Champions League football is here again, bringing two more nights of breathtaking onfield action, culminating in surprise results in some fixtures and not so surprising ones from some other fixtures.
In a week which will see the round three fixtures repeated, but the venues reversed, we have plenty of interesting fixtures at hand as Leo Messi and co. travel to the northwest of England to take on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Bayern Munich will take on Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven at the Philips Stadion. Leicester City travel to Denmark to take on FC Kobenhavn looking to maintain their perfect start in Europe’s premier football event while Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs side welcome Bayer Leverkusen at the Wembley Stadium.
It promises to be another exciting week for football fans as we take a look at five things to keep an eye out for in the upcoming round of fixtures:
#5 Tottenham look for first win at Wembley stadium
Tottenham Hotspur who will be playing their Champions League home games at the historic Wembley Stadium as an alternative venue to meet UEFA requirements, which their home stadium White Hart Lane could not meet owing to ongoing constructions, will be looking to get one over German club Bayer Leverkusen in their Group E fixture.
Currently second in the group standings behind Monaco, Spurs will be looking to register their first win at Wembley, after losing their opening fixture here against the group leaders. The match ended in a goalless draw when the two sides met last time at Bay Arena with captain Hugo Lloris impressing for Spurs.
Tottenham have failed to register a win in their last 5 matches in all competitions, including three consecutive draws in the league. Goals have dried up for the North London club in the absence of striker Harry Kane. While Heung-Min Son has stepped up, new signing Vincent Janssen has failed to shine in the English forward’s absence.
Bayer, who stand 10th in the German League, have drawn all three of their previous Champions League matches this season and sit below Spurs in the third position. They will be looking to Javier Hernandez to provide a threat in front of goal along with the likes of Hakan Calhanoglu and Admir Mehmedi.
It will be an exciting match to watch, with Tottenham fans creating a wonderful atmosphere as they will be hoping their team takes a step towards qualification to the next round with a win at the Wembley Stadium.
#4 Celtic’s Moussa Dembele – One to watch out for
"I have played with the greatest strikers, Ronaldo, Henry, Raul, and you knew on the biggest occasions they would win you games," Zinedine Zidane said last week. "And Moussa Dembele is already showing he can do that." That’s some praise coming from one of the legends of the game and 20-year-old French forward Moussa Dembele thoroughly deserves it.
Dembele has had a great start to life at Celtic after moving from Fulham and will be keen to continue his good run as the Scottish outfit go head to head against Borussia Monchengladbach. The German outfit were victorious in Glasgow in the reverse fixture and will hope to put in a similar show at Borussia Park.
But all eyes will be on the French attacker, who impressed against Manchester City, as he grabbed a double in a match that finished 3-3, ending Pep Guardiola’s perfect start with the English club. With just one point from three games, Celtic will be hoping Dembele has a good outing as they look to get their Champions League campaign back on track.
Having plundered 15 goals already this season for Celtic, Dembele has shown why a host of big clubs were interested in his signature and he will be keen to help his team put up a fight in Germany.
#3 Will Leicester’s run come to a halt in Denmark?
Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City travel to goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel’s homeland as they take on Danish champions FC Kobenhavn in their Group G fixture. The Foxes will create history as they will qualify for the Round-of-16 with a win or even a draw at the Parken Stadium depending on other results.
Leicester have saved their best for the Champions League this season, winning three out of three games; first against Club Brugge and Porto followed by a 1-0 win against Wednesday’s opposition with the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani impressing.
Only one other side in the past two decades have won their first three group stage fixtures in their debut season in the competition: Manuel Pellegrini's Málaga in 2012/13, who made it to the quarter-finals, to be dumped out by Borussia Dortmund in a thrilling encounter.
And the Foxes will be hoping to emulate the Spanish outfit and make it further in the competition than Malaga and one can’t put it beyond Ranieri’s men after what they achieved last season and the way they have begun their Champions League run.
Who will come out on top in the clash of the Danish and the English Champions? Will Leicester’s 100% record come to an end? Come Wednesday, we shall know.
#2 Borussia Dortmund will be hoping for a turn of fortunes
Borussia Dortmund will be eyeing an early qualification for the UEFA Champions League knockout stages as they host Sporting Clube de Portugal on matchday four. Thomas Tuchel's men sit on top of Group F, level on seven points with Real Madrid.
Dortmund have gone four Bundesliga games without a win following a 0-0 draw in Saturday's Ruhr derby against FC Schalke. They overcame second-tier FC Union Berlin 3-0 on penalties, after a 1-1 draw, in the second round of the DFB cup in last week’s mid-week fixture.
FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlisted candidate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who scored in Dortmund’s 2-1 win against Sporting in the reverse fixture, returned against Schalke after missing the DFB Cup game due to a calf injury. Raphael Guerreiro and Andre Schurrle also returned over the weekend and could feature against Sporting.
After a series of underwhelming results, BVB will be looking to turn things around with a victory against the Portuguese team and secure qualification for the next round.
#1 ‘Pep’ talk needed to inspire Manchester City as they welcome Barcelona
City's six-game winless run in all competitions ended with a rousing 4-0 success at West Brom on Saturday. The win came as a shot in the arm for Pep Guardiola and his side after a 1-0 derby defeat to United in the EFL Cup, following the 4-0 Group C loss against Barcelona at Camp Nou.
Aguero returned to the starting XI against West Brom and left his mark with two wonderfully well-taken goals and should start against the Catalans, but Guardiola will be without first-choice goalkeeper Claudio Bravo who will serve a suspension after being sent off at Camp Nou. The lack of a recognized right-back is another cause of concern for the Citizens with both Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna unavailable.
With Barcelona coming in with a hot streak, winning five of their last six games, Guardiola’s side will need to put in a determined performance if they are to stand up to the La Liga champions who will also be without key players like Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique.
“We know we need to play almost perfectly to win but we will give it a go and hopefully our quality up front will make a difference,” said Guardiola ahead of the titanic clash. "We have to play in that way - like a final. It's not a final for them, it is a final for us,” he further added.
Will Guardiola’s cry for battle inspire the City players to put up a strong showing against the Catalans? Or will Messi, Suarez and Neymar make it rain goals at the Etihad? Not long before the world finds out.