THE SECOND matchday has some attractive games over the two evenings and the pressure is starting to build for some clubs who realise that a second defeat could make qualification for the last 16 very challenging.
Liverpool – Ajax
Liverpool have probably been chomping at the bit after losing 4-1 in Naples a week ago. That defeat triggered off a lot of soul-searching among some fans who wondered if Liverpool have peaked and in need of rebuilding. That may be the case and certainly, Jürgen Klopp’s team is clearly having a difficult start to the season. Moreover, Mohammed Salah looks a little jaded and has scored only three times, which hardly sounds like a major crisis. Liverpool have had injuries and they failed to strengthen their midfield, an area where they look under-strength. As for Ajax, they trounced Rangers in their first group game 4-0 and have only conceded three goals in their six league games. A visit to Anfield is daunting for any team, but Ajax should be full of confidence.
Bayer Leverkusen – Atlético Madrid
Leverkusen lost their first group game in Bruges and have been struggling in the Bundesliga, although they gained a 2-2 draw at Hertha Berlin at the weekend. They finished third in the Bundesliga last season, but they are currently 17th in the league table. Atlético are starting to hit decent form and won 4-1 at home to Celta Vigo, a few days after their dramatic win over Porto in the Champions League. Atléti took the lead in the 91st minute but Porto levelled after 96 minutes. The Portuguese side barely had time to celebrate when Antoine Griezmann cropped up to score the winner in the 11th minute of added time.
FC Porto – Club Brugge
This is a vital game for Porto, who need to gain an advantage over their Belgian opponents if they are to compete for a place in the knockout phase. Both teams are currently in third place in their respective domestic leagues and have both lost one game. Porto, who won 3-0 against Chaves last weekend, are chasing their traditional rivals Benfica and Braga. Brugge are five points behind league leaders Antwerp. Porto will be hoping to get back on track after that defeat in Madrid.
Viktoria Plzn – Inter Milan
Both teams lost their first group game, Plzn on the end of a 5-1 drubbing in Barcelona while Bayern Munich won 2-0 in Milan to remind Inter they still have some way to go to compete with the elite clubs. Inter will be hoping to make some ground up, but Plzn are difficult at home. They are second in the Czech League after beating Sigma away by 3-2 – they remain unbeaten in 2022-23. Inter, who are up for sale and are said to be close to a € 1.2 billion deal, won 1-0 at the weekend against Torino with an 89th minute goal from Brozović. They have lost two games in Serie A this season and have been largely unconvincing in their league games so far.
Bayern Munich – Barcelona
This is one of the games of the second matchday and may go some way towards deciding who wins the group. Barcelona have had an excellent start to the season, lifting the gloom that descended upon the Camp Nou in 2021-22. Barca have rebuilt their team and have won four of their five games, scoring 15 goals and conceding just one. Robert Lewandowski, who will come face-to-face with his old club, has settled in well and is the top scorer in La Liga. Already it is clear that Barca will be competing for the title. Bayern are unbeaten, but they have drawn their last three Bundesliga games. They sit in third place behind Union Berlin and Freiburg, a situation that is unlikely to continue.
Sporting Lisbon – Tottenham Hotspur
Sporting haven’t had the best of starts in the Portuguese Primera, losing two of their six games, including a 3-0 defeat in Porto. But they had an excellent victory in the first Champions League group game, winning 3-0 in Frankfurt. Some of their fans may have breathed a sigh of relief that their highly-rated manager Rúben Amorim wasn’t snapped up by a bigger club, notably when Chelsea sacked Thomas Tuchel. Amorim’s still there and Sporting are building their reputation in Europe and will make it difficult for Tottenham on their own ground. The Spurs have started well and won their first group game 2-0 against Marseille at home. They are still unbeaten in the league.
Marseille – Eintracht Frankfurt
After winning the Europa League last season, Frankfurt fans might have expected a better start to their season, including their long awaited return to the premier competition. They were well beaten by Sporting Lisbon in matchday one and they are already under some pressure. In the Bundesliga, Frankfurt are mid-table material at the moment. They were beaten 1-0 at home by Wolfsburg, another setback at the Deutsche Bank Park. Marseille are in good form, although they lost to Spurs, but in the league they are unbeaten and are on the same number of points as Paris Saint-Germain.