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UEFA Champions League Preview: Barcelona reunion with Guardiola

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As I mentioned yesterday, matchday three and four is when the Champions League really heats up. Teams start making their moves for positioning and more importantly it’s often when we get some of the best matchups of the group stage. That is certainly true on Wednesday as we get our first taste of the tastiest match the group stage will have to offer, with Barcelona taking on former manager Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. The day will have plenty of great games, but it will certainly be hard to top this one.

(All games kick off at 2:45 ET)

FC Barcelona (ESP) vs. Manchester City (ENG) (FS1) 

What a match we have on our hands. Guardiola leads his Manchester City team to his former home to try and tame the Spanish giants. To spice it up even more, Barcelona just happens to be firing on all cylinders. They’ve scored 15 goals in their last four matches in all competitions and last weekend they just happened to welcome back Lionel Messi from injury. Not too shabby.

Manchester City are also getting healthy. Last week they got back Kevin de Bruyne but City’s problem is just like last year, after a hot start they’re starting to cool down. After winning their first five Premier League matches, City are now winless in their last three in all competitions. Trying to get back to winning certainly won’t be easy against Barcelona, but Pep Guardiola isn’t the kind of manager who would play not to lose either (that manager resides in the red half of Manchester). Guardiola will go for the win, which could be his undoing. Barcelona win 3-2 

Arsenal (ENG) vs. Ludogorets (BLG) (FS2) 

Bulgarian club Ludogorets come into this match having won six straight matches in domestic competitions. That’s about all they have going in their favor as they take a trip to the Emirates. Things would have to go drastically wrong for Arsenal to not win this game. Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez, and Mesut Ozil are all currently on great form. Arsenal won’t even need all three of them at 100 percent, even two of the three playing well will be enough to get the three points. Arsenal win 3-0 

Bayern Munich (GER) vs. PSV Eindhoven (FSN)

It’s crazy that Bayern manager Carlo Ancelotti has to come out and say it’s too early to talk about a crisis considering they’ve gone winless in just three games. But that’s what you sign up for when you manage Bayern, you’re expected to win every game and if there is no current crisis in Munich there certainly will be if they fail to beat PSV. The Dutch club, however, travels to Germany not riding the best of form, and while the Germans haven’t been world beaters themselves, they’ll get the job done. Bayern win 2-0 

Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) vs. FC Basel (SWI) (ESPN2) 

My, how things can change in a year. Last year by now PSG were running away with Ligue 1. This season, the French giants are even on points with Monaco and are four points behind Nice at the top of the league. The Parisians haven’t been on top of their game in the Champions League either, with just four points in two games, including a home draw against Arsenal where they should have done better. Speaking of should be doing better, there’s FC Basel. Basel currently lead the Swiss Super League as they always do, but should be doing better in Europe. Can one of them get things back on track this week? PSG win 2-1

Rest of the games

After two games we know exactly what kind of team Rostov are going to be. A team that plays really well at home, but will get blown out of the water in away games. They’re at home this week but the one problem is Atletico Madrid are much better than PSV. Rostov will make it tough, but the Spanish side will come away with a 1-0 win.

Can Group B make things any easier for Napoli? The Italians currently sit in first with six points and second place Besiktas has just two. The Turkish club will now travel to Napoli, and when the Italians get their 2-0 win the group will essentially be locked up after just three games.

It’s hard to pick whether Dynamo Kiev or Benfica have been more disappointing through two games so far. Both wanted to challenge for the second spot in Group B but have just one point after two games. To be fair, second place is still on the table, and it will be following a 1-1 draw that will hand the group to Napoli, but make things very interesting for the remaining three teams.

Last time out, Celtic served Manchester City a cruel reminder of just how difficult they are to beat at Celtic Park. Borussia Monchengladbach are the better side, but there’s a reason Celtic are always alive at home. A 2-2 draw doesn’t do either team any good, but that’s how it will go.

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