Matchday 3 is upon us and there are some key matchups to look at. In this first preview, we start with Group E where Barcelona travel to Glasgow for a tough road game against Rangers. The atmosphere at Ibrox should be electric after Rangers massive win in the first Old Firm derby this weekend. What was shocking about the match was that Celtic appeared very flat and had little of the determination to win that you expect of defending champions, especially in a match against their age-old rivals.
Celtic were very physical in the match and ended up with 9 bookings (McDonald was lucky to escape another booking when he kicked Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor in the calf). The man of the match for Rangers, despite the 3 goals, was McGregor. He denied Celtic on a few occasions including a long-range belter by Jiri Jarosik that he just got fingertips to. The other difference in the match was Celtic’s back four. They were poor in my estimation, especially on the first goal where the probing cross into the penalty area made it through three defenders, none of which seemed to want to take charge. The backline were also at fault for the second goal as neither Kennedy nor O’Dea could figure out who should be closing down Barry Ferguson. Ferguson wasted little time in poking home. The backline will need to either be adjusted (Steven Pressley will be available and could get a start after recovering from injury) or perform much better against Benfica.
This is not to diminish Rangers efforts. They were up for the match and made the most of their chances. This puts them in good spirits for their match with Barcelona, who lost to Villarreal 3-1 on Saturday. Deco’s name was added to the lengthy injury list for Barca; the midfielder suffered at thigh injury on Saturday and is expected to miss the next five to six weeks. I would not be shocked to see either a draw or a Rangers win though a draw is the most probable result.
Onto Italy and defending champs AC Milan, who suffered a shock 1-o loss to Empoli. Milan struggled to create chances and the few inspired moments for AC came from Clarence Seedorf. The fact that Milan were booed off the field by their supporters at the final whistle tells you all you need to know about their performance. The only bit of good news for Milan was UEFA’s Appeals Body decided to cut goalkeeper Dida’s ban to one match. He had been banned for two games after his play-acting following an altercation with a fan in their last Matchday against Celtic.
The alarms are sounding at AC Milan as the 1-0 home defeat to Empoli leaves them 10 points behind league-leaders and bitter local-rivals Internazionale. AC Milan have failed to win at home in Serie A this season and their record of just two wins from eight games sees them currently sitting in 11th position. They face Shaktar Donetsk at home and on paper have the quality to eaase through this game but recent form suggests that it will be anything but easy for this Milan team.