Barcelona managerless, fighting to avoid early CL exit
The main talking points ahead of the fourth round of matches of the Champions League group stage:
THE PROBLEMS OF BARCA
Barcelona still have no replacement for dismissed manager Ronald Koeman ahead of the Group E game at Dynamo Kyiv – and Gerard Pique and Sergio Aguero will be missing due to injury. Pique suffers from strain in his right calf, while Aguero is expected to stay in hospital for further heart tests after feeling dizzy before half-time in the 1-1 home draw against Alavés on Saturday . Barcelona have lost two games in a row in the Spanish league – including to compete with Real Madrid at home – after beating Dynamo 1-0 to restore their chances of avoiding their first Champions League group stage elimination in nearly two decades. Barça are third in the group.
BAYERN’S DEFENSIVE PROBLEMS
Bayern Munich suddenly have defensive issues to sort out ahead of Benfica’s visit on Tuesday. The Bavarian powerhouse conceded seven goals in their last two games, including the 5-0 loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach in the German Cup last Wednesday. It was Bayern’s biggest loss in 43 years. The team rebounded by scoring five goals against Union Berlin on Sunday, while conceding two more. Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was busy in both games, blaming Bayern defenders. But there is nothing wrong with the attack and Robert Lewandowski will want to add to his 17 goals in 14 games in all competitions this season as Group E Bayern can book their place in the next round with a win over second-placed Benfica. .
Immediate pressure eased on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after leading Manchester United to a 3-0 Premier League win at Tottenham on Saturday. The scrutiny of the manager’s future will certainly return if United cannot win at Atalanta on Tuesday, particularly with a derby against Manchester City following on Saturday. United are at least top of Group F in the Champions League but with just six points in three games, one point more than Villarreal, who faces Young Boys. Solskjaer will have to decide whether to stick with the three-man defense and punching force of Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani who ended a four-game winless streak in the Premier League. On the other side of Manchester, City suffered a surprise home loss to Crystal Palace in the Premier League before hosting Brugge. Pep Guardiola’s team are one point behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain in Group A.
THE ATLÉICO TAKES UP
After conceding seven goals in three matches, Atlético Madrid’s defense tightened with a shutout in a 3-0 win over Real Betis in the Spanish league. The Spanish champions will need to remain just as strong at the back to face Liverpool after losing 3-2 to leaders Group B in Madrid two weeks ago.
Inter Milan and AC Milan expect positive Champions League results not only to increase their chances of advancing to the next round, but also to help them face the weekend’s Serie A derby. Champions League is a different story for Milan, who have lost their first three games in the competition for the first time in their history and are in desperate need of a home win against Porto in Group B. Inter visits Group D leader Sheriff and would pass over his opponent with a win. In the other Group D game, Real Madrid host Shakhtar Donetsk after their 5-0 victory in Ukraine two weeks ago.
NEW START FROM WOLFSBURG
New Wolfsburg coach Florian Kohfeldt has reinvigorated the squad after just one game at the helm since taking over from fired Mark van Bommel. Saturday’s 2-0 win at Leverkusen ended the team’s eight-game winless streak. Now, attention turns to visiting Salzburg on Tuesday as Wolfsburg seek their first win in the competition – against leaders Group G. The group remains open as Salzburg leads with seven points, followed by Sevilla on three, with Lille and Wolfsburg on two. Sevilla host Lille in the other group game on Tuesday.
Juventus are said to have retired from training after returning to dismal form in Serie A. After a difficult start to the season, things appeared to have improved with a 1-0 winning streak, but Juventus have lost their last two league matches against Sassuolo. and Hellas Verona. Massimiliano Allegri has already lost four of the first 11 Serie A games at the start of his second term. Juventus have never finished higher than fourth after such a poor start. In the Champions League, however, the story has been different and Juventus are preparing to face Zenit Saint Petersburg as they seek to maintain their perfect start in Group H. Juventus have their last three matches, without conceding a goal and could qualify for the round of 16. with two matches to lose. European champion Chelsea face Malmö, three points behind Juve in second place.
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