Champions League Preview: Matchday 3 for the Bundesliga’s Finest

It is matchday 3 in the Champions League as the group stage reaches its halfway point. There is still all to play for as the Bundesliga’s finest turn their attention to the European stage in midweek.

Bayern Munch will be looking for three points in Greece to make up for their disappointing draw last time out against Ajax, while Hoffenheim face the side that surprisingly beat Manchester City on the opening matchday.

There is a real cracker in store on Wednesday as an in-form Borussia Dortmund play host to Atlético Madrid, Schalke meanwhile have to enter the cauldron of Istanbul to face Turkish giants Galatasaray.

AEK Athens v Bayern Munich (Tuesday 17:55 BST)

Bayern will be hoping that their league win over VfL Wolfsburg at the weekend is the spark that will finally end their mini-crisis and spur them onto a much-needed three points in the Champions League. Consecutive games (and wins) against Greek side AEK Athens could put a better sheen on the group E table for the Bavarians.

AEK have lost both their fixtures in the group stage thus far. A 3-0 defeat in Amsterdam was followed by a 3-2 home loss to Benfica even though the Portuguese had to play the entire second half with a man less after Ruben Dias’ red card. In the Greek Super League they have started well with five wins from seven games.

This will be Bayern’s first-ever encounter with the Yellow-Blacks, but they do have an excellent historical record against Greek sides with no defeats in any of their nine previous matches and having notched up seven wins along the way.

Franck Ribéry has not travelled to Greece due to a back injury, although coach Niko Kovac has included youngsters Jonathan Meier and Meritan Shabani in the matchday squad for Tuesday’s game.

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One to Watch: Anastasios Bakasetas

The left winger has been impressive in the league with three goals and another in the Greek Cup and AEK will want to see him transfer some of that form to the Champions League. He scored in the qualifying round win over Hungarian side Videoton.

Hoffenheim v Lyon (Tuesday 20:00 BST)

A valiant effort from Hoffenheim sadly wasn’t enough to earn a deserved point last time out as they succumbed to a 2-1 home defeat to Manchester City. A defensively weakened side played well against Pep Guardiola’s Premier League champions, but in the end left with nothing to show for it.

Their third match in the group will provide another stiff challenge to Julian Nagelsmann’s side with French side Lyon the visitors to the Rhein-Neckar Arena. Les Gones produced a shock on the opening day defeating City at the Etihad Stadium, before securing a point away at Shakhtar on matchday 2. A heavy 5-0 defeat at the hands of PSG before the international break was a blow, but they did win this weekend as Ligue 1 returned with a 2-0 home over Nimes.

Hoffenheim came away from their weekend clash with Nürnberg with all three points, thanks largely to a Reiss Nelson double. With the injury list shortening, Nagelsmann will have more options as he looks to outwit his Lyon counterpart Bruno Génésio and secure a first-ever Champions League three points for the club.

One to Watch: Memphis Depay

Lyon has a very talented squad at its disposal, but perhaps the one to watch for Hoffenheim on Wednesday could be former Manchester United attacker Memphis Depay. The 24-year-old is getting his career back on track in France after a disappointing time in the Premier League.

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He has already appeared on the radar in Germany after helping the Netherlands to their recent 3-0 Nations Cup with over Joachim Löw’s Nationalmannschaft (scoring one). In Ligue 1, he already has two goals and two assists and has provided another assist in this seasons Champions League.

Borussia Dortmund v Atlético Madrid (Wednesday 20:00 BST)

BVB entertain Spanish giants Atlético on Wednesday looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the season and assume control of Champions League group A. Both sides have won their two opening fixtures in the competition and know that a third win will go a long way to securing their passage to the next stage.

Lucien Favre’s side lead the Bundesliga and are firing on all cylinders having scored 22 goals in their last five competitive fixtures. Spaniard Paco Alcácer in particular will be looking forward to maintaining his own personal scoring run against his compatriots.

Diego Simeone’s side have lost just once this season, but have drawn more games than they would have liked (Valencia, Eibar and recently this weekend away at Vilarreal). They are currently fifth in La Liga just two points behind Barcelona, but two ahead of city rivals Real.

Their Champions League pedigree is top notch having reached the final in both 2004 and 2016 as well as the semi-final in 2017. They did however fail to make it out of the group stage last season with Chelsea and Roma edging them out.

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One to Watch: Antoine Griezmann

While the Spanish squad is awash with talent, it is hard to look beyond World Cup winner Griezmann as the one to watch. It’s not just bluster that coach Simeone rates him as the best player in the world right now over the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“I said it last season and I’ll say it again- for me Griezmann is the best player in the world” the trainer reiterated after their win over Brugge. “He won the Europa League, the World Cup, the [UEFA] Super Cup and finished second in a league in which both Barcelona and Real Madrid are in.”

Dortmund’s talented, but young and inexperienced defence will be severely tested when Madrid arrive at the Signal Iduna Park.

Galatasaray v Schalke (Wednesday 20:00 BST)

The daunting cauldron of the Ali Sami Yen stadium is the venue for Schalke in the Champions League this week (that is after they have survived the arrivals hall at the airport) as they face Turkish side Galatasaray.

An atrocious start to the season with five league defeats on the trot in the Bundesliga seemed to have been arrested by Domenico Tedesco with successive wins over Mainz and Düsseldorf as well as first three points in the Champions League away at Lokomotiv Moscow. However this weekend saw a return to the hapless Schalke with an insipid home loss to Werder Bremen.

A trip to Istanbul to face the Turkish champions is not the ideal task for a side struggling to get their act together, low on confidence and attacking ideas. They needed a late Weston McKennie goal to overcome Lokomotiv and it remains to be seen whether goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann will be fit to take his place having been injured during the pre-match warm-up on Saturday.

Fatih Terim’s Yellow-Reds are top of the Super Lig, but have lost twice already this season (3-0 v Akhisarspor and 4-0 v Trabzonspor). They were held at the weekend at home to Bursaspor.

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One to Watch: Eren Derdiyok

The 30-year-old Swiss striker will be no stranger to fans of German football following his spells with Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim. After scoring 27 Bundesliga goals in his five years in Germany, he is now plying his trade in Turkey and although not a guaranteed starter, he has scored four league goals and one in the Champions League already this season.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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