By the time we’ve caught our breath from Champions League atchday 1, it will be time for eight more matches apiece this Tuesday and Wednesday.
Matchday 2 will have a lot to live up after last week’s action. PSG lost to Manchester United and Real Madrid nearly get run off the field by Shakhtar Donetsk’s B squad.
Other notable results last week included Lazio upsetting Borussia Dortmund 3-1 and Inter Milan needing a Romelu Lukaku equalizer in the 90th for a 2-2 draw vs. Monchengladbach.
But there are 16 (!) more games around the corner, so it’s time to turn the page to the Matchday 2 watchability rankings.
Here’s hoping that this time, the “must-watch” matches offer more intrigue than the Sevilla-Chelsea goalless draw and Bayern’s blowout of Atleti. Thank God for ManU’s upset of PSG, which saved a ton of face for the must-see category last week.
Notes: the tiers are self-explanatory, I hope. All kickoff times listed are U.S. eastern and the home team is listed first.
TIER 1 – MUST-SEE
1. Juventus (+163) vs. Barcelona (+163) Wednesday, 4 p.m.
We’re not the only ones who consider this to be far and away the best match-up of the week. It’s
rare unheard of to see dead-even odds like this. Regardless of who’s involved, any game with a line like this deserves some attention.
In addition to the little-known fact that this game will showcase the personal rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, there are a ton of other reasons to tune in. First of all, how does Barcelona respond to a deflating 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in El Clásico on Saturday? Second of all, who steps up for Philippe Coutinho following his hamstring injury? – not a joke, the Brazilian had been playing well this season!
As for Juventus, it’s been a tough start to ’20-21 for Ronaldo and Co. With just nine points through five games in Serie A, Juve is far enough out of first place that they’re not currently favored to win the league (first-year Manager Andrea Pirlo’s team is +200 at the moment, behind Inter Milan at +175). We didn’t learn much from last week’s UCL win over Dynamo Kiev, but the Barcelona game promises to be instructive.
Before moving on to the other 15 (!) games on tap, we have to mention that a ridiculous number of the supporters of the loser of this one will be pressing the panic button, which only increases the watchability.
2. Manchester United (+123) vs. RB Leipzig (+230) Wednesday, 4 p.m.
Manchester United stunned a lot of people by upsetting PSG last week, so of course they followed that up with a 0-0 draw vs. Chelsea over the weekend. Considering they’re currently in 15th place in the EPL, United need another good UCL result vs. RBL to distract from their domestic struggles (seven points through five matches).
RB Leipzig took care of Istanbul Basaksehir in a game few people watched last week, but all eyes will be on them this week vs. ManU and next week vs. PSG.
RB Leipzig at +230 is a good bet considering how poor their opponents have been outside of last week’s upset of PSG.
TIER 2 – WORTH A LOOK (AND A SHORTER BREAKDOWN)
3. Monchengladbach (+285) vs. Real Madrid (-115) Tuesday, 4 p.m.
Saturday’s Clásico win over Barcelona served as our latest reminder of what a difference Sergio Ramos makes for RM. With Ramos anchoring the back line, Los Blancos are infinitely more imposing. And after watching Saturday’s game, you have to wonder if the shocking loss to Shakhtar last week was simply a result of the reigning La Liga champs overlooking their shorthanded Ukrainian opponent.
Based on last week’s 2-2 draw vs. Inter Milan, which the Bundesliga side very nearly won, Monchengladbach are the real deal. With Real Madrid coming off a hard-fought win at Barcelona and Monchengladbach a better opponent than many realize, another RM disappointment would not come as a shock. The Germans at +285 seem like great value.
4. Atlético Madrid (-165) vs. RB Salzburg (+460) Tuesday, 4 p.m.
Besides their embarrassing loss to Bayern last week, Atleti has played well throughout the young season. Los Rojiblancos’ solid form actually dates back to last February, so expect them to handle RB Salzburg. This game belongs in Tier 2 even though I like Atleti’s chances because of the contrast of styles between the high-flying Austrians — who can still score post Erling Haaland — and … whatever you want to call Atlético.
5. Borussia Dortmund (-278) vs. Zenit St. Petersburg (+700) Wednesday, 4 p.m.
Dortmund did not get off to the start we expected last week, falling 3-1 to Lazio. Another loss here would put BVB (currently -250 to finish top-2 in Group F) in serious danger of failing to advance. That, plus the Bundesliga side’s slew of young attacking talent, make this one worth watching, even if I’m confident in a bounceback W for the Germans.
6. Sevilla (-200) vs. Rennes (+575) Wednesday, 4 p.m.
I expected Sevilla to keep every game they played in this year close, and I worried where their goals would come from. But I didn’t expect them to be “2 goals in 5 games” bad, which is all they’ve produced in the month of October. This team’s draw vs. Chelsea last week was a good result, but they need a couple goals – and more importantly, three points here – if they want to win this group.
Check this one out to see whether the gap between Chelsea/Sevilla and Rennes/Krasnodar is as big as oddsmakers think – Chelsea (-560) and Sevilla (-455) are huge favorites to advance out of Group E.
TIER 3 – THERE’S ALWAYS WORSE THINGS TO BE DOING THAN WATCHING SOCCER
7. Shakhtar Donetsk (+360) vs. Inter Milan (-137) Tuesday, 1:55 p.m.
Can the Ukrainians pull another upset? Will they have their first-team players available? Can Inter Milan play its best soccer in a group stage match? This is the cream of the Tier 3 crop.
8. Atalanta (-137) vs. Ajax (+325) Tuesday, 4 p.m.
There will be goals, and there will be highlights, but Atalanta will win this one comfortably. The over 3.5 goals (-115) is worth a close look.
9. Club Brugge (+188) vs. Lazio (+143) Wednesday, 4 p.m.
The oddsmakers are trying to tell us this will be one of the closest games of the week. I don’t see Club Brugge winning this one, even after their win over Zenit St. Petersburg last week. Still, a line this tight should carry
a lot infinitely more weight than any of my predictions.