THE SECOND Champions League matchday includes some more interesting pairings, notably Chelsea’s first game under new manager Graham Potter. Elsewhere, Manchester City’s force of nature, Erling Haaland comes face to face with his old club, Dortmund and Rangers host the Serie A leaders Napoli. After Zagreb’s win against Chelsea, can the Croatians pull off another shock in Milan?
Rangers – Napoli
Rangers and Napoli couldn’t have had more conflicting results in their first Champions League group games, Rangers losing 4-0 at Ajax while Napoli thrashed Liverpool by 4-1. Napoli are top of Serie A and are unbeaten in their six games. They won 1-0 at home to Spezia at the weekend. The talk of Naples at the moment is 21 year-old Georgian Khvicha Kvarsatskhelia, who has made a startling impact since joining the club. The Georgian is being tipped to become a big star in the near future. Rangers, meanwhile, are still smarting after two 4-0 defeats in a matter of days, against Celtic and Ajax. Giovanni von Bronckhorst upset a few people when he said millions of pounds of investment are needed to compete in the Champions League, but he was speaking the truth.
AC Milan – Dinamo Zagreb
Milan will be wary of Dinamo after the Croatian champions beat Chelsea 1-0 in Zagreb. But there is no shortage of confidence at Milan, they are reigning Serie A champions and they are unbeaten so far this season. Milan beat Sampdoria in Genoa at the weekend, with Olivier Giroud scoring the winning goal, but another forward, Divock Origi, has struggled since arriving at the club and has been labelled the summer’s worst signing in the league. Zagreb are also unbeaten still in their league and have scored 28 goals in nine games.
Chelsea – Red Bull Salzburg
Graham Potter makes his bow as Chelsea manager as the blues attempt to put that 1-0 defeat in Zagreb behind them. Much will be expected of Potter but Salzburg will be difficult opponents. One of their stand-out players, Noah Okafor, a 22 year-old Swiss, is attracting a lot of attention, notably from Leeds United. Chelsea will be looking to gain an advantage over Salzburg in the group and anything other than three points will be unacceptable, but nobody is quite sure how the first Potter Chelsea XI will line-up. They will certainly need to perform far better than they did in Zagreb.
Shakhtar Donetsk – Celtic
Celtic travel to Warsaw to play Shakhtar Donetsk in the Polish Army Stadium. Shakhtar have started their league campaign and have won three of their four games and are joint top of the Ukrainian Premier League. Shakhtar pulled off a shock 4-1 win against RB Leipzig in the first round of group games, but the home side appeared to be in turmoil and sacked their coach the next day. Celtic have a 100% record in the Scottish Premiership and gave Real Madrid a difficult first half before conceding three second half goals in Glasgow.
Real Madrid – RB Leipzig
Real have started the season very well and won their first Champions League game against Celtic by 3-0. They have a 100% record in La Liga and lead the table with Barcelona two points behind. They won 4-1 against Mallorca at the weekend with striker Karim Benzema suffering from an injury he picked up against Celtic. He looks set to miss the game with Leipzig, who are recovering after a disastrous week in which they lost 4-0 at Frankfurt and 4-1 at home to Shakhtar. They sacked coach Domenico Tedesco and have since appointed Marco Rose.
FC Copenhagen – Sevilla
FCK continue to mystify their fans with their inconsistency this season. After nine games, they are in mid-table in the Danish Superliga and have lost five games. They were beaten in Dortmund in their first Champions League game and their fans were subject to an attack from a masked group wielding pyrotechnics. Coach Jess Thorup is under some pressure now and admits performances have fluctuated but must improve: “We have to be honest with ourselves,” he said. It might be hard to get much out of Sevilla, who have problems of their own, but they secured their first win against Espanyol in the last round of La Liga matches.
Manchester City – Borussia Dortmund
Two of the clubs involved in the astonishing Erling Haaland story meet at the Etihad, with the striker hoping to add to his 12 goals for Manchester City since he joined in the summer. Haaland left Dortmund, where he cemented his reputation with some outstanding displays and goals in the Champions League. City are currently second in the Premier League but are unbeaten after six games. Draws against Newcastle and Aston Villa show that Pep Guardiola’s team are not invincible, but these are early days for his new-look side. Dortmund have a problem scoring goals since Haaland’s departure and have netted just eight in six games in the Bundesliga.
Juventus – Benfica
This is a clash right out of “old Europe” but it still has enormous appeal today. Juventus are having some trouble winning games, although nobody has beaten them in Serie A. Juve have drawn four of their six games and they lost their opening group game in Paris. Coach Max Allegri has been criticised for his somewhat negative approach this season. Benfica have a 100% record in the Portuguese Primera and started their Champions League campaign with a 2-0 win against Maccabi Haifa. As usual, they have players that others want to sign, the latest target is 21 year-old Argentinian Enzo Fenandez.
Maccabi Haifa – Paris Saint-Germain
Maccabi have to deal with a PSG front line that will probably include Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, a daunting task. PSG are top of Ligue 1, but level on points with Marseille. They won their first Champions League game of the season, beating Juventus 2-1. Maccabi, current leaders of the Israeli Premier League, lost 2-0 in Lisbon to Benfica. It is difficult to see anything other than a healthy win for PSG.