So whilst the Premier League bounced back from the international break with a bang, we're back going international - in Europe - again with the return of the Champions League. It's got to the stage in the group stages that another win or defeat could prove crucial either way, and in the first batch of two this week, we focus on some of the best matches in gameweek three on Wednesday evening.
Liverpool lead the way at the top of Group E with five points from their opening three games, and the big win against Wednesday evening’s opponents in Slovenia last time out with a 0-7 victory. The hosts will be boosted with Dejan Lovren probably missing out on the game following an injury in the warm up prior to Liverpool’s win against Huddersfield Town at the weekend, whilst Philippe Coutinho is a doubt and Nathaniel Clyne, Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana are also definitely out of the clash.
This will only be the second meeting between the two sides, but Maribor will be concerned that they have only won one of their nine games against English opponents – losing six of those matches and always conceding in those games, too. Liverpool haven’t lost in the group stages in Europe in the last 11 games, whilst Maribor haven’t won in their last 14 Champions League outings.
A mouth-watering clash takes place in Naples on Wednesday evening as Manchester City look to continue their great form against a Napoli side who are unbeaten at home this season so far and have lost just once in all competitions this term – last time out in the Champions League against City at the Etihad Stadium. Both sides will be missing at least one key man, with Vincent Kompany and Benjamin Mendy out for the visitors, and the hosts without Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik.
A concern for Pep Guardiola will be City’s away record against Italian opponents, with his side winning just one of their six competitive trips to the country – one of those was away to Napoli in 2012, where they lost. However, the Italian outfit have lost four of their last five Champions League matches, compared to City who have only lost once in their last ten European games.
It’s got to the must win stage for Dortmund now, with the third placed Group H side already six points behind leaders Tottenham and second placed Real Madrid – who also meet each other on Wednesday evening. The hosts surprisingly drew at APOEL last time out and know a win will get them back on track, with there being dropped points for one or both sides in the other meeting on the evening in the group.
Dortmund boss Peter Bosz will be without the likes of Erik Durm, Sebastian Rode, Marco Reus and Lukasz Piszczek for the clash but there is good news with defender Omer Toprak being back available for selection. Their Cypriot opponents will be missing goalkeeper Boy Waterman, whilst Roberto Lago will also be missing for what will only be the second ever meeting between the two sides. The time for fancy play is over for the hosts, who simply need to get the right result on the night.
A winner takes all clash at Wembley Stadium with both having the knowledge that the three points will take the winner through to the knockout stages after just the four games played. Tottenham will be boosted if star man Harry Kane manages to recover from a hamstring injury in time to play a part, whilst for the visitors, Gareth Bale may well play a part against his former club, with the Welshman missing the last few weeks due to injury.
Real come into this one on the back of a surprise defeat at Girona and now sit eight points behind leaders – and rivals – Barcelona even at this early stage of the campaign. Erik Lamela is available for selection again, despite being out of action for what seems more like decades rather than a year. Zinedine Zidane has defensive issues himself, with goalkeeper Keylor Navas and defensive pair Rafa Varane and Dani Carvajal definitely out, but the club from the Spanish capital are unbeaten in the five meetings against Spurs in the past – winning three of those matches – and are also unbeaten in their last 30 Champions League group stage games and have only not scored in one of the last 53 group games, too.
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