Barca sharpen knives for night of massive Europe fixtures
Paris Saint Germain (FRA) vs Basel (SUI) As coach of Sevilla last season, Unai Emery beat Basel on the way to winning the Europa League. Now he hosts them, leading French champions Paris SaintGermain in a confident mood thanks to Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani, enjoying a streak of 15 goals in his last 11 games, and Brazilian playmaker Lucas, who also scored over the weekend. Basel’s Iceland midfielder Birkir Bjarnason scored in his last match in Paris, a 5-2 defeat at the Stade de France against France in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals. The Swiss champions warmed up with a 3-0 win over Luzern and will be welcoming back a well-rested squad.
Arsenal (ENG) vs Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL) Arsenal look set to continue their unbeaten Champions League start hosting Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets Razgrad. The Gunners were unfortunate not to win in Paris before striker Theo Walcott scored a brace to beat Basel. Walcott scored twice again this weekend as a gritty Arsenal dug in for a 10-man, 3-2 win over Swansea that saw them level with Man City at the top of the Premier League. One note of caution for the hosts: Ludogorets shot to the lead in both their games, a 1-1 draw with the Swiss and a 3-1 home defeat by PSG. The Bulgarian champions are also on a hot seven-game unbeaten run away from home.
Napoli (ITA) vs Besiktas (TUR) Napoli will become the first team to qualify for the last-16 if they notch their third-straight win and Dynamo Kiev draw with Benfica. A superb opening 4-2 win over Benfica followed by a 2-1 over Dynamo left coach Maurizio Sarri’s side coasting toward the knockout stages. But the Serie A side lost to Roma on October 15, leaving them seven points behind league leaders Juventus, and replacement striker Arkaduisz Milik, who has scored three goals in the competition, is out for months with a knee injury. Besiktas, back in the competition for the first time since 2009-10, enter buoyed by a 1-0 win at Kayserispor in their best domestic start in five seasons.
Dynamo Kiev (UKR) vs Benfica (POR) Both sides are searching for a crucial first win to avoid being bounced from the tournament. Dynamo’s Serhiy Sydorchuk will return after a onematch ban due to his dismissal in a 2-1 loss to Napoli. They host Benfica on the back of a weekend 1-1 draw at FC Chornomorets Odesa to leave the reigning champions six points back in the Ukrainian Premier League. Benfica’s 4-2 loss to Napoli, meanwhile, was their only defeat in their last 20 matches in all competitions.
Barcelona (ESP) vs Manchester City (ENG) Pep Guardiola’s return to Barcelona, the club where he won the Champions League as both player and coach (twice) makes this game the match-up of the season so far. Barcelona have won 12-straight Champions League games at home and Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are all primed to play. Crucially City playmakers Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero will also be at full fitness after two draws and a defeat in their last three games. Gerard Pique, in the news this week for his controversial role in Spain’s outfit and his ambitions to be Barcelona president, has also scored three goals in the last three games.
Celtic (SCO) vs Borussia Moenchengladbach (GER) Celtic’s raucous fans carried the Hoops to a wild 3-3 draw with Pep Guardiola’s Man City last time and will be a bankable asset against Germany’s Borussia Moenchengladbach. They’ll need to be, as Celtic are traditionally beaten by German opponents, but striker Moussa Dembele has 15 goals in his last 17 games. André Schubert’s charges, meanwhile, come to Celtic Park in desperate need of a win after defeats against City and Barcelona and after missing two penalties in a 0-0 draw with Hamburg on October 15.
Rostov (RUS) vs Atletico Madrid (ESP) Russia’s Rostov are seeking to build on their plucky home 2-2 draw against PSV after an opening 5-0 thumping by Bayern Munich. Rostov will also be hoping for no repeat of the bananathrowing incident that marred the PSV stalemate. They were beaten by Spartak Moscow in the domestic league on October 15 with red cards dished out to two of their players. But last season’s finalists Atletico are travelling to Russia in confident mood coming off a 1-0 defeat of Bayern Munich and a 7-1 humbling of Granada in La Liga.
Bayern Munich (GER) vs PSV Eindhoven (NED) Bayern host PSV with Carlo Ancelotti slamming their “bad attitude” in a 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on October 15 and club chair Karl-Heinz Rummenigge describing the performance as “unacceptable”. They need a win to steady the ship after a loss to Atletico Madrid left them in second in the group and three points back, but a victory would be their first in the last four outings, and they are already without Franck Ribery with a leg injury. –
Barcelona defender Jeremy Mathieu (left) gets a header over Deportivo forward Florin Andone during a Spanish league match on October 15. Barcelona won 4-0.