It’s matchday four in the UEFA Champions League. Three games down, three to go. The time when crazy things happen due to the weather getting cold, injuries playing a bigger role and overall form coming into play. And don’t forget about teams that slipped up a bit in the first three games, it’s now or never for them if they’d like to make the knockout rounds. That makes for a great couple days of action.
(Note: This is the week where Europe has switched their clocks and the U.S. hasn’t so games are kicking off at 3:45 p.m. ET)
Manchester City (ENG) vs. FC Barcelona (ESP) (FS1)
After going winless in six straight games (including a 4-0 loss in Barcelona two weeks ago) Manchester City got back to winning with a 4-0 win over West Brom. Does that mean Manchester City are back? Probably not. A team this talented doesn’t just fail to win six straight games when there are relatively no injuries. Something has to be wrong and until Manchester City figure out what it is, more slip ups are certainly coming.
While the win will give them something to feel good about the last team they want to see visit their stadium is Barcelona. The Catalans have slowed down a bit in the past few games, just winning their last two games by 3-2 and 1-0 scorelines. That means either a breakout performance against City is coming, or it’s going to be a game where City actually have a chance to get the win. I think it’ll be close and Barcelona should win, but with City being at home I’ll give them the result. 2-2 draw
Ludogorets (BUL) vs. Arsenal (ENG) (FS2)
Two weeks ago, Arsenal thrashed the Bulgarians by a 6-0 scoreline at home, which is exactly what should have happened. Two weeks later, it’s a different story. This time Arsenal have to leave the friendly confines of the Emirate and make a tough trip to Bulgaria, against a team that is actually really good at home. While the clocks changing is usually the first sign that Arsenal’s demise is coming, it usually doesn’t fully take hold until after the November international break.
What we do know for sure is this will be a tight cagey affair. There won’t be a lot of space for Arsenal’s playmakers to operate and the team will struggle at times. Ultimately though, the good form of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will win out to give them the edge. Arsenal win 2-1
PSV Eindhoven (NED) vs. Bayern Munich (GER) (FSN)
After making it through to the knockout rounds in last year’s competition, PSV have laid a pretty big dud in the first three games of this years competition. Granted, in a group with both Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid they were always a long shot to make it out of the group. But Eindhoven have barely even been competitive and now face a Bayern Munich squad that needs to win just to keep pace with Atletico Madrid at the top of the table and avoid facing a group winner in the round of 16.
PSV have not been playing well recently, while Bayern have been getting healthy and now have all their weapons at their disposal. Home field can only help the Dutch side so much in this one. Bayern Munich win 3-1
Atletico Madrid (ESP) vs. Rostov (RUS) (ESPN2)
If winning the group matters to Atletico Madrid than they need to start scoring some goals. The Spanish club sits three points above Bayern Munich, but Bayern have a significantly better goal differential, which can come into play when the two teams meet in the final group game. The reason for this is simple, Atletico have a system, they defend well and score just enough. That’s been evidenced in their three 1-0 victories that were not nearly as close as the score indicates. Some might say they rely too much on Antoine Griezmann to do something magical, but Griezmann has yet to score and the team is still winning. Despite being at home expect the same old from Atletico. Atletico win 1-0
Rest of the games
Besiktas’ upset of Napoli in Italy two weeks ago has really shaken a Group B that looked almost over heading into match-day three. The two teams will now meet in Turkey (which kicks off at 1:45 PM ET thanks to winter coming early in Turkey) where Napoli suddenly need a result. The Italians could have advanced to the knockout rounds with a win last time out, now they can fall out of the knockout rounds position. They’ll go in there seeking a result and get it with a 1-1 draw.
At this point you can stick a fork in Dynamo Kiev. Losing 2-0 at home was bad, and now they’re expected to go to Portugal and defeat Benfica? Not going to happen. A 3-0 win for the hosts.
Manchester City’s struggles have suddenly opened the door for Borussia Monchengladbach to possibly steal their spot in the knockout rounds. Should City drop points against Barcelona (likely), a win for Gladbach would see them jump City in the table and control their own destiny. Their domestic form has been hit or miss recently, but they’ll get the 2-0 win they need to make some noise.
PSG is starting to round into form, which is bad news for Basel. The Swiss were nearly run off the field in Paris two weeks ago and being at home isn’t going to help them much. Expect a 2-0 win for the Parisians, leaving Basel to battle it out with Ludogorets for who can grab the Europa League spot.