UCL Preview: Barcelona visit Ibrahimovic-less PSG, Atletico look to rebound, more

IMAGE, FCBARCELONA.COM

By MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

Paris St. Germain and Barcelona are the favorites to qualify from Group A. They are both expected to make a deep run in the competition as well.

In the 2012/13 Champions League, Barcelona advanced to the semifinals after two draws with PSG on away goals. It could very well be another close affair.

However, they will have to do it without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is out with a heel injury. The mercurial striker must be chomping at the bit in frustration not being able to face one of his former sides.

PSG only secured a draw against Ajax while Barcelona beat APOEL 1-0 in their first group games. Both sides will look to have an improved performance when they square off at the Parc des Princes.

While away from home, where they struggled of late in Champions League winning only two of their last eight, the club may still set up to attack. With Lionel Messi and Neymar lurking in the attacking third, the PSG backline will need to be on high alert.

What To Look For

1. Last season runners up Atletico look to rebound– After falling at the feet of bitter rivals Real Madrid in the Champions League Final, Atletico Madrid suffered a loss in their first attempt in this season’s competition.

They were beaten 3-2 in Greece by Olympiakos.However, at home they’ve been dominant and could be just the place to bounce back, even against a Juventus side that won its first game 2-0 against Malmo. Atletico has won their last 17 of 19 home matches when playing in European competitions.

With Diego Costa at Chelsea, it would have been a massive blow if Mario Mandzukic was out. Fortunately he returned in La Liga play, wearing a mask to protect his broken nose and will be available for the Spanish side.

2. Injury hit Arsenal host Galatasaray– After being well beaten against Borussia Dortmund in their first Champions League group game, Arsenal are looking for better fortunes in their second. It will be a tough test against Galatasaray with an injury hit side.

Aaron RamseyMikel Arteta and Jack WIlshere picked up injuries against Tottenham at the weekend in the Premier League.

The Gunners and the Turkish side have history. At the expense of Arsenal, Galatasaray became the first Turkish side to win a UEFA competition, defeating Arsenal in the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup.

However, Arsenal have had success against Turkish clubs. They have yet to lose in 90 minutes and recently moved past Besiktas to advance to the group stage.

While Arsenal are the favorites to get a result, their weekend squad may leave them ripe for the picking. It would be a momentous result for Galatasaray if they can get it.

3. Roma, Ashley Cole visit Manchester City– Roma returned to the Champions League for the first time sine 2010/11 and they started with a bang. They tallied five times in their opening group game over CSKA Moscow.

They will look to continue that form when they travel to Manchester City, who lost in last-grasp fashion to Bayern Munich.

Ashley Cole makes a return to England and could face his long-time Chelsea teammate as well. Frank Lampard has been in fine form and Manuel Pellegrini may very well utilize him once again.

Roma have struggled in their trips to England, only winning once in 14 trips. That should give the advantage to City. who haven’t lost to Serie A sides in four games.

It should be an attacking affair with the likes of Segio AgueroDavid SilvaGervinho and Francisco Totti to name a few players that will step on the pitch for either side.

4. Kljestan’s Anderlecht looks for result against Dortmund– Anderlecht were able to get a draw in Turkey against Galatasaray, but will have a stiffer challenge with Borussia Dortmund visiting. The Belgian club has never beaten German opposition in the Champions League group stage.

Anderlecht didn’t win a single home game in the group stage last season, losing all three, but will hope for better fortune when they face Dortmund. Sacha Kljestan came off the bench in the club’s first group game and can continue flying the flag for the United States Men’s National Team as he should get an opportunity whether from the bench or in the Starting XI.

Dortmund were rampant against Arsenal in their first group game, finding two goals for their victory. They will certainly test the Belgians backline with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ciro Immobile 

5. Ludogorets to play Real Madrid in first Champions League home match– Ludogorets nearly had a dream start to the Champions League group stage against Liverpool. They will now get a dream first home game in the Champions League with Real Madrid visiting.

Real Madrid may look to rest some players in a game they have the quality to win, even with some reserves. However, they may have seen Ludogorets effort at Anfield and look to use a stronger lineup to ensure a win.

Whatever the outcome, it will certainly be a great day for Ludogorets’ supporters, the players getting a chance to play against the Spanish giants and for the club as a whole. Also who knows, they may just have more surprises up their sleeves.