Matchday 5 of the 2019-20 edition of UEFA Champions League features some of the most diverse full-course of football entertainment available. Defending Champions Liverpool face-off against Napoli while, Real Madrid, PSG, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Chelsea, Barcelona and Dortmund look to chart their own course in the tournament. Here’s a preview of what we expect to be some of the most delectable combos on offer, featuring the abovementioned teams.
Real Madrid vs PSG
The absolute zenith of European excellence and this competition is Real Madrid. The 13-time Champion, as most superclubs do are going through a spell of rebuilding. Their once unassailable force field has disintegrated at an alarming rate ever since their Champions League win at the expense of Liverpool.
They were humbled earlier in the year by the nouveau riche Paris Saint Germain earlier in September by the scoreline of 3-0 at the Parc Des Princes. Tonight they entertain the Gulf-fueled next generation of European superclubs. This has the look of a face-saving exercise for the all-whites than a revenge match. Especially, when you consider that the 3-0 win for the Parisians came without Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe. Tonight, Real Madrid need the Santiago Bernebeu to assume form as one of the most daunting stages to come to play once again, with all the three of PSG absent world-class attackers back fit and firing their Gatling guns. Real Madrid will also have to contend with the maverick talents of Mauro Icardi, who in the absence of PSG’s usual front three has chalked up six goals and is their joint top-scorer alongside Angel Di Maria.
Real Madrid have to come out all guns blazing if they hope to qualify for the round of sixteen. Anything but a win means that they have to head into the final matchday needing desperately a big win vs Club Brugge.
Real manager Zinedine Zidane seems like he has gotten back a semblance of control after in-team bickering and politics has rocked their dinghy. Eden Hazard will look to cement himself into the Madrid folklore with a talismanic display when his club needs it the most. The Belgian will have to be careful as to not try to do everything on his own as he will be against a formidable backline.
Juventus vs Atletico Madrid
For Juventus, this would a test of their strength in depth having already qualified for the Round of 16 with two games to spare in Group D (10 points, undefeated with a 3-1-0 record in the group stages). Atletico Madrid will be travelling to Turin tonight to assure themselves a spot with a win against the Italian giants who are coming into this fixture with a five-match unbeaten streak and are undefeated in 2019-20 season so far (their last defeat was in the hands of Sampdoria in the last game-week of last season). Expect neither manager to take this match lightly. Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri and Atletico manager Diego Simeone share the same values in their high-intensity, a-knife-between-the-teeth approach to football seen in their previous head-to-head.
Atletico came back from a 0-2 deficit in the reverse fixture to draw 2-2 and will take a lot of heart from that performance heading into this match. The Spanish club have struggled with goals this season despite their attacking wealth. They have scored more than once in just 2 of their last 9 fixtures. If Atletico are to overcome what could be an understrength Juventus with their second-stringers like Emre Can getting a look in, this could be an opportunity to gain some confidence in front of goal.
Valencia vs Chelsea
Chelsea know they have all to lose travelling to Valencia in their Group H showdown. A lot has changed since the last match-up. Chelsea were still transitioning from being a bunch of misfits to a team in the shape of manager Frank Lampard. They lost 0-1 to Valencia who were going through a period of turmoil on the board-level. That loss proved to be the flint-strike that got the ember going. Chelsea have only improved in Europe since, defeating Lille and Ajax on the road.
Their 4-4 draw to Ajax at Stamford Bridge was both a character-building exercise and a glimpse into the enthralling brand of football that the future held. The London club came back from a three-goal deficit to match last year’s semi-finalists Ajax stride for stride with their young side.
Chelsea have to register a win with a margin of at least two goals to maximise their chances of progress into the next stage and give themselves the best chance on the head-to-head mark sheet.
Valencia are a mixed bag. The instability on board-level has bred inconsistency on the pitch with players unsure of the direction of the club or the motives behind the men who push the buttons. However, they will welcome Chelsea knowing that they are won three-fourth of their home games and will draw upon the strength of their supporters washing down the Mestalla.
Chelsea are expected to be without Antonio Rudiger and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Denis Cheryshev is yet to be match fit for Los Che.
Valencia will go into this match on the back of a 2-1 defeat vs Real Betis and are 10th in the table. Chelsea lost 3-1 away to Manchester City and are third on the Premier League table.
Barcelona vs Dortmund
Yes, Barcelona are leading in LaLiga, but they are not very good. In reality, Barcelona are as unintimidating as they have ever been in recent history. The resounding loss at Anfield in last season’s Champions League campaign seems to have broken the club at a spiritual level. A bray has replaced their growl. Barcelona are on top of LaLiga but only just. Goal difference is the reason why they shade an uninspired Real Madrid, aided with a 2-1 comeback win over bottom-side Leganes despite Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele all starting. But all that said, they still have the best player to ever play the game, Lionel Messi, cracking the whip. Especially when Dortmund themselves been empty husks of their true form.
Barcelona despite not being themselves are the table-toppers in Group F with 8 points. Dortmund is 1 point behind going into this match. The Black and Yellows will know that a loss at the Camp Nou would mean their destiny will not be in their own hands: they would need to beat Slavia Prague convincingly and hope that their opponents on Wednesday night don’t take their foot off the pedal vs Inter Milan.
Dortmund manager Lucien Favre is at the risk of losing his job if results don’t turn. His side was held to an unco-ordinated 3-3 draw vs Bundesliga barrel scrapers Paderborn. This could be as good a chance as any for a rallying cry for the Germans.
Liverpool vs Napoli
Liverpool came from behind yet again this season to register a last-gasp win vs Crystal Palace away from home, keeping an 8-point lead in the Premier League and their momentum going. With a one-point lead in Group E, they charge headlong into Napoli who are smack in the middle of club president issued sanctions and player revolts.
On the pitch, it’ll prove to be a tactical masterclass with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp testing his wits against the Italian master, three-time winner of the Champions League as a manager, Carlo Ancelotti. It’ll be a game of high-class counter-attacks and quick jabs of forward thrust.
The Naples-based team are still undefeated in the competition with two draws and two wins, but it is altogether a different portrait in the domestic league The title challengers of last season find themselves ailing in 7th spot in the Serie A. They are 5 games without registering a win and had their griefs compounded by a draw vs AC Milan last weekend.
Mohamed Salah could return as a starter having been rested vs Crystal Palace and Andy Robertson, who recovered from his ankle injury against Palace, might also make an appearance. Xherdan Shaqiri and Joel Matip are not close to match fitness. For Napoli, Lorenzo Insigne, their talisman is deemed to be not fit enough for this tie.
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Updated Date: Nov 26, 2019 17:00:21 IST