UEFA Champions League

If judging by current form at this very minute, Real Madrid might be playing the best football in Europe.  After their opening few matches where they could not kick the ball into the Mediterranean Sea, their ten goal outburst against Deportivo La Coruña and Málaga in their last two matches shows signs that the squad is starting to meld together under the José Mourinho system and tactics.  While many would hardly consider those two teams as world-beaters, Real Madrid’s confidence will be put to the test when they host seven-time European Cup champions AC Milan at the Santiago Bernabéu on Tuesday evening.

The AC Milan team that Real Madrid played twice in the group stage last season looks completely different than the one with whom they will clash on Tuesday.  Leonardo no longer coaches Milan, and current trainer Massimiliano Allegri has brought a more offensive system to the rossoneri.  Whereas Ronaldinho and Clarence Seedorf provided passes for Marco Borriello and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to finish Milan moves, owner Silvio Berlusconi added über-talented and want-away stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho from FC Barcelona and Manchester City respectively to join Alexandre Pato up front.  Ibrahimovic and Robinho both have chips on their shoulder with the way that both exited from their former teams, and while Milan will be considered the underdog in this matchup, the two matches against Real should be contested at a much more even level than last season.

The times listed are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and include the pregame pleasantries, although sometimes the matches on the DirecTV La Liga specific channels may not go to match coverage until right before kickoff.

Oct. 19

Real Madrid vs. AC Milan – 2:30 PM on Fox Soccer Channel HD and Fox Deportes

Oct. 20

FC Barcelona vs. FC København – 2:30 PM on Fox Deportes (delayed at 5:00 PM on Fox Soccer Channel HD)

Rangers vs. Valencia – 2:30 PM on DirecTV channel 482 (482-1 for HD) (delayed Thursday at 12:30 AM on Fox Soccer Channel HD)

UEFA Europa League

While none of the Spanish teams face dire consequences in their groups if they suffer losses on Matchday 3 of the Europa League, Atlético Madrid needs a win the most of the four because they have not won a match in the group stage this season.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, Quique Sánchez Flores’ team has not shown its fullest effort in the Europa League while conversely focusing on league play.  Last season, Atlético Madrid provided their best performances in the Europa League knockout stage because their domestic campaign floundered in mediocrity and they did not play in the group stage of the Europa League, having qualified for the Champions League group stage.

Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, and other European teams in the past few years have deemphasized the Europa League to center their attentions on a high league finish and qualify for the pinnacle of European football, the UEFA Champions League.  While los colchoneros have not sent out under-strength teams littered with youth academy players, the effort displayed by those who have played against Bayer Leverkusen and Aris clearly showed a disconnect between domestic and European responsibilities.  Atlético should not underestimate Rosenborg, who has a decent European pedigree and carried the Norwegian torch in Europe for the past decade and a half.  Even though all four Spanish teams find themselves three points behind their group leaders, Atlético Madrid arguably plays in the toughest group of the four, and another loss could force them to have to win their final three group matches to advance to the knockout stage of the Europa League.

Oct. 21

Karpaty Lviv vs. Sevilla – 12:55 PM on DirecTV channel 483 (483-1 for HD)

Stuttgart vs. Getafe – 12:55 PM on Gol TV HD

Villarreal vs. PAOK – 3:00 PM on DirecTV channel 482 (482-1 for HD)

Atlético Madrid vs. Rosenborg – 3:00 PM on Gol TV HD