Blink and you will miss it, after Wednesday we will be halfway through the UEFA Champions League group stages. There have been plenty of surprises so far with Real Madrid winless, Manchester United looking unstoppable and Club Brugge unbeaten.
For those teams that have started slowly, Gameweek 3 often reveals whether these teams have just suffered an early season blip or if they should have genuine concerns over qualifying for the round of sixteen. Ahead of the exciting fixture list check out my predictions ahead of Gameweek 3 and where to watch them.
Game of the week
Group H - RasenBallsport Leipzig vs Paris Saint German: 20:00, Red Bull Arena (BT Sport ESPN)
In a repeat of last season’s semi final Wednesday’s fixture may have similar significance to both team’s hopes of qualifying to the round of sixteen. This season both teams have already fallen foul to Man United who can certainly make a claim to have been the most impressive team in the competition so far.
RasenBallsport Leipzig look to forget the dismal late showing that left them with costly damage to their confidence and goal difference after losing five-nil to Man United. In a game that was supposed to highlight the potential and ability of Julian Nagelsmann and Dayot Upamecano, they, amongst others, will have a point to prove.
Paris Saint Germain also lost to the Red Devils in Gameweek 1 and although they may have taken comfort in a comfortable scoreline over Istanbul Basaksehir (three-nil) the effects of their disrupted pre-season still linger ahead of a crucial test in Saxony. Expect an improvement from both sides in what should be an open game, the away sides superior firepower leaves me to predict they will come through this one.
Group A - Lokomotiv Moscow vs Atlético Madrid: 17:55, RZD Arena, (BT Sport 1)
Lokomotiv Moscow could take great pride despite their defeat to Bayern Munich in Gameweek 2 as they gave the reigning champions a tricky test losing only two-one. Yet with another surprise defeat in the Russian Premier League at the weekend to Sochi it is evident that the schedule is taking its toll on Lokomotiv.
Atlético Madrid made a case for the most entertaining game in Gameweek 2 with a scintillating comeback against Red Bull Salzburg. With four goals in two games João Félix is finally showing the consistent displays that led to his mega transfer just over a year ago. I suspect Atlético and Félix will continue their more free-flowing displays and emerge from Moscow triumphant.
Group A - Red Bull Salzburg vs Bayern Munich: 20:00, Red Bull Arena Salzburg (BT Sport Extra 2)
Symbolic of a team filled with talented youth, Red Bull Salzburg have shown plenty of promise but for little reward in their opening two performances amassing just a paltry point. Life does not get any easier Tuesday night, if results go against them it may be time to start focussing on trying to qualification for the Europa League via third spot.
Bayern had Joshua Kimmich to thank for providing them a late winner in Moscow last week where the Bavarians have been less than convincing only just squeezing past FC. Koln at the weekend. Reassuringly, the depth that they possess is frightening, a factor which should be key to progress in the competition this season
Group B - Shakhtar Donetsk vs Borussia Monchengladbach: Stadion NSK Olimpiyskiy, 17:55 (ESPN)
On paper this may seem the less intriguing fixture from this group but given the start both teams have made it could lead to a thrilling encounter. Shakhtar have the opportunity to go at least 4 points clear of third position with a win in Ukraine. They backed up their sensational victory over Real Madrid with a solid draw against Inter Milan and will look to utilise some of their attacking prowess in this early kick off.
For all of Borussia Monchengladbach’s impressive displays against both Real Madrid and Inter Milan they have only had two draws to show for it. In terms of pressing and confidence, they may prove to be Shakhtar’s toughest test yet and will be looking to make amends for their dropped points so far.
Group B - Real Madrid vs Inter Milan: Alfredo di Stefano stadium, 20:00 (ESPN)
Real Madrid’s late attempts of redemption in their opening two gameweeks the prospects of the most successful Champions League have gained them a meagre point. Yet the return of a goalscoring Eden Hazard will be a huge boost. Although given the schedule and his fitness issues of late it is yet to be seen what role he will play.
Inter Milan have been hard to beat this season but have found wins equally hard to come by, a frustrating draw against Shakhtar in Gameweek 2 was compounded by a wasteful display against Parma. This should be a huge game for two managers under pressure.
Group C - FC Porto vs Olympique de Marseille: Estádio do Dragão, 20:00 (BT Sport Extra 3)
Last week’s win against Olympiakos served as a timely reminder of FC Porto's prowess in the group stages. The former champions have progressed the last four times they have made it to this stage. Last weeks triumph highlighted his importance as without him they conceded three at the weekend to Paços de Ferreira.
If Olympique Marseille harbour any hopes of qualifying they may not be able to settle for anything less than three points having zero so far.
André Villas-Boas, who announced himself not long ago as a potential presidential candidate for his opponents whom he used to manage will be extra determined to get a victory here. After their game versus Racing Club de Lens was postponed they will look to benefit from the extra few days rest.
Group C - Manchester City vs Olympiakos: Etihad Stadium, 20:00 (BT Sport 3)
Manchester City, like their Manchester counterparts appear to have saved their best form for the Champions League this season. Scoring six goals in their opening two games and conceding just one Pep Guardiola will expect his side to pick up where they had left off.
Although their opponents may be tempted to keep a close eye on the scoreline of the other game in the group they will have to be extra disciplined for their trip to the north of England. They will look to draw confidence from their domestic form where they are unbeaten this season, conceding just one goal. Nevertheless I do not see them causing the Citizens too much bother.
Group D - Atalanta vs Liverpool: Gewiss Stadium, 20:00 (BT Sport 2)
Living up to my expectations last week by completing a thrilling comeback against Ajax I expect this game to be equally lively. Atalanta’s defeat of Crotone 2-1 offered them some domestic respite ending a winless run. However a number of injury doubts to key first team players such as Hans Hateboer, Rafael Toloi and Robin Gosens they look particularly vulnerable at the back.
Liverpool will look to capitalise on these injuries to their opposite number, so Jürgen Klopp may opt to throw caution to the wind with the visitors having defensive issues themselves lately. Potentially a goalfest, this game could spring up a surprise or two but it would be sensible to predict Liverpool winning this one.
Group D - FC Midtjylland vs Ajax: MCH Arena, 20:00 (BT Sport Extra 4)
There were plenty of positives to be taken from FC Midtjylland’s two-nil defeat to Liverpool, playing at Anfield, the Danish team kept it to a respectable scoreline and created chances of their own despite the wealth gap of the two clubs. A repeat of this performance against an Ajax squad severely affected by a Covid-19 outbreak and they will fancy their chances of collecting their first ever points in the competition.
Ajax’s surrender of a two goal cushion versus Atalanta was not painful enough the loss of up to nine players testing positive for Coronavirus will have only hurt them more. They will look to take inspiration from Shakhtar’s win against Real Madrid in Gameweek 1 but I fancy the Danish team to get a surprise victory here.
Group E - Chelsea vs Stade Rennais: Stamford Bridge, 20:00 (BT Sport 2)
After a shaky start to the season for Chelsea it has been an excellent week for coach Frank Lampard. Not only have his side continued their run of clean sheets but have added goals to their game also. The return to fitness of Hakim Ziyech seems to have given them an extra attacking dimension and they will be in a buoyant mood ahead of this tie.
Stade Rennais will have been disappointed to concede a second half goal against Sevilla and it will not get any easier on Wednesday night. It will be the first opportunity for many fans to see the young Eduardo Camavinga against a Premier League side with the seventeen-year-old already a full French international.
Group E - Sevilla vs FC Krasnodar, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, 20:00 (BT Sport Extra 5)
Unbeaten in the Champions League, once again Sevilla have saved some of their best form for Europe this season after losing three on the spin in La Liga. Goals in their past two games for both strikers Luuk de Jong and Youssef En-Nesyri could be essential in preserving their unbeaten start in European competition.
FC Krasnodar lived up to their attacking promises against Chelsea until they let the game get away from them, helped by an unlikely source in their highly rated goalkeeper Matvey Safonov. The twenty one year old showcasing some of his inexperience as he let Callum Hudson-Odoi’s shot squeeze into his goal. Safonov will need to put in a much improved performance to give his side any chance.
Group F: Zenit St. Petersburg vs Lazio: Gazprom Arena, 17:55 (BT Sport 1)
Wednesday’s early kick off sees Zenit St. Petersburg desperate for points after a bitterly disappointing start to their Champions League campaign. With cause for optimism they could progress beforehand a tendency to concede goals later on, all four they have conceded coming after the hour mark has cost them until now.
Are we finally seeing Lazio regain the consistency they have struggled for since pre-lockdown? A four game unbeaten run albeit drawing to Club Brugge was nonetheless an achievement given how depleted their squad was due to Covid-19. Their never say die attitude highlighted in their two goal stoppage time turnaround against Torino will be a tidy boost ahead of Wednesday’s encounter.
Group F: Club Brugge vs Borussia Dortmund: Jan Breydel Stadion, 20:00 (BT Sport Extra 4)
Given they were the bookies favourites to finish bottom, it seems crazy to say that Club Brugge should be disappointed not to have more points but with eleven shots versus Lazio it easily could have been. They face their toughest test yet in Borussia Dortmund but can take comfort from their showing so far.
They made fans wait but Dortmund eventually put a cagey tie to bed in Germany last week and continued their impressive form with a two-nil win on Sunday, where English midfielder, Jude Bellingham, arguably had his best performance yet in a yellow shirt. This will be an intriguing contest but I expect the Belgian side to face a slight reality check.
Group G: Barcelona vs Dynamo Kyiv: Camp Nou, 20:00 (BT Sport Extra 3)
Watching Barcelona demolish Juventus last week reminded me of the ability the Catalans possess given their wretched times recently both on and off the pitch. Although it would be too early to say they have turned a corner I look forward to seeing them in the Champions League once again.
Dynamo Kyiv will relate heavily with Ajax this week, having also thrown away a two goal lead to Ferencváros their squad has now been heavily affected by Covid-19 with the spread of the disease accelerating quickly in Ukraine. It should be a case of damage limitation in Spain come Wednesday night.
Group G - Ferencváros vs Juventus: Puskás Arena, 20:00 (BT Sport Extra 2)
What a comeback by the Hungarian side, many would have feared the worst as they fell to a two goal deficit to Dynamo Kyiv last week. However, a second half spirited display now means an unlikely victory against Juventus would leapfrog Ferencváros into potentially second in the table.
Scrutiny upon Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo was huge after the ease of which Barcelona played through their midfield in Gameweek 2. Therefore a comfortable four-one defeat of Spezia will have eased the nerves of many helped by none other than the return of Cristiano Ronaldo. Expect a valliant effort from the Hungarians but the The Old Lady should have too much for them.
Group H - Istanbul Basaksehir vs Manchester United: Basaksehir Fatih Terim Stadyumu, 17:55 (BT Sport 3)
Istanbul Basaksehir could deem themselves unfortunate given the draw but it will be invaluable experience for the Turkish side even if they are unable to provide their fans with a scalp. After shutting out PSG for more than an hour last week they will look to go even further against Manchester United with the nice sidenote of a reunion for former Premier League champion, Rafael.
Will the perfect start for the visitors continue? Despite their underwhelming domestic campaign Man United have been jawdropping in Europe. There will be much anticipation to see if coach Ole Gunnar Solksjær continues with the diamond that was so successful against RB Leipzig and if he includes Donny Van de Beek from the start. Three from three is entirely plausible at this stage.