Champions League Preview: Matchday 2’s big contests

Atletico Madrid players exercise during a training session in Majadahonda, outskirts of Madrid, Spain, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. Atletico Madrid will play its Champions League soccer match against RB Salzburg on Tuesday. Photo by Manu Fernandez/AP Photo.

Matchday 1 of the Champions League was full of action: Real Madrid shockingly lost to a severely depleted Shakhtar Donetsk side, Manchester United picked up three convincing points against French giants Paris Saint-Germain and last season’s winners Bayern Munich picked up right where they left off by putting four goals past Atlético Madrid. Matchday 2 of club football’s elite competition resumes this week with some crucial and exhilarating fixtures. 

Olympique Marseille vs. Manchester City
Olympique Marseille and Manchester City will face each other at the Stade Vélodrome, with both sides looking to grab a positive result to kickstart their seasons after a slow start. Pep Guardiola has made his worst start to a league season as a head coach, only managing to secure eight points out of Manchester City’s opening five Premier League games. The “Cityzens” will still find reasons to be optimistic, as midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne is fit to start the match. Marseille sits in fourth place in Ligue 1, but comes off a 1-0 defeat to Olympiacos in the Champions League last week. Dimitri Payet’s availability will be a big boost for Marseille, who missed the last three Ligue 1 games after receiving a red card against Lyon three weeks ago. 

RB Salzburg vs. Atlético Madrid 
Atlético Madrid and RB Salzburg come into this match having won against Real Betis and Austria Wien, respectively. Both teams are searching for their first win in this year’s Champions League campaign. Atlético Madrid suffered a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich last week in the Champions League, while RB Salzburg were held to a 2-2 draw against Lokomotiv Moscow. Although Atlético Madrid may enter this game as the favorite, RB Salzburg have consistently punched above its weight, and a close match should be expected. 

Atalanta vs. Ajax 
Erik ten Hag’s Ajax comes into this fixture off of a 13-0 win against VVV-Venlo, setting the record for the biggest win in Eredivisie history. During this game, Lassina Traoré, the Burkina Faso international striker, bagged five goals and Dutch midfielder Jurgen Ekkelenkamp scored two for himself. Meanwhile, Atalanta suffered a 3-1 defeat to Sampdoria in Serie A, meaning Atalanta has now conceded seven goals in their last two league games. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men will approach this game with their typical scintillating, attacking style of soccer, while Ajax will undoubtedly be high in confidence and aim to secure their first points of the 2020-21 Champions League campaign. 

Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka, left, duels for the ball with Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Chelsea, at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. Photo by Oli Scarff/Pool via AP Photo.

Manchester United vs. RB Leipzig 
Manchester United made an ideal start in the Champions League, beating last year’s finalists in the competition, Paris Saint-Germain, 2-1 in France last week. RB Leipzig has made a strong start in the competition this year as well, comfortably winning 2-0 against İstanbul Başakşehir. RB Leipzig’s Upemecano, a standout performer in last year’s Champions League, will pose a large challenge for Manchester United’s talented frontline. Despite losing talisman Timo Werner to Chelsea this summer, RB Leipzig still boast an impressive squad, with the likes of Yussuf Poulsen and Angeliño enjoying a lively start to the season. Meanwhile, Manchester United will try and play through Bruno Fernandes, who has been their standout player since his arrival in January of this year. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have the dynamic new signings Donny van de Beek and Edinson Cavani to bring off the bench and inject some energy as the match progresses. 

Sevilla vs. Rennes 
This Group E fixture pits reigning Europa League champions Sevilla against Rennes. Both sides only managed to secure a point in last week’s round of Champions League fixtures and will surely be hungry for all three points. Rennes enter this fixture as underdogs, with this being the club’s first season in the Champions League. The French outfit resides in third place in Ligue 1, but has not won a game in over two weeks. Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla suffered a surprising defeat to Eibar in La Liga this past weekend but will look to make a statement in this upcoming match. 

Juventus vs. Barcelona 
The headliner of this week’s fixtures will potentially see Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus face Lionel Messi and a new-look Barcelona. Ronaldo’s appearance in this match still hinges upon a negative COVID-19 test 24 hours prior to the game, with the Portuguese forward having tested positive for the virus on Oct. 13. Both Juventus and Barcelona have made positive starts to their Champions League campaigns in Group G with winning starts against Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencváros, respectively. Barcelona most recently lost 3-1 to bitter rivals Real Madrid and will be hoping to recover by grabbing a positive result in Turin. The Catalan club has experienced a revolution this past summer. New manager Ronald Koeman has heavily incorporated new youngsters, such as Sergiño Dest, Pedri and Ansu Fati into the first team. Fati became the second-youngest scorer in El Clásico this past weekend, and the 17-year-old will aim to add to his impressive goal tally for the season against the Italian champions. 

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