What to watch for in today’s Champions League action
TEA SHOPS, get ready to stay open late. Today’s Champions League action features a key match between Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain. Meanwhile, Barcelona, Manchester City and Bayern Munich all face challenging away games. All matches start at 1am Myanmar time tonight – here’s a list of what to watch for.
Group A Arsenal (ENG) vs Paris SaintGermain (FRA) The Gunners will be out to put one over the French champions, whom they held 1-1 in Paris, as both struggle for top spot in Group A, the pair having already booked passage to the knockout phase. The Londoners could look to Olivier Giroud, who rescued a point from the bench at Old Trafford, to spearhead their attack after Alexis Sanchez played through hamstring trouble. As Arsenal drew with Manchester United to leave them fourth in the Premier League, PSG warmed up for today’s game with a fourth-straight win, 2-0 over Nantes, as they chase down French leaders Nice. PSG’s Old Trafford misfit Angel Di Maria scored against Nantes but came off in the first half with a thigh injury, albeit not one expected to keep him out. Argentine playmaker Javier Pastore is set to miss the trip to London with a knee problem.
Ludogorets (BUL) vs Basel (SUI) Bulgarians Ludogorets and Basel have proved the makeweights in Group A with both garnering a solitary point to date. A Europa League spot is the consolation prize that awaits the side that can cement third place. The two parted 1-1 in the first meeting in Switzerland. Previous encounters saw the Swiss win handsomely in a two-leg playoff three years ago. Ludogorets will be slight favourites, courtesy of home advantage, and they gave Arsenal a brief scare in their last outing, but let slip a two-goal lead to succumb 3-2.
Group C Celtic (SCO) vs Barcelona (ESP) Top spot is still up for grabs in Group C as Barcelona, two points clear of Manchester City, travel to a Celtic side they squashed 7-0 at the Camp Nou. A win for Lionel Messi and Co – he is set to return after a sickness bug at the weekend – will see the Spanish champions into the last 16, though a draw might also do it depending on the other game. Luis Suarez will be back from suspension, which is bad news for a Celtic side who are two points adrift at the bottom of the group. The Scottish giants warmed up for Barca with a 1-0 win over Kilmarnock which left them 13 points clear in their domestic league. Borussia Moenchengladbach (GER) vs Manchester City (ENG) City’s Yaya Toure-inspired weekend win at Crystal Palace keeps them a point off leaders Chelsea in the Premier League. But it is at the back that they have worries, particularly the fitness of talisman centre-back Vincent Kompany, who suffered a head injury in a collision with keeper Claudio Bravo at Palace. Victory in Germany for Pep Guardiola’s side will see them into the next round. The home side look on course for a Europa League slot and need to pull off a surprise win if they are to have any hope of making further progress in this competition. On current form that looks a tall order after successive domestic losses, to Cologne and Hertha Berlin, sent them into the bottom six in the Bundesliga.
Group D Rostov (RUS) vs Bayern Munich (GER) Five-time European champions Bayern head to Russia’s Rostov for their Group D clash licking their wounds after being knocked from the top of the Bundesliga. Their 1-0 defeat at Dortmund on November 19 allowed RB Leipzig to finish the weekend top of the German league table. Bayern are already into the last 16 but need a win at Rostov to stay in touch with group leaders Atletico Madrid, who they host on December 6 for a potential top-spot decider. Bayern will be without injured keeper Manuel Neuer, meaning Sven Ulreich will deputise. Rock-bottom Rostov and PSV have a single point each so are locked in a struggle for a Europa League place only. The Russians have a solid home record and held Rubin Kazan to a goalless draw on November 18.
Atletico Madrid (ESP) vs PSV Eindhoven (NED) Atletico might already be through and top of the group, but they are on a poor run in the Spanish league. Beaten finalists in two of the last three editions of the Champions League, the Spaniards will qualify as group winners if they win and Bayern do worse. Coach Diego Simeone seems to be losing his iron grip a tad and success built on a rock-solid defence appears to be slipping. Phillip Cocu’s PSV will be massive underdogs nonetheless and they only drew 0-0 at lowly Willem II at the weekend in domestic action, with their Dutch championship hopes evaporating slowly. –
Olivier Giroud (top left) hopes to lead Arsenal over Group A rivals PSG, while Barcelona’s Luis Suarez (top right) looks to return in top form after his suspension against Celtic. In Russia, Bayern Munich will have to manage without injured keeper Manuel Neuer (bottom left), and against Celtic, Manchester City will look to Yaya Toure (bottom right) as they seek to clinch their spot in the next round.