Barcelona v Manchester City
Pep Guardiola returns to Barcelona to face his former club for the third time in the marquee fixture of the week. His last visit to Camp Nou was pretty disastrous – a 3-0 defeat with Bayern Munich in the first leg of the semi-finals in 2015, which made Bayern’s 3-2 win in the return fixture the following week redundant.
Neither of these teams are at the peak of their powers. Luis Enrique’s side have looked far from infallible this season, dropping eight points in their last six league matches and needing a second-half comeback to overcome Borussia Mönchengladbach in their last Champions League outing. Their defence has been particularly unreliable at times, conceding 10 times in the league already, though the return from injury of Sergi Roberto gives them a boost.
Manchester City are without a win in three games but their form isn’t quite as bad as it may sound. Their performance against Everton at the weekend was actually very encouraging. They came up against a goalkeeper in the form of his life, with Maarten Stekelenburg producing seven saves, including two from the penalty spot as City mustered 19 efforts at goal to Everton’s three.
The goalkeepers will be worth watching on Wednesday night and not just because Marc-André ter Stegen had to play second fiddle to Claudio Bravo before the Chilean moved to Manchester. Both keepers are encouraged to play out from the back – with Bravo signed almost entirely with that in mind at City – but both have made some notable errors of judgment and distribution this season. They will be put under pressure and the attacking players all have the talent to punish even the smallest of mistakes. Guardiola’s team will have to cope better with Barça’s high press than they did against Spurs, who disrupted their rhythm in their 2-0 win at White Hart Lane earlier this month.
Bayer Leverkusen v Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham and Bayer Leverkusen meet at the BayArena on Tuesday night in what is shaping up to be the most competitive group in the Champions League, with first and fourth separated by just three points. The two clubs are currently sandwiched between Monaco and CSKA Moscow, so this gives them a chance to put themselves in a strong position with a victory.
Both teams will be keen to get on the front foot early in what promises to be an energetic affair. Spurs have become renowned for their intense pressing approach and the same can be said of Roger Schmidt’s side. Teams that adopt a similar style can cancel each other out but Tottenham and Bayer both offer real pace and verve going forward so that seems unlikely.
While Tottenham have managed to strike a strong balance between defence and attack, the same can’t be said of their hosts, particularly in the Champions League. Although Bayer always offer a threat, they are always likely to leak goals at the other end too – indeed they have scored and conceded in each of their last eight Champions League matches.
Javier Hernández is their main goal threat. The former Manchester United striker has scored five times in the league this season and once in the Champions League (in their 1-1 draw in Monaco last month). However, he has never scored against Spurs, although he started just one of his six appearances against them.
Meanwhile, Heung-Min Son, who was rested at the weekend, is in line to return to Tottenham’s starting XI and face his former club for the first time since his exit last summer. Son has really found his feet at Spurs this season – his rating of 8.31 makes him the highest rated player in the Premier League so far this season (above Kevin De Bruyne, Alexis Sánchez, Sadio Mané and Philippe Coutinho).
Lyon v Juventus
Lyon welcome Juventus to the Stade des Lumières knowing that a defeat could leave them adrift from the top two if Sevilla beat Dinamo Zagreb. It has been a tough campaign for the French club. Their defeat to Nice on Friday was their fourth in the league so far this season. Juventus, meanwhile, have enjoyed a far more convincing start to Serie A.
Lyon will have Alexandre Lacazette back in contention after his recovery from injury. The team has missed him dearly in recent weeks – they have failed to score in four of the six matches he didn’t start. The Frenchman, long linked with a move to the Premier League, has scored 54 league goals since the start of the 2014-15 season but he is yet to really make his mark in European competition and still needs to prove himself at the top level.
Having last met Juventus in the Europa League quarter-finals in 2014, Lyon will be looking for revenge for that exit but they will be significant underdogs, despite their home advantage. They will be looking to test Gigi Buffon, who has hit a rare rough patch in his career, committing a costly error against Spain during the international break before another at the weekend against Udinese.
Bayern Munich v PSV Eindhoven
Carlo Ancelotti has accused his side of “sleeping for 45 minutes in every game this season” and he has a point. They lost to Atlético Madrid in their last Champions League match and then followed up that disappointment by drawing with Cologne and then 10-man Frankfurt. They will be confident of putting things right against PSV Eindhoven.
Phillip Cocu’s men will be wary of a backlash. They are going through a troubling period of their own, slumping to fourth in the Eredivisie following a run of nine points from the last 18 available. Nevertheless, they put up a real fight against Atlético Madrid in their opening fixture in the group to prove they are no pushovers, though a draw in Rostov severely dented their slim chances of escaping from a group containing two of the pre-tournament favourites.
Former Newcastle flop Luuk de Jong is the talisman for the Dutch champions, having excelled since a return to his homeland. The striker is yet to find the goalscoring form he showed in the previous two seasons but his ability to hold up play will be crucial as PSV face a side that love to dominate possession. The 26-year-old has three goals and three assists in the league this season (with one more of each in the Champions League) and he has won twice as many aerial duels in the Champions League (22) as any other player.
Bayern Munich, meanwhile, have turned to an unlikely source of goals recently. Before this season Joshua Kimmich – who was often deployed as a centre-back under Guardiola – had never scored for Bayern or Germany. However, since opening his account for the national team at the start of September, the youngster has scored six goals for the Bundesliga champions: twice as many as any other Bayern player in that time, as Robert Lewandowski (three goals in the same period) and Thomas Müller (one) struggle to find their feet in front of goal.