UCL 2011/12 Matchday 3 Preview (Part 2)

Dinamo Zagreb vs Ajax

Though Real Madrid and Olympique Lyonnais were always clear favorites to advance out of Group D in the UEFA Champions League, this one was supposed to be extremely competitive. Ajax and Dinamo Zagreb are both extremely talented teams who performed impressively in their domestic leagues, but after the first two match days, they sit in third and fourth, well behind their rivals. Over the next two matches, when these two teams play home and away, both teams are going to need to go for the win on both occasions. If either team walks away from this series with less than four points, it's probably lights out on their knockout stage ambitions. If the teams win a match apiece while Real Madrid wipes the floor with Lyon, there is suddenly a very intriguing three-way race.

Both teams have a lot of great young players worth keeping an eye out for. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson is out injured for Ajax, but Christen Eriksen and Miralem Sulejmani are both in good form. Meanwhile, all of Mateo Kovacic, Milan Badelj and Sammir are likely auditioning for future big-money transfers away from Dinamo.

FC Otelul Galati vs Manchester United

Manchester United have drawn both of their first two matches in the UEFA Champions League this year, but they'll have some serious explaining to do to their fans if they manage any result but a win in Bucharest on Tuesday night. Otelul Galati may be the champions of Romania, but they're also without a point so far in the Champions League, falling to both Benfica and FC Basel.

Unfortunately for United, they have to think about who they play and how much time they're given. There's a Manchester Derby looming large at the weekend, and Manchester City have a larger squad than their cross-town rivals at the moment. Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic are expected to be re-instated into the starting lineup, but Rio Ferdinand hasn't even made the trip and the starter status of 'Chicharito' Javier Hernandez is unknown.

FC Basel vs Benfica

Group C in the UEFA Champions League has Manchester United as its favorite, but both FC Basel and Benfica have a fantastic chance to put themselves top by some margin and make themselves heavy favorites for a knockout stage place on Tuesday. Both teams boast draws with United and wins over Otelul Galati and currently sit joint top of the group on four points each.

Basel are going through a period of transition, following manager Thorston Fink's departure for the Hamburg SV job. His assistant manager, 35-year-old Heiko Vogel, has taken over the reigns and will manage the team for the first time against Benfica. He'll be aided by the return of star winger Xherdan Shaqiri, who was suspended for the first two games of the group stages. Benfica have potent group of forwards, with all of Oscar Cardozo, Javier Saviola and new signing Nolito in good goal-scoring form. Basel have a couple of accomplished veteran strikers in Alexander Frei and Marco Streller, so it wouldn't be surprising to see both teams get on the scoreboard in this match.

CSKA Moscow vs Trabzonspor


Trabzonspor are off to a dream start in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League, taking four points from their opening two matches against Inter Milan and Lille, but they'll struggle to keep that pace up through all six matches. Counting on points from the return fixtures against both teams will be tough, so Trabzon will be banking on getting some points out of their back-to-back fixtures against CSKA Moscow in order to advance to the knockout stages.

However, even though CSKA are not at their best at the moment, beating them in Russia is always a tough prospect. Seydou Doumbia and Vagner Love are both in good goal-scoring form, even if their defense and the injury to goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev hasn't helped them win games lately. If they don't get all three at home against Trabzonspor, CSKA can kiss goodbye their hopes of making the Round of 16.

Manchester City vs Villarreal


Manchester City have slowly but surely worked towards becoming a world power over the last three years, but it seemed as if they completed the final pieces to the puzzle this summer. Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero joined an already spectacular side, and those purchases have helped produce fantastic results in the English Premier League. However, they have just one point from two matches in the UEFA Champions League, something they need to change against Villarreal.

The Yellow Submarine are also struggling in Europe, sitting bottom of the 'group of death' on zero points. Bayern Munich and Napoli are starting to leave them behind, and a draw in that match is going to keep things tough on these two sides. On the flip side, if either gets three points, it could be lights out for the other. Villarreal aren't exactly doing well in the league either, so this should be a win for City at the Ethiad Stadium. Giuseppe Rossi is always dangerous, though, so this isn't a foregone conclusion.

Lille vs Inter Milan

Group B of the UEFA Champions League was dubbed as one of the toughest in the competition before it started, though slightly less daunting than the 'Group Of Death', Group A. Other than one team, Trabzonspor, the other teams in the group were hard to separate. Fast forward to October and Trabzon tops the group, with Lille and Inter Milan trailing behind. The teams sitting in second and third in the group meet to settle their differences on Tuesday evening. Inter have a victory over CSKA Moscow and a loss to Trabzonspor, while Lille drew both of their first two matches. Both teams played weakened sides on the weekend for a variety of reasons, including injuries, suspensions and rest, but both teams will be very close to full strength on Tuesday.

All of Wesley Sneijder, Christian Chivu, Julio Cesar and John Obi missed out on the loss to Catania, and they are all expected to return to the starting lineup. Unfortunately, they did suffer one key loss to the squad over the weekend, as Walter Samuel picked up an injury. He will most likely be replaced by Ivan Cordoba. Lille are still going to be without star striker Moussa Sow in the starting lineup, but he is expected to be fit enough to make the bench. This means that Ludovic Obraniak will most likely start another match up top. He'll be flanked by playmaking wide-men Joe Cole and Eden Hazard, neither of whom started the 3-1 win over Auxerre, but made major impacts as substitutes off the bench.

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