When you get to mid-September a few things happen. Teams have finally had a chance to get all their players settled and get a few games under their belt, thus they start to play up to their potential. Likewise, teams that slipped up in their first Champions League match start to feel just a little bit of pressure. Going winless in your first two group stage matches isn’t the end of the world, but it certainly is far from ideal.
(All games at 2:45 p.m. EDT)
Borussia Monchengladbach (GER) vs. Barcelona (ESP) (FS1)
Tuesday saw 18-year-old American Christian Pulisic go out for BVB and put on a really impressive display against Real Madrid, making it pretty safe to declare Pulisic as the United States’ best attacking player. Wednesday, it will time for the previous owner of that title, Fabian Johnson, to do the same against Barcelona.
Borussia Monchengladbach were always going to be in a tough spot. It’s going to take a lot miracles to manage to jump above both Barcelona and Manchester City to advance to the knockout round. They’re coming off a 4-0 loss to the Sky Blues and they certainly do not want to be embarrassed on their home field.
Lucky for them Barcelona will be without Leo Messi, who has been ruled out for three weeks with an injury. Unlucky for them, Barcelona still have Neymar, Luis Suarez, and a whole bunch of other mega-talented players. Barcelona win 2-1
Celtic (SCO) vs. Manchester City (ENG) (FS2)
There’s one thing that will prevent this game from turning into the 7-0 drubbing Celtic got two weeks ago in Barcelona and that’s simply that this game will be at Celtic Park. Celtic are very good at home. They’ve posted a 100 percent record in all competitions at Celtic Park so far this season, and will look to at least remain unbeaten when Manchester City come to town.
This will be our first look at Manchester City without Kevin De Bruyne, who will be sidelined for four weeks with a knee injury. City were able to overcome the Sergio Aguero suspension, but De Bruyne has been the heart of this team, so seeing how they adapt will be interesting. But City do still have Aguero, who has scored six goals in his two Champions League matches this season, and they are facing Celtic. Manchester City win 3-0
Arsenal (ENG) vs. Basel (SWI) (ESPN3)
FC Basel has yet to lose this season and are always one of the tougher teams to play against in Europe. This week they travel to Arsenal, who are finally putting things together. Of course they are, it’s mid-September and this follows the Arsene Wenger blueprint to a tee. Wenger’s Arsenal teams always seem to stumble out of the gate, pick back up in September and play fantastic through October until injuries completely derail their season in November. Taking care of Basel at home won’t be an issue right now for Arsenal. Arsenal win 2-0
Atletico Madrid (ESP) vs. Bayern Munich (GER) (ESPN2)
What’s likely the best match of the day is a rematch of the semifinals last season when German giants Bayern Munich travel to Madrid. Atletico Madrid are up their exact same tricks as last season. Their defense is nearly impenetrable and Antoine Griezemann is scoring their goals — the Frenchman has five in five league appearances and five in six appearances overall.
Last season, Atletico’s defense proved to be too much for Bayern Munich, which could be a problem for the Bavarians because this season Bayern Munich has been far from the free-scoring juggernaut they were last year. That’s partially thanks to a change in style under new manager Carlo Ancelotti, who is certainly experienced when it comes to winning the Champions League. Bayern may want revenge for last season, but they won’t get it Wednesday. Atletico win 2-0
Rest of the games
Ludogorets has been fantastic domestically recently, winning their last three games by a combined score of 12-2. But Paris Saint-Germain is no Bulgarian side. The Ligue 1 champions should cruise to a 3-0 win.
Neither Besiktas nor Dynamo Kiev come into their match in Turkey on tremendous form. Seeing the two of them each get a point with a 2-2 draw would be far from shocking.
Since Matchday 1 Napoli has done nothing to slow down their hot start of the season. Benfica are no slouch, but they won’t be able to stop the Italians, who will grab a 2-0 win.
PSV Eindoven were dealt a big blow when they lost their opening match to the Champions League at home. They’re about to find out that a trip to Russia to face Rostov will not be nearly the walk in the park they were hoping it would be. The two teams will split the pot with a 1-1 draw.