By DAN KARELL
Following a tumultuous summer of inactivity for Arsenal, it’s been full steam ahead since their derby victory against Tottenham.
Signing Mesut Özil and defeating Sunderland, 3-1, on the road has only added to the momentum of the London club, who enter a match on Wednesday against Marseille on a nine-match unbeaten streak against French opposition in the UEFA Champions League.
Manager Arsene Wenger will be able to count on a fitter Özil as well as healthy options in defense with the return of Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen, while forward Olivier Giroud has declared that he is fit to start, despite leaving the last match injured. Marseille’s coach Elie Baup understands that his side are in for a difficult six matches in Group F, but he hopes his young team lead by Andre Ayew and Nicolas N’Koulou can force an upset over the English power.
Like David Moyes at Manchester United on Tuesday, Gerardo “Tata” Martino will make his Champions League debut as a manager on Wednesday when Barcelona host Ajax, with the Blaugrana hoping to forget about last season’s semifinal ouster to Bayern Munich.
A member of last year’s Champions League “group of death,” Ajax finished third ahead of Manchester City to continue in the Europa League, proving that they’re a team Barcelona can’t take lightly. Add to that the injury of Jordi Alba and the reunion of Bojan Krkic at his former club and there’s a chance for the unthinkable at the Camp Nou.
One point to note is that Ajax have not beaten a Spanish club in European competition for their last eight matches, stretching back to 2003 in a 1-0 victory against Celta de Vigo.
Last year’s Champions League darlings Borussia Dortmund have begun their season in torrid form, and are currently tops in the Bundesliga. Despite losing Mario Götze in the summer, manager Jurgen Klopp has done brilliantly to replace him with Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang and Henrik Mkhitaryan, each of whom scored in a 6-2 victory over Hamburg last weekend.
Napoli will have their hands full with the attacking talent on display when they welcome Borussia to the Stadio San Paolo, but last year’s Europa League winner with Chelsea, Rafa Benitez, has an improved Napoli squad that’s ready to compete in Europe, making for a must-watch encounter.
U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Jermaine Jones is unavailable for Schalke 04′s opening group stage match against Steaua Bucharest due to red card suspension.
Here is a rundown of today’s UEFA Champions League schedule and TV info:
2:45pm – Barcelona vs. Ajax – Fox Sports 1/Fox Deportes
2:45pm – Chelsea vs. FC Basel – Fox Sports 2
2:45pm – AC Milan vs. Celtic – MSG Plus/Fox Sports Net
2:45pm – Marseille vs. Arsenal – Fox Soccer Plus
2:45pm – Napoli vs. Borussia Dortmund – Fox Soccer 2Go
2:45pm – Atletico Madrid vs. Zenit – Fox Soccer 2Go
2:45pm – Schalke 04 vs. Steaua Bucharest – Fox Soccer 2Go
2:45pm – Austria Wien vs. FC Porto – Fox Soccer 2Go
What do you think of today’s UCL action? Which game(s) are you interested in watching? Which team could pull off an upset on Wednesday?
Share your thoughts below.