Atletico Madrid are the biggest favourites of the week and with good reason.
Atletico Madrid v Astana
Atletico are the biggest favourites of the week and with good reason. They may have lost to Benfica in their previous UCL match but have otherwise been in good form and with Astana having to travel almost 4500 miles home advantage should be highly significant. Astana’s rating in our gradings will have improved following their draw with Galatasaray but since 2004/05 the grading difference between these teams is greater than in any previous UCL group match. Atletico have won six of their previous seven UCL group matches with three wins by at least four clear goals and five wins to nil. Astana have scored only once in their past five European away games and at the two quality sides they faced in that sample (Benfica and Villarreal) were beaten 2-0 and 4-0.
Galatasaray v Benfica
This is a must-win game for the Turkish side while Benfica are sitting comfortably having won their opening two matches and would be very happy with a point. Istanbul is not the fortress it once was for Galatasaray as they’ve lost their last three matches here and since 2010/11 have just a W4-D6-L5 home record in Europe. Benfica’s away record in Europe isn’t too stellar either, as they’ve failed to score in nine of their 16 UCL group matches since 2010/11. Since 2005/06 there have been 16 group stage matches in European competition where the home team had picked up 0-1 point from their opening two games and the away side had won their first two matches and the home team has gone W0-D6-L10. Our gradings place these teams closer in standard than many of those match-ups but in the eight supposedly closest games from that sample we are left with results of W0-D4-L4 and six of the games had fewer than three goals.
Juventus v Monchengladbach
Juventus’ European form bares little relation to their domestic struggles as they’re seemingly making easy work of this group of death. German teams other than Bayern have struggled on Italian soil as since 2004/05 they’ve had a W3-D10-L12 record, including W1-D3-L9 in the Champions League (Italian sides have tended to have a reputation for not respecting the Europa League). Juventus have lost only one of their last 26 European home games – against Bayern – and have won by more than one goal in five of their last nine home UCL group matches.
Malmo v Shakhtar Dontesk
Malmo have not embarrassed themselves with a pair of 2-0 defeats against PSG and Real Madrid and now have their best chance of picking up points in the group. However, they’ve lost each of their last six Champions League group matches by at least two goals and while failing to score five times. Shakhtar have conceded seven times without scoring themselves so far in the group but they have found form domestically to move to the top of the Ukrainian league. Since 2005/06 they’ve won nine of 13 European group matches when travelling to teams that we had rated as worse than them (and here we have Shakhtar significantly better), including a 7-0 win over Bate last season.
PSG v Real Madrid
This is a real heavyweight clash and with both teams holding 100% records it should go some way to deciding the group winner. PSG have lost only one of their last 35 European home matches and have made an excellent start to the season as they sit five points clear and undefeated at the top of Ligue 1. Real are also top of La Liga but their form is less impressive and with Modric, Rodriguez and Benzema all missing their attack lacks some bite as they’ve scored just nine goals in their last six games. Six of Real’s last 13 away UCL group matches have had fewer than three goals, as have four of their most recent six games in all competitions and this should be a tight affair.
Wolfsburg v PSV
PSV’s European record in Germany is just W0-D2-L7 since the start of the nineties and in the Champions League their record at any team from Germany, Italy, Spain or England since 1998/99 is a dreadful W0-D4-L15. Wolfsburg had lost three out of four matches prior to a win last weekend but those defeats came on the road and they are much stronger at home, where they’ve won five of six matches in all competitions this season.