prolific finishing could punish them again with such quality available.
That should make Atlético excellent value for the win, particularly given the defensive strength which they regained through the return of José María Giménez and Stefan Savić and which limited Sevilla to 0.36 xG, their lowest xG at home since December 2021.
While Club Brugge were the last Belgian team to beat Atlético, that win did come back in March 1992 and this Atlético will be confident of avoiding defeat to Belgian opposition. Their last visit to Brugge ended in a 0-0 draw, but with Álvaro Morata back in good form, the Colchoneros will be optimistic than they can break the deadlock.
Porto v Bayer Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen head coach Gerardo Seoane comes into this game arguably needing a win to keep his job. B04 officials held a crisis meeting following their 1-1 draw against Werder Bremen and with a 4-0 defeat against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Friday night, Seoane desperately needs a good performance. Sitting 17th with just one win in eight Bundesliga games, B04 must get a result against Porto.
Perhaps a glimmer of hope is knowing that they can perform against the very best European teams. A 2-0 win against Atletico Madrid on MD2 of the Champions League, Bayer Leverkusen narrowly outperformed their xG (1.73), converting 33% of their chances. Seoane knows his side can be clinical too. In their only Bundesliga win this season, a 3-0 win at Mainz, B04 had an xG of just 0.81. But whatever it is, their attack just hasn’t seemed to click this season. As always, Seoane operates in a 4-2-3-1 but unable to replicate last season’s form, we’ve seen Patrik Schick far too isolated as the lone forward and unable to have an impact on the game – he’s scored 3 in 11 across all competitions.
Moussa Diaby has impressed and up against former teammate Wendell, the Frenchman will get plenty of joy down Bayer Leverkusen’s right-flank. Die Werkself are also boosted by the return of Amine Adli and there’s no doubt that Diaby and Co. will create chances (averaging 7 per 90 across all competitions), but it’s a question as to whether they can finish them on the day against what will likely be a defensive partnership of David Carmo and Fabio Cardoso, unless Pepe is fit enough to start. Defensively, Lukas Hradecky has been error prone in goal and B04 have kept just two clean sheets in 10 games across the Bundesliga and Champions League.
Meanwhile, Porto prepared for Tuesday’s Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen with an impressive 4-1 win against Braga. Lining up in a 4-4-2-diamond, Porto had four different scorers at the weekend but the Portuguese side themselves have struggled for clean sheets – just two in their last seven across all competitions. Porto have underperformed in their xG metric in six of their last seven games but given Leverkusen’s defensive frailties, you would expect them to score.
As we enter MD3 in the Champions League, both Porto and Bayer Leverkusen will want to avoid defeat in what’s a relatively easy group in which both will feel that they can qualify from. Although a potentially low scoring fixture, both teams scoring looks like an obvious and safe bet.
Inter v Barcelona
It is fair to say that this game has come at a very bad time for Inter as they try to put yet another Serie A defeat behind them. They were beaten 2-1 by AS Roma at the San Siro on Saturday evening which means they have lost four from their first eight Serie A matches.
Simone Inzaghi is starting to look like he is under serious pressure to turn things around and he is closer to the sack than he has ever been since taking over from Antonio Conte at the start of last season.
They really need a win in a general sense and they also need one specifically in the Champions League. This group already seems to be shaping up how many expected where Bayern Munich are leading the way and Barcelona and Inter will be battling it out for second place. That is why a win in this one would be crucial for both teams.
It is not easy to see Inter suddenly put their demons behind them and get the better of a Barcelona side that, whilst depleted by the injuries to Ronald Araujo and Jules Kounde, are now sitting at the top of La Liga.
Inter’s defence has been the main issue this season despite being their main positive last season, and they will have to contend with the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Ansu Fati, and Ousmane Dembele.
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