Where will Martial play and 4 other Champions League talking points

Both Manchester clubs, along with Arsenal and Chelsea are among the sides in action this week.

Seamus Coleman had a torrid time up against Anthony Martial on Saturday.
Seamus Coleman had a torrid time up against Anthony Martial on Saturday.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

1. Where will Martial play?

BEFORE LAST WEEKEND, Anthony Martial’s start to life at Man United could hardly have gone much better.

The French youngster, having been bought for a reported fee of £36 million, potentially rising to £58million, registered four goals in seven appearances for the Red Devils, amid a superb start to life at Old Trafford.

Consequently, it was somewhat of a surprise when Louis van Gaal followed the French national team’s recent example and put Martial on the left wing against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.

However, in hindsight, Van Gaal’s decision looked inspired, as Martial was a considerable threat out wide for United, with Ireland international Seamus Coleman having one of his worst games in recent memory at right-back as a result.

Wayne Rooney also managed a morale-boosting goal — his first in 11 months away from home in the Premier League — in the aforementioned Everton win.

Therefore, with the English international having expressed a preference for the main striker role on more than one occasion, Van Gaal is not expected to change a winning formula ahead United’s clash away to CSKA. The Red Devils’ attack will still reap the benefits of Martial’s explosive pace, regardless of whether he starts on the flanks or up top.

2. Last chance saloon for Arsenal

While Arsenal have been very impressive in the Premier League at times this year — most notably in the recent 3-0 win over Man United — in the Champions League, the Gunners have been dire.

They are bottom of their group after two games and have yet to pick up a single point. Accordingly, it’s getting to the stage already where every match is effectively a must-win game for Arsene Wenger’s side.

There is one big problem, however. Their next two matches are against arguably the best team in the world on current form.

Bolstered by impressive new signings, the excellent form of certain key players and in particular, an inspired goalscoring run from Robert Lewandowski, the reigning Bundesliga champions, Bayern Munich, look unbeatable right now.

Indeed, Bayern are on an 11-match unbeaten run, having scored 37 goals in all competitions. In both the Bundesliga and the Champions League, they have remarkably retained a 100% record thus far.

So as impressive as Arsenal’s domestic form has been of late, it would be no surprise if their Champions League woe continues tonight.

3. Will Mourinho continue to snub Hazard?

Britain Soccer Premier League Eden Hazard has endured a disappointing start to the season. Source: Scott Heppell

The biggest surprise of Chelsea’s team-sheet at the weekend was the absence from the starting XI of last year’s Premier League Player of the Year, Eden Hazard.

Over the course of his managerial career, Jose Mourinho has tended to have a certain mistrust of creative players. Luka Modric, Juan Mata and Damien Duff (at his peak) all struggled to get into Mourinho-managed teams at various points.

However, with 47 consecutive starts for Chelsea, Hazard appeared to be an exception to this rule, until the weekend. Explaining Hazard’s absence, Mourinho indicated that accommodating the Belgian international made Chelsea more vulnerable defensively.

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The Londoners proceeded to beat a tepid Aston Villa team 2-0 at the weekend, but Dinamo Kiev away from home are likely to be far less passive.

With Pedro out with a minor injury, Hazard may regain his place in the side by default, but don’t bet on it, as Mourinho’s starting XIs have been anything but predictable so far this season.

4. City good enough to make a substantial impact on Champions League

The season is young, but Man City have looked on another level to the rest of the Premier League at times.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side’s attacking options are especially impressive, with David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne all looking conspicuously potent at various points.

Even without 50% of that unparalleled attacking quartet, they still cruised past a lacklustre Bournemouth 5-1 on Saturday, as Raheem Sterling became just the 11th player under the age of 21 to score a Premier League hat-trick.

City appear to have somewhat of a mental block when it comes to Europe since their inception as one of England’s elite clubs, though they have been somewhat unlucky to draw Barcelona in the last-16 for the past two consecutive seasons.

However, with the frightening level of talent currently at their disposal, the Eastlands outfit are undoubtedly capable of reaching unprecedented heights in the competition this time around.

With Juventus widely expected to qualify, and Borussia Mönchengladbach yet to pick up a point in the group, second place is likely to be between City and last season’s Europa League winners, Sevilla, which highlights just how important the Premier League leaders’ next two fixtures against the La Liga outfit will be.

5. Real Madrid set for true test

The group stages of the Champions League often feel like a bit of a phoney war for the tournament’s very best sides.

Teams such as Real Madrid are vastly superior to the majority of their opponents, and so, can afford to routinely sleepwalk their way through the group stages of the competition without ever paying the price.

Yet Cristiano Ronaldo and co face a genuine test tomorrow night. The Spaniards travel to face reigning French champions PSG, who still possess the majority of the team that beat Barcelona and knocked out Chelsea (with 10 men for most of the second leg) last season.

Having spent much of their campaign so far facing fairly bog-standard opposition both in Europe and La Liga, Rafa Benitez faces one of his first genuine tests as Real Madrid boss.

And the Bernabeu outfit could struggle against a team ranked among Europe’s top sides, particularly with a number of players, including James Rodriguez, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Pepe and Dani Carvajal, set to be unavailable

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Paul Fennessy

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