November 18, 2017

Champions League Preview: Germany’s Finest Kick-Off the Group Stage

Bayern Munich – Anderlecht  (Tuesday 19:45 BST)

Dominating domestically is one thing, but Bayern really want and need to regain their place at the top of the European tree and kick-off their Group B campaign with one eye firmly fixed on lifting the trophy next May in Kiev.

A home game against Anderlecht is up first, and an opening win is expected by the Allianz Arena faithful, who have witnessed 16 wins from Bayern’s last 17 Champions League home matches. However, the Germans did lose their last encounter with the Brussels side, a 2-1 defeat during the 2007-08 UEFA Cup round of 16. Having won the first leg 5-0 though, the result didn’t really matter.

This weekend witnessed the first defeat of the season for Carlo Ancelotti’s side as they suffered a 2-0 loss at the hands of Hoffenheim, so the Bavarians will be looking to get back on track against Anderlecht.

The Belgian champions’ defence of their Jupiler League title has started in somewhat disappointing fashion with two losses in their first six games. They did secure a morale-boosting 3-2 win on Friday, beating Lokeren at home. It did however require a 90th-minute goal to secure the victory.

For Bayern, Arturo Vidal will be absent through suspension due to the red card he picked up against Real Madrid in last season’s quarterfinal defeat at the Bernabéu.

One to watch: Łukasz Teodorczyk

The 26-year-old scored 22 goals last season and is being compared in some quarters to Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski. Like the Bayern number nine, he made a name for himself at Lech Poznań, but in playing style he is more akin to Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik.

He’s scored twice in the league this season, including on Friday when the Pole netted the last-minute game-winner. Teodorczyk forms a striking partnership with Henry Onyekuru, who finished as joint-top scorer last season while at Eupen.

Tottenham – Borussia Dortmund (Wednesday 19:45 BST)

Dortmund were cruising through last season’s Champions League before being derailed by the terror attack on their bus and knocked out by Monaco in the quarterfinal round. Again drawn into the same group as Real Madrid, the Schwarzgelben kick things off this year with a trip to Wembley to face Tottenham.

The last time BVB stepped out at Wembley was for the 2013 Champions League final, where they lost to league rival Bayern. Spurs, occupying the ‘Home of English football’ while White Hart Lane is redeveloped, are not having the best of times in their temporary home.

After losing their first home game to Chelsea, they only managed a point against Burnley. Last season in the Champions League, Wembley was not a happy home as Mauricio Pochettino’s side lost to both Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen in the group stage.

This weekend saw Dortmund struggle to break down a ten-man Freiburg side as they were held goalless. Spurs on the other hand were in fine goal-scoring form, beating Everton 3-0 with Harry Kane grabbing two goals.

There is recent history between the two sides which clashed two years ago in the Europa League round of 16, when Dortmund won 3-0 at home before beating the London side 2-1 at White Hart Lane.

One to watch: Moussa Dembélé

With one Dembélé out of the picture, it could be another that causes problems for Dortmund on Wednesday. Moussa Dembélé is the unsung hero for Spurs with the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Ali, and Christian Eriksen often claiming more of the plaudits. The 30-year-old Belgian’s dynamism, passing vision, and tackling may be a key to the midfield battle. Sure, the BVB defenders will have their hands full with an in-form Kane, but Dembélé cannot be ignored.

RB Leipzig – AS Monaco (Wednesday 19:45 BST)

When the Champions League anthem rings out at the Red Bull Arena Wednesday evening, most players and fans of RB Leipzig may have to pinch themselves to actually believe what is happening.

Just five years ago, Leipzig were in the Regionalliga Nordost, playing and beating Optik Rathenow in front of 1,531 spectators through a Daniel Frahn hat-trick. This week, RB will take on the French champions before a sellout home crowd of 42,959.

Frahn, by the way, is now with Chemnitzer FC in the 3. Liga.

Leipzig welcomes Monaco, just as they appear to be gaining momentum following a shock opening day defeat to Schalke. Successive wins over Freiburg and Hamburg has seen a return to winning ways, and Timo Werner is on a hot-streak of goal-scoring, too.

The Monaco side that takes to the field for this Group G opener will be quite a different beast from the side that beat Dortmund last season to reach the semifinals. Rather predictably, the French side were unable to fend off the transfer-window predators and sold Kylian Mbappé, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, and Tiemoué Bakayoko.

They have spent their money well, bringing in the likes of Youri Tielemans, Keita Baldé, Stevan Jovetic, and Terence Kongolo, as well as ex-Wolfsburg keeper Diego Benaglio.

The new-look squad has made an impressive start to the season, winning their opening four matches. However, Leonardo Jardim’s side were surprisingly well-beaten on Saturday, as Nice thumped them 4-0.

One to watch: Radamel Falcao

Falcao has made a blistering start to the new season, scoring seven goals in his first five matches. The loss to Nice was the first time this season the Colombian has failed to hit the net. With Mbappé gone, Monaco will need Falcao to keep firing on all cylinders.

Last season in the Champions League, the 31-year-old managed five goals in eight appearances. His overall career stats show eleven goals in eighteen appearances for both Porto and Monaco in Europe’s premier competition.

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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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