Football

UEFA Champions League | Messi up against a likely Ronaldo-less Juventus

Lionel Messi. File   | Photo Credit: AFP

The highly anticipated match-up of Cristiano Ronaldo against Lionel Messi, when Barcelona visits Juventus in its Group G encounter, likely won’t happen because the Portuguese has the coronavirus.

Juventus has not reported many details of Ronaldo’s status but the forward has not played since appearing for Portugal earlier this month and isn’t expected to be named to the Bianconeri’s squad.

Could this be the week Chelsea manager Frank Lampard finally unleashes his very own Fab Four — a four-man frontline comprising Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech behind lone striker Timo Werner?

A mixture of injuries and rotation meant this has yet to happen, but the option is there for Lampard in Chelsea’s match at Krasnodar on Wednesday. Both Chelsea and Krasnodar are seeking a first win after drawing their opening Group E matches against Sevilla and Rennes, respectively.

Injuries plague City

Manchester City would simply like to get a striker on the field against Marseille in Group C on Tuesday, but it is unlikely. Sergio Aguero, just back from a long-term knee injury, sustained a muscle problem against West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday and joins fellow striker Gabriel Jesus on the sidelines again.

UEFA Champions League | Messi up against a likely Ronaldo-less Juventus
 

For all his evident talent, Neymar is having a worrying lean spell in Europe’s elite competition.

The star forward has not scored in his last four Champions League games, having squandered chances galore during the Final Eight in Lisbon and in last week’s 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United in Group H.

That loss has PSG under some early pressure, and Neymar’s performance was widely criticised.

The match at Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir on Wednesday is likely to be a physical encounter and Neymar, who has already been sent off this season, will have to keep his cool.

Zidane’s demand

Zinedine Zidane wants Real Madrid to play with the same intensity the team showed in its win over Barcelona in the Clasico on Saturday.

Madrid visits Borussia M’Gbach in Group B on Tuesday and is seeking to bounce back from a surprise opening home loss to Shakhtar Donetsk. Eden Hazard was added to the Madrid squad and could make his season debut after nursing a muscle injury.

Rebound needed

Atletico Madrid and Luis Suarez are also looking to rebound. Diego Simeone’s side was thrashed 4-0 by defending champion Bayern Munich and next hosts Salzburg in Group A on Tuesday.

Bayern’s biggest challenges seem to be how to maintain its outstanding form and meet its own burgeoning expectations. Hansi Flick’s team has scored at least four goals in its last three games in the Bundesliga.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 10:12:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/uefa-champions-league-messi-up-against-a-likely-ronaldo-less-juventus/article32947227.ece

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