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Dublin: 7°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Man City can catch Juve on the hop and our Champions League talking points

The Premier League leaders and Man United are in action tonight, while Chelsea, Arsenal and holders Barcelona get going tomorrow evening.

Sterling (left) and Silva (right) should return for City.
Sterling (left) and Silva (right) should return for City.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated at 13.00

1. Contrasting fortunes in Eastlands

MANCHESTER CITY AND Juventus are in very different form heading into tonight’s Champions League Group D curtain-raiser at the Etihad.

The home side have shot to the top of the Premier League with five wins from as many games, while the Serie A champions and last year’s finalists remain winless in their first three thanks to two defeats and a draw.

Although they are without first choice striker Sergio Aguero, who has been ruled out with a knee injury picked up over the weekend, attacking duo David Silva and Raheem Sterling are likely to return.

Yet again, City have been handed a difficult draw and, with Sevilla and Borussia Mönchengladbach to come, they may see this as a good opportunity to pick up points against the out-of-sorts Italians.

2. Man United back in the big time

They may have had to qualify via a play-off, but after a season without European football, Manchester United return to the Champions League proper this evening.

Arguably one of the weakest top seeds in the draw, some will have seen the inclusion of the Eredivisie title holders in Group B as a favourable result for United. Two of their best players departed in the summer — captain Georginio Wijnaldum joined Newcastle while top scorer Memphis Depay left for tonight’s opponents.

The Dutchman is likely to receive a warm welcome at his old club, but he revealed there will no muted celebration if he scores at the Philips Stadion. And with captain Wayne Rooney out injured, Louis van Gaal will be hoping Memphis can produce a performance similar to the one which saw him score twice against Club Brugge.

3. Champions begin their defence in Rome

It is 101 days since Barcelona lifted the Champions League at Munich’s Olympiastadion after seeing off Juventus. The Catalan giants against face Italian opposition as Barca boss Luis Enrique returns to his old club. Enrique spent 2011/12 in charge of Roma but decided to leave after they failed to qualify for Europe.

Both sides are unbeaten in their respective domestic leagues after three matches — Barcelona with nine points and Roma have seven.

The game will also mark Lionel Messi’s 100th Champions League appearance if, as expected, he plays.

4. There’s only two Tal Ben Haims

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Chelsea v Portsmouth - Stamford Bridge Former Chelsea defender Ben Haim is now at Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Wednesday’s visit of Maccabi Tel-Aviv could prove to be a welcome distraction for Jose Mourinho and the Chelsea players after their disastrous start to the league campaign.

One win, one draw and three defeats have left the champions at the wrong end of the table and a long way off where they want to be.

Maccabi, managed by former Chelsea midfielder Slavisa Jokanovic, qualified with a play-off win over Basel but are only in the group stages for the second time. The Israeli champions also have another former Blue in their ranks — 33-year-old defender Tal Ben Haim (not to be confused with his 26-year-old team-mate of the very same name).

5. Gunners head to Zagreb

Arsenal begin an 18th consecutive campaign in the Champions League group stages with a trip to the Croatian capital.

The Gunners picked up their first home win of the season on Saturday with Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud on target against Stoke. England forward Walcott will have fond memories of the Stadion Maksimir as he scored a hat-trick there against Croatia in a 2010 World Cup qualifier.

With Bayern Munich and Olympiacos making up Group F, Arsene Wenger will want a winning start against Dinamo, who qualified with a 6-2 aggregate victory over KF Skënderbeu of Albania.

Originally published at 06.00 on 15 April 

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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