Matchday 3 of Champions League group play is weaker than either Matchday 1 or Matchday 2, but that says more about the quality of those matchdays than anything about this one. I must admit, though, that there’s not a ton of depth after the best UCL games this week.
There’s a pair of must-see games on Tuesday, when Ajax hosts Borussia Dortmund at 3 p.m., with Atletico Madrid hosting Liverpool.
Manchester United-Atalanta also looks interesting, but that’s about where the blockbuster matchups end this week.
It’s also worth noting that we’ll see all these games again soon, as Matchday 4 (November 2-3) will feature rematches between the teams squaring off on Matchday 3.
Notes: the tiers are self-explanatory, I hope. All kickoff times listed are U.S. Eastern and the home team is listed first. All matches in the U.S. are on CBS All Access/Paramount+.
TIER 1 – MUST-SEE
1. Atletico Madrid (+230) vs. Liverpool (+130) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
As you might have heard, Atleti pulled one of the biggest upsets of the ’19-20 Champions League, eliminating Liverpool in the round of 16 that year. But Diego Simeone’s team looked overmatched against RB Leipzig in the ’19-20 quarterfinals, and last year’s clash with Chelsea was also rather one-sided. I bring up Atleti’s last UCL ousters because it’s been a while since they fared well against an elite European opponent.
Unfortunately for Los Rojiblancos, a healthy Liverpool is exactly that. Atleti is playing well domestically and Liverpool will have its hands full, but I expect a narrow victory from Jurgen Klopp’s side.
2. Ajax (+125) vs. Borussia Dortmund (+200) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
This one features two of the highest-scoring, most entertaining teams in Europe. Borussia Dortmund has scored 22 goals in eight Bundesliga games this year. Ajax has scored an even more insane 32 goals in nine games in the Dutch Eredivisie. Even more impressively, the darlings of the ’18-19 Champions League have allowed just two goals (!!) domestically, for a goal differential of 30. Ajax have also won their two UCL games by a combined score of 7-1.
Erling Haaland and BVB will be the toughest opponent Ajax have seen this year, but I still like Ajax at home, especially at +125. Given the number of goals that are likely, it would be a mistake not to take the over — Over 2.5 Total Goals (-220) seems like a lock, and I’d even take a long look at Over 4.5 Total Goals (+230).
3. Manchester United (-135) vs. Atalanta (+350) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
ManU has a hell of a week ahead. Following Wednesday’s battle with Atalanta, Manchester United’s next four opponents are Liverpool, Tottenham, Atalanta (again) and Manchester City. Coming off a draw against Everton on October 2 and Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Leicester City, this team is in a funk that could very well get a lot worse against a tough Atalanta squad.
It doesn’t help ManU’s case that they’ll be missing Raphael Varane. There’s not a more enticing money line price on Matchday 3 than Atalanta at +350.
TIER 2 — WORTH A LOOK (AND A SHORTER BREAKDOWN)
4. Porto (+145) vs. AC Milan (+200) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
This one leads the way in Tier 2 for two reasons: A) As the line indicates, this should be a close game and B) yeah, now do you see why I called this the least interesting matchday so far?
5. Inter Milan (-575) vs. Sheriff Tiraspol (+1,400) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
I’m half-kidding here, as logic would tell you Inter Milan will cruise. But Group D leader Sheriff Tiraspol has my full attention after winning at the Santiago Bernabéu on Matchday 2. Can the pride of Transnistria pull off another upset on the road??
6. Zenit St. Petersburg (+245) vs. Juventus (+120) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Am I missing something, or does it make no sense that you can get Juve at this price? Tune in, I guess, to see what oddsmakers were thinking here, but don’t expect anything terribly compelling.
7. Young Boys (+225) vs. Villarreal (+120) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
On paper, Young Boys-Villarreal seems like it belongs in Tier 3 or Tier 4, but it’s in Tier 2 by default because it’s a close line, and another situation where I think the visitors (Villarreal) from the bigger league are great value, if not a lock.
8. Paris St. Germain (-200) vs. RB Leipzig (+500) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
I would have this game ranked a lot higher if I had more faith in RBL, which has lost 6-3 to Manchester City and 2-1 to Club Brugge in this tournament.
But even without Neymar, PSG should handle RB Leipzig. We are, however, talking about a PSG side that has had some puzzling results recently, including a 1-1 draw against Club Brugge on UCL Matchday 1 and a 2-0 loss in Ligue 1 to Rennes on October 3.
TIER 3 – WHAT ELSE ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR AFTERNOON?
9. Shakhtar Donetsk (+425) vs. Real Madrid (-160) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
This shouldn’t be very close, but we haven’t forgotten what happened the last time these teams met in Champions League group play, have we? For anyone who has, Shakhtar upset Los Blancos not once but twice a year ago.
10. Benfica (+650) vs. Bayern Munich (-260) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Can Julian Nagelsmann’s side score double-digit goals?