We’ve reached the do or die stage of group play. After Wednesday night several group’s will likely be decided and the final two games will essentially be exhibition tune ups for the teams moving on. Other groups are very much still undecided (specifically Group B and E). I highly recommend tuning in today and tomorrow. There are going to be several firecracker matches as teams go all in to secure a spot in the coveted knockout round.
Besiktas v Napoli
DP: Napoli 2-1: I can see this being a bit of a grudge match for Napoli who were considered the favorites in their last UCL match with Besiktas, but fell short. A couple notes here: 1) Napoli is riding a 2 game losing streak and 2) the Turkish giants are undefeated over the last 5 game. This would suggest a gap in form, but I think Napoli is well equipped to maintain the top spot in the group.
BD: Draw 2-2: Besiktas shocked me in Week 3 by scoring three away goals against Napoli. The Italian giants could have qualified for the knockout, but that game clearly showed they are not immune to being a little leaky at the back. I don’t think those defensive woes are going away. I like a draw here to keep things interesting in Group B.
Atletico Madrid v FC Rostov
DP: Atletico 3-1: I have the utmost faith in Atletico here. They’ve been off to a strong start in the UCL group stage and have even taken a victory from Bayern, who may be one of the favorites of the competition. Their strength and consistency in league play is essentially their calling card and despite only a 1-0 outcome from the last match between these two I think Atletico are primed to put a couple more in the net this time around.
BD: Atletico 2-0: Atletico has come out of the first three group games unscathed with three identical 1-0 results. I don’t know how they continue to dance on the edge of the knife without falling on the blade. Don’t worry though, they’ve essentially already stamped their ticket to the knockouts and a win against the sad sacks at Rostov will be a cinch.
FC Basel v PSG
DP: PSG 2-0: While this game isn’t super important to PSG as they’ve already qualified for the next round (or near enough that it makes no matter), it’ll be interesting to see how much value they place on being number 1 in the group. Basel won’t lay down and PSG have had their fair share of derision within the club recently, so it’s possible that we see this game tip the other way, but based purely on paper I can’t see PSG dropping the match.
BD: Draw 1-1: PSG and Arsenal have established a near insurmountable lead in Group A after three games. A loss or a tie is not out of the question as a place in the knockouts is almost a certainty and Cavani and company could get caught taking their foot off the gas a bit.
Ludogorets v Arsenal
DP: Arsenal 3-1: Tricky game. As I mentioned with PSG, the top spot in the group is certainly worth playing for, but with the North London Derby coming a few days later I have a feeling that the Gunners will prioritize the league and start most of their second team. That said, I still think they’ll bring home a victory, but not by the wide margins of last match.
BD: Arsenal 4-0: Arsenal is unstoppable at this point, rolling through both domestic and European competitions. They embarrassed Ludogorets with a 6 goal cornholing at Emirates and I see another thrashing this week as well.
Manchester City v Barcelona
DP: Barcelona 2-1: Hard to say what could happen here. Under other conditions I would say this could be the top 2 teams in the world going up against one another, but as both teams are in the thick of the race for their respective league’s top spot I expect to see a fair amount of squad rotation. That in mind, I prefer City’s second line to that of the Blaugrana; however, with a lack of consistency showcased during their last match I believe we’ll see Barcelona take the 3 points.
BD: Barcelona 3-1: Round One between these two teams was one of the sloppiest affairs I’ve seen since the last time Dustin and I went out in Adam’s Morgan – countless fouls, two red cards, an indefensible Bravo handball, I could go on. Not only was the lack of quality play surprising, but the result was as well. Guardiola’s former team proved to be the dominant side and while they had a home advantage at Camp Nou, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lopsided result evidenced itself at the Etihad, too.
Monchengladbach v Celtic
DP: Gladbach 2-1: I’ll hand it to Celtic. They’ve produced a really enjoyable brand of creative football, but they haven’t quite found their knack in front of goal. Meanwhile, Gladbach have been pretty middle of the road themselves, but I’m basing my prediction off of the last match and suggesting another german ‘W’.
BD: Draw 2-2: In Group C, outside of Barcelona who has taken care of business, there have been some surprising results thus far. Celtic gutted a draw versus City, and heading into their next match against Gladbach I expected them to capitalize on that momentum. Instead they dropped a goose egg and all but guaranteed a last place finish. Despite Moussa Dembele’s stellar play, the rest of the side’s inconsistent play had spelled their doom. That may seem like a less than resounding endorsement, but I still like Celtic to get a revenge draw in Germany.
Benfica v Dynamo Kyiv
DP: Benfica 2-1: Benfica has been playing average. No more, no less. 1 W, 1 L, 1 D since the start of group play, but their class was on display a couple weeks ago when their midfield dominated Dynamo’s. No reason to expect change here as Benfica will be fighting for an advancing position in their group as their only 2 points out of first, while Kyiv is essentially eliminated.
BD: Benfica 2-0: I mentioned before that a win by the Portuguese side and a Napoli loss could make things veryyy interesting in Group B. I generally prefer chaos over chalk results and predict Benfica taking care of business at home.
PSV Eindhoven v Bayern Munich
DP: Bayern 4-1: We’re talking about a MASSIVE disparity between the sides here. Bayern have a +9 goal differential with only 3 games played. As Atletico seem to be the only ones who can contain the German juggernauts, a rampant Bayern is all but a sure thing.
BD: Bayern 5-0: This might be the easiest pick of the week. Bayern dominated PSV in their first match, it wasn’t even close. In the words of college basketball analyst Seth Davis: Bayern Munich – SHARPIE.
Monaco v CSKA Moscow
DP: Monaco 2-1: I still maintain that Monaco will come out atop this group. While it’s still a tight race I think that Monaco see out Moscow without difficulty. The other 2 members of the group, Tottenham and Leverkusen, will be a bit more difficult to dispatch, but this fixture will be a one-sided affair.
BD: CSKA Moscow 1-0: Group E, man. Group fucking E. Halfway through group play, all four teams are separated by a mere 3 points. It’s literally anyone’s for the taking, which is both exhilarating and terrifying all at once. Monaco can inch closer to the knockouts with a win here, but that feels too neat for this group so I’ll call a Moscow upset in France. CHAOS.
Tottenham v Bayer Leverkusen
DP: Draw 2-2: I don’t necessarily have the fullest of confidence on either side; however, Spurs spunk has grown a bit stagnant lately with several draws to their name and they’ll likely field a lesser quality team than they’re capable as they keep their eyes on the premiership. Leverkusen, though, are looking as if their attention is all on the UCL trophy and will look to take advantage of a Spurs second line. Despite the discrepancy, the Tottenham team should be able to nab a point from the match and continue their drawing ways (well through this weekend if one can hope).
BD: Tottenham 3-1: Spurs are coming off three draws and a loss in all competitions, but their UCL play has steadily improved to this point. A win versus Moscow away and a hard fought point in Germany have positioned them in the precarious spot of either vaulting into the knockouts or edging closer to oblivion with another loss. I will rest my laurels on the thought of 80,000 screaming Spurs fans filling Wembley to push us up to first place with a win pending a Monaco loss.
Borussia Dortmund v Sporting Lisbon
DP: Dortmund 3-1: Recently Dortmund has caught a bit of Spurs-itis drawing their last 3 in regular time (one of which they won in penalties), but their significantly stronger than Lisbon, who can kiss this tourney goodbye. This match is much more meaningful for the Bundesliga side who’s jockeying with Real Madrid for the number 1 seed from the group, so I’d expect them to bring their full side to the table here.
BD: Dortmund 3-0: Dortmund has taken care of business thus far, edging out Sporting on the road to avoid a troublesome draw against the pesky Portuguese side. A victory would leave just a single meaningful match against lowly Legia in Week 5 to secure knockout status, and finishing group play off with what will essentially be a exhibition versus Madrid. Team Pulisic maaaaan.
Juventus v Lyon
DP: Juve 3-1: The Italians have won 8 of their last 9 and their team has started to look deserving of their hype. Paulo Dybala is my pick for the next major European transfer and he’s a hell of a talent. Dybala, paired with Higuain, Juve are near unstoppable against a Lyon team that has faltered to produce in front of net since Lacazette early efforts have since been quelled.
BD: Draw 1-1: Juventus put a serious dent in Lyon’s hopes of getting out of the group with a 1-0 victory in week 3. I think Lyon get back a point in the rematch to keep their dream of eeking past Sevilla for second place alive.
Legia Warsaw v Real Madrid
DP: Real Madrid 4-0: Keep it moving. Nothing to see here. Even a Madrid squad crippled by injury would demolish this Warsaw team. Their U-19s could beat up on the Polish side. What I like best about seeing a second line Madrid team is the speed and fluidity to their play. Look for a pinch of magic amongst our youth ranks as Marco Asensio continues to radiate that golden glow.
BD: Real Madrid 4-1: Another week, another opportunity for Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. to bathe in the blood of their victims. PS: That’s his secret to flawless skin and eternal youth. I’ll give Legia one goal here just because I legitimately feel bad.
Kobenhavn v Leicester City
DP: LC 2-1: Kobenhavn are a peculiar squad. They’ve been up and down throughout the first round, but what’s more important here is what’s at stake. Leicester City are playing for a guaranteed spot in the UCL knockout round. After witnessing LC abandon the EPL hopes, their attention appears to be entirely on the League of Champions and they can make good on yet another dream with a win here. Their drive to make history will put Kobenhavn in the books today.
BD: LC 3-0: Against my preseason predictions Leicester has blitzed through its first three UCL matches and have ostensibly secured a knockout spot. They have yet to allow a goal and I expect that clean sheet streak to continue this week. Kobenhavn are clinging to second place on goal differential, and a loss here wouldn’t be the end of the world as they could snag a place in the knockout with wins in their final two matches versus Porto and Brugge.
Sevilla v Dinamo Zagreb
DP: Sevilla 3-1: Call me biased, but I almost always side with the Spanish teams. In this case it’s completely warranted as Sevilla have had a run of good form and Dinamo have become a bit of a laughing stock.
BD: Sevilla 2-0: Zagreb has been a bottom three team overall in UCL competition having yet to score a goal. Sevilla will deepen that misery with another victory. If Juventus isn’t careful Sevilla could sneak into first place and receive a juicy knockout match up with a lesser opponent. That may be a premature take with three games to go, but all the favorites securing first place is boring.
Porto v Club Brugge
DP: Porto 2-1: Brugge is a whipping boy and Porto are capable; however, a slow start for the Portuguese has lessened my belief in them winning by wide margins. Alas, my faith in San Iker Casillas keeps me in the Porto corner.
BD: Porto 2-0: I have been slightly disappointed in Porto’s performance thus far. I thought they could have done themselves a lot of good by beating Copenhavn, but alas they dropped a point and set up a war for second place against the Danish side. That said, nothing helps boost a team’s confidence like beating the brakes off of Club Brugge. I like Porto in an absolute rout because who doesn’t love goals?
Last Week: 12-4 (1 spot on)
Overall: 34-14 (7 spot on)
Last Week: 12-4 (1 spot on)
Overall: 31-17 (2 spot on)