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Champions League Previews for Matchdays III and IV

Updated on February 24, 2014

Another slate of games are upon us and although this week's matches cannot compare to the heavyweight bouts of last week, there remain numerous story lines to be made aware of.

Borussia Dortmund are performing well in the Champions League, but are not meeting expectations in the Bundesliga. Injuries have plagued the team which must begin coming to terms with the inevitable loss of its star striker, Robert Lewandowski, who will jump ship to Bayern Munich next season. Dortmund have a favorable matchup in Zenit, but there are too many examples of Der BVB not playing to the level expected from a side of this quality.

Much like Dortmund, Manchester United are maneuvering land mines of their own. The time bomb has begun to tick on David Moyes' future as the club cannot grasp hold of a successful run. In fact, it has been almost two months since United have won back-to-back matches in all competitions which is unacceptable considering the level of talent and money available. Olympiakos are dominating their domestic league but must face a better Manchester side. The loss of striker Kostas Mitroglu could spell the end of their Champions League run.

Chelsea have lost only three matches since December and have proven themselves against the Premier League's elite. Although a lack of scorers could eventually come into play, opponents must first worry about the Chelsea defense which has allowed only two Premier League goals since the new year began. If any side can make a dent in the Chelsea defense it could be Galatasaray. Possessing experienced strikers in Burak Yilmaz and Didier Drogba - a former Chelsea star - the Turkish club have as good a shot as any to create a hassle.

As a mere formality, Real Madrid will face an improving Schalke side. The German club have started slowly the past two seasons and have worked its way into a Champions League spot next campaign if the season ended today. Madrid are certainly more talented in every facet of the game but cannot take a potentially hungry Schalke side for granted.

Marco Reus

Marco Reus
Marco Reus | Source

Danny

Danny
Danny | Source

Zenit Petersburg vs. Borussia Dortmund

In one of the more uneven match-up’s, Dortmund will look to continue their improved form as they enter the match winners of three of the previous four Bundesliga ties. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has rediscovered his early season promise and contributed four goals over that span. Even with inconsistencies in domestic matches, last year's finalists still feature a dangerous attack which has created 51 league goals, second to only Bayern Munich. Following a rough draw at the Group Stage, Dortmund will find more ease against the Zenit side. Although the Russian squad display quality attackers in Danny (10 goals, 7 assists) and Hulk (9 goals), their defenders will find it difficult to keep pace with the proficiency of Dortmund’s attack. Dortmund are third in the world in shots and shot on target per match and will unlikely change their style of play for the first leg. Look for Der BVB to overwhelm the Zenit squad with a flurry of shots.

Prediction: Dortmund win. Inconsistencies in domestic league play will not be enough to hold the Dortmund attack docile. BVB won the Group of Death by a narrow margin, a group in which Zenit would have found itself fortunate to finish third.

Group Stage Snapshot

Zenit Petersburg
Group Stage Statistics
Borussia Dortmund
1-3-2 (6 points)
Group Record (W-D-L)
4-0-2 (12 points)
5
Goals Scored
11
9
Goals Allowed
6
57.4%
Posession Percentage
47.9%
81.8%
Passing Accuracy
80.1%

What will be the result?

See results

Kostas Manolas

Kostas Manolas
Kostas Manolas | Source

Olympiakos vs. Manchester United

Olympiakos are leading the Greek Super League by an overwhelming 20 points and have allowed only 9 goals through 26 matches. Three players have scored eight or more goals, led by Greek International Kostas Mitroglou who has netted 14. The loss of Mitroglou to English side Fulham at the transfer deadline will likely prove deadly for the fortunes of the Greek side. Meanwhile, Manchester United are undergoing inner-turmoil of their own. Fighting for European spots throughout most of the year, United have found themselves largely on the outside looking in while clubs like Everton and Tottenham have surpassed them. Since the start of the new year, The Red Devils have lost six out of 11 matches in all competitions. Vulnerabilities against lesser clubs have proven that regardless of opponent, this United side should not be guaranteed a win.

Prediction: Manchester United win. Although choosing a draw or Olympiakos win is not as surprising as it may seem, look for United to find a way to win, even if it means winning in stoppage time, or by a cheap penalty.

Group Stage Snapshot

Olympiakos
Group Stage Statistics
Manchester United
3-1-2 (10 points)
Group Record (W-D-L)
4-2-0 (14 points)
10
Goals Scored
12
8
Goals Allowed
3
43.1%
Posession Percentage
52.7%
77.5%
Passing Accuracy
88.4%

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney | Source

What will be the result?

See results

Burak Yilmaz

Burak Yilmaz
Burak Yilmaz | Source

Petr Cech

Petr Cech
Petr Cech | Source

Galatasaray vs. Chelsea

Eden Hazard is on fire for Chelsea and is sufficiently in the running for the Premier League Player of the Year. In league play he has scored 12 goals while adding 5 assists as he leads and uncommonly dormant Chelsea attack. Without the help of a consistent striker, the Blues are a full 21 goals behind league leaders Liverpool. However, the solidification of defensive play has gradually helped Chelsea reach the top of the Premier League table allowing the fewest goals in league play (21). Galatasaray have dropped only two matches in Super Lig play this season but also check in with eight draws which have them sitting in second position. Although leading the league in goals allowed (19), Gala’s most significant cogs come up front. The ever-dangerous Yilmaz and ageless Drogba have combined for 20 goals between them. The timely passing and intelligent playing style of Wesley Sneijder (8 goals) polish Gala’s offense and allow for potentially treacherous counter-attacks. Finishing 2nd in the Group Stage that included Real Madrid and Juventus show that Galatasaray can keep pace with the Europe’s elite squads.

Prediction: Chelsea win. Hazard's quality and stout defense will prove to be the ultimate deciding points for Chelsea. Galatasaray may surprise with an early goal but by the final whistle look for the Blues to have achieved a two-goal advantage.

Group Stage Snapshot

Galatasaray
Group Stage Statistics
Chelsea
2-1-3 (7 points)
Group Record (W-D-L)
4-0-2 (12 points)
8
Goals Scored
12
14
Goals Allowed
3
49.8%
Possession Percentage
54.6%
83%
Passing Accuracy
85.2%

What will be the result?

See results

Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale | Source

Schalke 04 vs. Real Madrid

Schalke are enjoying a spell of inspired form as of late and have been rewarded by reaching 4th position in a difficult Bundesliga. With early season inconsistencies in the past, Schalke have not lost in their last six matches and have generated points over talented teams such as Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen. When healthy, Schalke are led by attacking trio Jefferson Farfan, Julian Draxler, and Kevin-Prince Boateng. In accurate crosses per game, Farfan is 2nd in the Bundesliga with 2.2, while Draxler has the 4th most dribbles per game with 4.8. Real Madrid are averaging over 2.8 goals per match which should come as no surprise. The addition of Gareth Bale has provided 10 goals and 9 assists to the existing class of Cristiano Ronaldo (22 goals), and Karim Benzema (14 goals). Madrid’s creative midfield is fortified by Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, and Isco, each of whom have than 88% or better passing success rates. Backed by a world class defense including Marcelo and Sergio Ramos, it’s no surprise Real Madrid comfortably won Group B and are sitting atop La Liga.

Prediction: Real Madrid win. Schalke simply cannot compete with the Spanish giants. Pound-for-pound, Real Madrid are a top five team in the world and it will take another top five team to oust them.

Jefferson Farfan
Jefferson Farfan | Source

Group Stage Snapshot

Schalke 04
Group Stage Statistics
Real Madrid
3-1-2 (10 points)
Group Record (W-D-L)
5-1-0 (16 points)
6
Goals Scored
20
6
Goals Allowed
5
52.1%
Possession Percentage
56%
83.3%
Passing Accuracy
87.8%

What will be the result?

See results

Recap

Odds say that over 8 matches the home side will win or draw at least one. Don't expect wins by Schalke or Galatasaray, but Olympiakos or Zenit could work some magic depending on which Manchester and Dortmund teams show up. Even with the unlikely odds, the away sides all have too much working in their favor and will outweigh any home field advantage the underdogs may possess.

Predictions:

Dortmund over Zenit

Manchester United over Olympiakos

Chelsea over Galatasaray

Real Madrid over Schalke


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