The Champions League is really hotting up and just at the right time. Here are the opponents that our British teams face in the next round of group games:
Manchester United vs Sporting de Braga
Manchester United head into this one on the back of a streak where they have scored seven and conceded just the two. Braga, however, will not be easy opponents as they are undefeated this season with their striker Eder in fine form. He has got 4 goals in as many games as Braga push for the championship. United have no fresh injury concerns (Smalling, Jones and Vidic edge closer to a start), but it will be interesting to see how Rio Ferdinand is dealt with following his decision to go against Sir Alex and not wear a Kick It Out top. Braga should be unchanged following their 3-0 victory over Leixoes. I’m going for a draw.
Ajax vs Manchester City
Ajax are not in the best of form. An injury time winner denied them all three points in what looked like a routine victory in the week, meaning for the last time Ajax won you would have to go back to 29th of September against Twente. The bright spot is that they have no injuries. As for City, a gritty fight back whilst down to 10 men to take the points off West Brom means they are still undefeated. They are getting back to that consistent form that won them the league last season. David Silva now has a slim chance of a return but that chance has come too soon for Javi Garcia and Maicon. Rodwell may also return, but he’s doubtful. I’m going for a City victory today.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Chelsea
Well, this is no doubt the toughest fixture on Chelsea’s list so far. Everything else looks fine: top of the league, no injuries, confidence sky-high. Unfortunately, Shakhtar match them. They are 12 points clear at the top of their league, they have no injuries but they do have a vociferous home crowd. They can hurt Chelsea. Srna loves to bomb forward down the right, as does Willian, and former Arsenal striker Eduardo knows where the goal is. Bothe teams love to attack. On that basis, I’m predicting that the Ukrainians can spring a surprise here.
Arsenal vs FC Schalke 04
Schalke are having a remarkable season. They are winning match after match, the latest of which a 2-1 away victory at Dortmund. They, like a lot of the teams, are not plagued by injury. They are putting together a run which has seen them into 3rd. The morale is typically high. Arsenal, well, slipped up at Norwich, going down 1-0 in one of the shocks of the season so far. The injuries are piling up for them. The 9 on the list so far are: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Fabianski, Gibbs, Diaby, Szczesny, Rosicky and Sagna. The good news is that Wilshere has made his long-awaited return after a 20-month layoff. For that reason, I’m expecting an open game to end in a respectable draw.
Celtic vs Barcelona
Celtic have their biggest game of the season so far in the Champions League, as they take on the Catalan giants at Parkhead. A good warm up for Celtic was the 5-0 drubbing of St. Mirren but four absolutely vital players are yet to be confirmed as fit. Celtic could face being without Scott Brown, James Forrest, Giorgios Samaras AND Kris Commons. Another blow for them will be that Barcelona come into this on the back of consistent form, although conceding 4 against Deportivo will not have pleased Vilanova. Barcelona also go into this without any injury concerns. Expect Celtic to defend for their lives and attack solely on the counter, but will they survive? I can’t see it happening. I predict a Barca victory.
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