The third matchday of Champions League play is a big challenge for the three competing Bundesliga clubs. While Bayern Munich appear to have the easiest opponent, they are the only team of the three to have lost on matchday two and thus have immeasurable pressure to win away at Lille. Dortmund and Schalke are on paper considered the underdogs in their respective matchups (well, Schalke was until this weekend), but they both need to show something here after losing leads late in their last games when they came away with disappointing draws.
Lille vs. Bayern Munich: In possibly the biggest upset of matchday two, Bayern lost to BATE Borisov 3-1 in a game where Bayern didn’t exactly play poorly and employed seemingly the right players and tactics. Most have come away from the match believing it was a one-off that could have been dramatically different if Bayern didn’t miss so many chances, which is not something they’ve been known for in the Bundesliga this season (they’ve already scored 26 goals from eight games).
Lille, on the other hand, have lost both of their CL games and have only scored one goal in the competition. They’re also 11th in Ligue 1, which is definitely not the strongest league in Europe. That said, those two lost CL games were against BATE and Valencia, who have both proved to be tough competition.
The truth is it’s too early in the group stage for this to be a must win for Bayern. They can afford to lose points with two home games still left to play, but this match will surely be their easiest away game. Mostly they need a win for their own confidence, even if they exude nothing but in the Bundesliga. But this is a competition they lost on penalties last year in their own stadium, and they need to turn the tide after their last loss and take hold off this competition. With Müller in fantastic form along with Kroos, Ribery and Mandzukic, they’re certainly favorites to come away with three points.
Dortmund vs. Real Madrid: Now this could be the match of the day, and not just because it pits the German title holders against the Spanish champions. Marca lamented yesterday the fact that Madrid usually have a rough time in Germany, having last won in 2000 against Bayer Leverkusen and only winning one out of their last 23 in the country. Both sides are also below their usual standard in their leagues, with Dortmund 12 points off the top of the table and Madrid eight back behind Barcelona.
Also of note is Dortmund’s loss this weekend to Schalke, their hated rivals, in which Klopp tried using three at the back even though he hadn’t practiced the tactic in training. Although Dortmund scored after they reverted back to their usual positioning, Schalke still looked the more comfortable side in the Westfalenstadion. The reason for Klopp’s switch was down to Dortmund’s injuries. Götze, Kuba, Schmelzer, and Gündogan all missed the Schalke match, and it’s unknown who will be available on Wednesday. But their line-up was still strong, and still the players seemed tired and their squad’s lack of depth began to show.
Madrid won 2-0 on Saturday, but they have a depleted backline with Marcelo, Arbeloa and Coentrao all picking up injuries during the international break. Still, Madrid should be favorites to put some of their bad luck in Germany behind them, although Dortmund will do well to remember that the Spanish side was also favorites against Bayern last year and lost. Dortmund will be happy with a draw, and it’s possible if they play their own game and don’t gamble tactically again this week. A fantastic effort from Hummels and the rest of the defense is needed in the match.
Arsenal vs. Schalke: This is another interesting match after the weekend’s league results. Schalke bested Dortmund in their own stadium, and Arsenal lost 1-0 in an awful display against Norwich City (who hadn’t won a game all season).
This CL group is probably the weakest of the three involving German clubs, with Montpellier and Olympiakos unlikely to make it through. Because of this Schalke don’t have as much pressure on them and can afford to lose this match, but it’s doubtful they’ll be happy if they do, especially coming off this weekend’s win. Arsenal will also want to deflect some of the criticism they’ve received after the Norwich loss, although they too will likely be happy with a point.
The difference in this game may be Schalke’s defense, which was superb against Dortmund. Höwedes had the best percentage of tackles won in the league last week, and they seemed a cut above Dortmund’s previously much lauded defense. They also have Höger in fine form, and we know Draxler can score in this competition after his great goal last matchday. The mystery is which Arsenal team will show up, but this in form Schalke side may be a match for even their best team.
Conclusions: There are a lot of narratives at play here with Bayern and Dortmund looking for redemption and Schalke all of the sudden slight favorites against Arsenal. The fact is it will be a good day for the German sides if they can at least get draws, and they all have the ability to do so.