Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action features a clash of two of Europe’s top teams.
Tied atop Group A, Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain collide on Wednesday as the two pernnial powerhouses battle in a match that will likely decide who wins the group. The two sides tied, 1-1, in the opening leg, but both teams will have a series of injury issues to overcome, especially at the fullback position.
Arsenal’s meeting with Paris Saint-Germain is far from the only interesting match on the docket, though. In Germany, Borussia Monchengladbach will need points to keep their Champions League hopes alive, but face a tough test in visitors Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side will look to build off last round’s win over Barcelona to seal a spot in the Round of 16.
Meanwhile, Celtic looks to put together another historic performance against Barcelona, while Besiktas and Benfica battle in a match that could all but decide Group B.
Here’s a closer look at Wednesday’s UCL action:
GAMES TO WATCH
Arsenal (10 points) vs. Paris Saint-Germain (10 points), Wednesday, 2:45 p.m., Fox Sports 1
Injuries of note: Arsenal’s Spanish duo of Hector Bellerin and Santi Cazorla are both out, joining long-term absences Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck among those out of action. PSG will be lacking a major playmaker in Javier Pastore, midfielder Adrien Rabiot and a pair of starting fullbacks in Layvin Kurzawa and Serge Aurier, the latter of whom was denied due to visa issues.
Key to the game: Especially with Cazorla’s injury, the midfield battle will be wide open, and will likely go a long way towards deciding Wednesday’s clash. Marco Verratti and Mesut Ozil are two of the best midfielders in Europe, making it vital for the more defensive-minded midfielders, Blaise Matuidi and Francis Coquelin, to help contain any threats in the center of the field.
Player to watch: Edison Cavani has had his ups and downs, especially in big games, but the Uruguayan forward struck just 44 seconds into the two sides’ last encounter. No one would expect him to get off to another start quite that hot, but PSG will need Cavani active with hold up play, runs in behind and, ultimately, chances if they hope to slip a goal or two past Petr Cech.
Quote: “It would be important [to top the group],” said Arsene Wenger. “We have created momentum but have been stuttering a little bit at the moment. We want to strengthen that momentum again with wins.”
Borussia Monchengladbach (4 points) vs. Manchester City (7 points), Wednesday, 2:45 p.m., Fox Soccer 2 Go
Injuries of note: Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is set for weeks on the sideline, and the Premier League side will once again have to deal with an extended absence from their star defender. On the other side, Monchengladbach is dealing with a series of suspensions and injuries, as Christoph Kramer, Josip Drmic, Julian Korb and Alvaro Dominguez are among those set to miss out.
Key to the game: The Monchengladbach defense is beat up, which is certainly a bad start to any clash with Man City. With Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva leading the way on the other side, Monchengladbach will need to absorb City’s pressure and break quickly, especially due to the absolute need for a win to stay alive in the competition.
Player to watch: With Kompany out, so much pressure falls on the shoulders of big-money signing John Stones. The former Everton defender has made his share of mistakes this season but, even with his age, Man City paid too much for him to allow much more of a grace period. A result is paramount on Tuesday, and Stones will need to stay strong against difficult players like Thorgan Hazard and Brazilian playmaker Raffael.
Quote: “We were so happy with beating Barcelona, but it was just one game,” said Man City boss Pep Guardiola. “We cannot be considered favorites to win [the title]. Maybe in ten years but we need time to achieve that. Barca and Real Madrid are there every year. I am trying to do a lot in the next few years to be [at their level]. Gladbach are a really good team and they have a good mentality.”
Celtic (2 points) vs. Barcelona (9 points), Wednesday, 2:45 p.m., Fox Sports 2
Injuries of note: The most notable injury absence is Andres Iniesta, who will be missing from the Barca midfield due to a knee issue. Backup defenders Samuel Umtiti and Jeremy Mathieu are also both dealing with leg issues that will keep them out of Wednesday’s clash. For Celtic, the biggest question mark is the status of Kolo Toure, who is questionable due a groin issue.
Key to the game: Barcelona absolutely dismantled Celtic, 7-0, the last time the two teams played, and the Scottish side insists they won’t make the same mistakes again. Last time out, Celtic attempted to sit back and absorb pressure, but learned rather quickly that Barcelona can break down their defense with ease. This time, expect Celtic to pressure and, while it may end with a similar result, it will at least offer a bit more of a challenge to the Barca attack.
Player to watch: Luis Suarez rarely needs added motivation but, with former manager Brendan Rodgers on the other sideline, the Uruguayan will no doubt be ready to go. Suarez scored a pair of goals in the reverse fixture and, with Lionel Messi still battling an illness, the former Liverpool forward will likely have an increased workload on Wednesday.
Quote: “We want to get a victory. We know it will be hugely difficult but we don’t have any fear,” Rodgers said. “We have to impose our style, play our game and take our chances. If we can do all that we give ourselves an opportunity to get a result.”
Besiktas (6 points) vs. Benfica (7 points), Wednesday, 12:45 p.m., ESPN 3/Fox Soccer 2 Go
Injuries of note: Benfica will almost certainly struggle without the presence of striker Jonas, a player that has quickly turned himself into the best forward in the Portuguese league. Joining him on the sidelines is fullback Grimaldo as well as talented young midfielder Andre Horta. Besiktas, meanwhile, is missing several regulars including Caner Erkin, midfielder Talisca and central defender Rhodolfo.
Key to the game: Benfica will need to find some sort of production to replace the injured Jonas. The talent is certainly there, and any number of players can step up with a big goal. Eduardo Salvio and Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou remain the favorites to contribute, and they’ll have to against a Besiktas backline missing two of its regulars.
Player to watch: Ricardo Quaresma is as enigmatic as he is talented, but there’s no doubt that he’s currently in-form. The Portuguese winger has gotten off to a spectacular start for Besiktas this season and has already scored two UCL goals this season. Quaresma will no doubt provide a challenge with his ability on the ball, and Benfica will need to defend him in numbers if they hope to keep him quiet.
Quote: “Our aim is the same as ever: beautiful football and a good result,” said Besiktas boss Şenol Güneş. “After four games, we have yet to be outclassed by any of our Champions League opponents.”
Rostov (1 point ) vs. Bayern Munich (9 points), Wednesday, 12 p.m., ESPN 3/Fox Soccer 2 Go
Atletico Madrid (12 points) vs. PSV Eindhoven (1 point), Wednesday, 2:45 p.m., ESPN 3/Fox Soccer 2 Go
Napoli (7 points) vs. Dynamo Kiev (1 point), Wednesday, 2:45 p.m., ESPN 3/Fox Soccer 2 Go
Ludogorets (1 point) vs. Basel (1 point), Wednesday, 2:45 p.m., ESPN 3/Fox Soccer 2 Go