Following Manchester United’s successful trip to Paris on Tuesday, both Liverpool and Manchester City will be looking to emulate their rivals with successful starts to their 2020/21 UEFA Champions League campaigns.
Here are your previews ahead of the big games on Wednesday night…
Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk 17.55
Madrid will be hoping for a better European venture third time around having been eliminated at the quarter-final stage in August. Still possessing plenty of quality, Zinedine Zindane’s men are rightfully still considered a real thrrst at the business end of the compeition.
However, off the back of a surprise home defeat to Cadiz in La Liga, Los Blancos perhaps aren’t the side they once were.
They should still have enough quality to come past the Ukrainian champions.
Manchester City v Porto 20.00
Pep Guardiola will be without star performer Kevin De Bruyne for the visit of Porto on matchday one. Despite this they will go into the match as huge favourites, and joint favourites with Bayern Munich for the competition outright.
City are desperate to end their wait for European success and will hope a solid start against Porto will set them on their way.
Their Portuguese visitors are no easy task, and will boast West Ham loanne Felipe Anderson as part of their squad.
Ajax v Liverpool 20.00
This meeting between two of the giants of European football will come as a welcome break for Liverpool from talking about injuries, VAR controversy and that derby day draw.
As we all by now know Virgil van Dijk will miss this game, and perhaps the remainder of the season. Both Alisson and Thiago also miss out for the Reds whilst Jurgen Klopp does welcome back Naby Keita into his squad.
Ajax still present a major opposition, albeit a little stripped of their quality players who helped them reach the semi-finals of the competition during 2018/19, the year Liverpool made it six.
Bayern Munich v Atletico Madrid 20.00
A clash of epic proportions see’s holders play host to Liverpool’s extra time conqureors Atletico Madrid.
Hansi Flicks men are many peoples favourites to make it back to back Champions League’s whilst Diego Simeone’s charges are always difficult to beat.
This match promises to be a battle of free-flowing attack against rigid well organised defence.
RB Salzburg v Locomotiv Moscow, Midtylland v Atlanta, Olympiacos v Marseille, Inter Milan v Borussia Monchengladbach
Following the successful return of the German Bundesliga on May 16, the next of the leading European leagues to restart following the COVID-19 pandemic is the Spanish La Liga. So how was it left when play was suspended on March 12?
Well to start with Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid had just suffered a surprise defeat at Real Betis to hand the initiative back to reigning champions Barcelona.
The Catalan side currently hold a two-point lead over their fierce rivals, who remain in second. The last time the league leaders played was on March 8, when they secured a hard fought 1-0 win over fourth place Real Sociedad thanks to a Lionel Messi 81stminute penalty.
Real Sociedad, however, bounced back just a few days later to secure a 2-1 win away at relegation threatened side Eibar moving them back up to fourth.
Atletico Madrid meanwhile, had wasted a 2-1 advantage at home against fellow Champions League hopefuls, Sevilla as they were ultimately held to a 2-2 draw. The club from Seville currently sit third but are only two points ahead of Diego Simone’s side which is sixth.
The league’s surprise package so far this campaign has been Getafe, Jose Bordalas’s underdogs are fifth and have not only enjoyed league success but had also just knocked out last seasons Champions League semi-finalists, Ajax, to progress in the Europa League.
At the other end of the table, Barcelona’s local rivals, Espanyol, had suffered a 1-0 defeat against Osasuna leaving them six points from safety. Leganes and Mallorca are the other teams that currently make up the bottom three; however, Celta Vigo, Eibar and Real Valladolid remain very much in danger.
The league is set to resume on Thursday June 11 with the Seville derby between Sevilla FC and Real Betis. On Saturday June 13, league leaders, Barcelona are due to travel to face strugglers Mallorca, while Real Madrid will be looking to get their faltering title challenge back on track when they meet Eibar on Sunday June 14.
The plan is for the Spanish sides to complete their 11 remaining fixtures in just over a month, which would mean finishing on July 19.
La Liga chief Javier Tebas also spoke of plans to give a tribute to those who have died from the pandemic. Fans will be encouraged to create audio recordings of themselves applauding the victims, which will be played in the 20thminute of each match.
“Fans make football so special, and as they cannot be in the stadiums, we have created this initiative so they can play a part in the return of the competition and show their support for the heroes of COVID-19.”
The Champions league continued to entertain on Tuesday night with an eight goal thriller, a comeback and some smaller clubs proving hard nuts to crack.
There is only one place to start, and that is Stamford Bridge where Chelsea hosted last year’s semi-finalists, Ajax. Chelsea won the corresponding fixture two weeks ago in Amsterdam meaning the two teams were level at the top of the group and a win for either side would mean they were in control of their own destiny with regards to qualification.
The match started as it would carry on with 2 goals in the opening 4 minutes. Ajax got the first when they won a free-kick and Quincy Promes’ quality delivery caught Tammy Abraham napping as he diverted the cross into his own net. Chelsea’s response was immediate with Christian Pulisic bursting into the box and drawing a late challenge from Veltman which allowed Jorginho the chance to score from the spot, and he didn’t pass up the opportunity.
The game continued to flow entertainingly with Hakim Ziyech providing the quality to take the game away from the hosts. It was his magnificent cross from the right that caught out Azpilicueta and allowed Promes to dart in and finish from close range to make it 2-1.
Ziyech’s left boot did further damage just before the break as Ajax extended their advantage, although there was a touch of luck about the goal. His delivery from near the corner flag caught out Chelsea keeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, and the ball bounced back off the post and into the net via the unfortunate goalkeeper’s face.
Things got worse for the Blues when Ziyech found Van de Beek in the area and the classy midfielder found the bottom corner with a clever finish to make it 4-1 and seemingly put the game beyond Chelsea.
Tammy Abraham made up for his error by getting one back before the match entered a crazy period which swung it towards Chelsea.
Daley Blind was shown a second yellow card for fouling Abraham, the referee had played advantage before showing the red card, in the pursuing advantage Veltman was judged to have handballed a Callum Hudson-Odoi’s shot and a penalty was awarded.
To make matters worse for Ajax, Veltman had already been booked and was shown a red. Jorginho rolled in his second penalty of the night and suddenly Chelsea went from being 4-1 down to 8 minutes later being just one goal behind and playing against 9 men for the last 20 minutes.
It was not long before they levelled the match as Reece James hammered home from a corner and Chelsea would have backed themselves to win the match
Azpilicueta thought he had done just that but VAR dampened the celebrations by spotting a handball from Abraham in the build-up.
A crazy night at Stamford Bridge, that had everything ends as a 4-4 draw and the other result in the group, a 4-1 win for Valencia over Lille, means 3 teams are tied on 7 points.
Another dramatic match was played out in Dortmund as Borussia Dortmund played Inter Milan.
Barcelona had dropped points earlier in the day by only drawing at home to Slavia Prague meaning the winner of this one would close the gap on Barca to a single point.
Inter Milan controlled the first half and were 2-0 up at half-time thanks to goals from Lautaro Martínez and Matías Vecino.
This however was to be a story of two halfs, Dortmund came out like a completely different team after the break and 6 minutes into it had got one back through Achraf Hakimi, who incredibly had scored all of Dortmund’s goals in the campaign.
Paco Alcácer came on after 64 minutes and with his first touch set up Julian Brandt whose right footed shot from the left side of the box equalised for Dortmund.
They continued to push and Jadon Sancho played a delightful through ball to that man again, Achraf Hakim and the right-back scored yet again to complete the turnaround.
Qualification from this group is still wide open with 2 matchdays remaining with 4 points separating Barca in 1st and Inter in 3rd with Barca still to play both Dortmund and Inter.
Elsewhere, Liverpool were given a scare at home to Genk but overcame it to go top of Group E after Napoli were held by Red Bull Salzburg.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored in a second consecutive Champions League game as Liverpool won 2-1 but they were made to work for their victory.
Oxlade-Chamberlain scored another superb goal in the Champions League to ultimately seal a vital three points for the holders.
However, it was far from a walk in Stanley Park, with a thunderous Mbwana Samatta header leveling things up in the first half after an instinctive finish from Georginio Wijnaldum for Liverpool’s 14th-minute opener.
Genk could well have left Anfield with a point, but Liverpool had Alisson Becker to thank for some wonderful late saves.
Oxford United are still on the look out for a new manager eleven days after Sumrith Thanakarnjanasuth took control of the club. Plenty of high profile names including the likes of Craig Bellamy and Steve McClaren have been linked with the post but as of yet nobody is in the hotseat, but is this about to change…
The Sun reported yesterday that the club were in talks with former Dutch international Patrick Kluivert to take the helm at the Kassam Stadium. Kluivert recently had a post with Paris St-Germain as Director of Football, and has previously held assistant manager positions with the likes of Az Alkmaar, NEC and also the Dutch national side.
Kluivert would bring a wealth of experience with him, having played at the highest level for the likes of Ajax, AC Milan and FC Barcelona and could attract some big names to the Kassam Stadium should he take charge of the League One outfit.
From this it is clear to see that new Oxford owner wants to put a high profile name in charge of the club and this will in turn give The U’s every chance of getting out of League One and into the Championship.
Oxford United fans would you like to see Patrick Kluivert as your new manager? Let us know in the comments section…
Its hard to believe that after just 3 games into the new Premier League campaign we are talking about the first possible managerial casualty.
Crystal Palace have made the worse possible start to the new season as they have lost all 3 of their opening fixtures, and have yet to score a league goal.
Manager Frank De Boer was announced as the successor to Sam Allardyce who stepped down from his post at Selhurst Park back in June. Upon the Dutchman’s appointment there was a sense of optimism around ‘The Eagles’ that they could go on and have a very good season, under the former Ajax and Inter Milan manager.
Bringing in players such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timothy Fosu Mensah on loan, as well as completing a €9m move for AFC Ajax defender Jairo Reidewald had given the fans further belief that the club were heading in the right direction and De Boer was the man to steer them away from a team that just stayed up every year, and turn them into a solid mid table outfit.
After an opening day thumping by newly promoted Huddersfield Town 3-0 at home, and this backed up with two further defeats to Liverpool and Swansea City respectively, the Dutchman has found himself under huge pressure so early on in his tenure.
Nothing short of 3 points away at Turf Moor this weekend would be good enough for the club, who desperately need to find some kind of form otherwise they could find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle and worse than that for De Boer he could very well found himself out of a job come Monday morning.
Crystal Palace fans should the club stick by Frank De Boer? Is it to soon to sack a manager? Let us know in the comments section…