Ahead of this week’s UEFA Champions League action we discuss some of the competition’s major talking points.
Forget the facade, Zaha will be keen to prove point at Old Trafford
Wilfried Zaha will hear the Champions League anthem sound out at Old Trafford this evening. It will come in rather different circumstances than the winger would have first envisaged, when he signed for Manchester United from Crystal Palace in 2013.
A Sir Alex Ferguson signing, he failed to convince successors David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, before returning to former club Crystal Palace and becoming a much loved figure in South London. Last summer Zaha decided to leave his comfort zone at Palace and signed for Galatasaray on a free transfer, a move designed to provide the Ivorian with a chance to compete on the Champions League stage.
“We’ve got players who can hurt them”
Wilfried Zaha on his development since leaving Man Utd and Galatasaray’s Champions League game against Erik ten Hag’s side on Tuesday 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/Iq96eI72FL
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) October 2, 2023
A quirk of fate has pitted the Turkish side against Manchester United, with both teams badly in need of a result after opening their campaigns with dropped points. Zaha scored his first Galatasaray goal at the weekend and forms part of a team with a strong ex-Premier League contingent, with Tanguy Ndombele, Angelino, Lucas Torreira and Davinson Sanchez among the names who could feature.
Zaha will headline the visitor’s line up and will have his sights set firmly on making an impact. There’s no doubt the 30-year-old will feel he did not get a fair crack at the whip at Old Trafford.
Arsenal can not afford to underestimate Lens
Arsenal’s return to the Champions League was one to remember as the Gunners thrashed PSV Eindhoven 4-0 in north London to open their campaign in perfect fashion. Next up for Arsenal is a trip to face Lens, who have began their domestic campaign in disappointing form.
Lens sprang a surprise to finish as runners-up in Ligue 1 last season, ending the campaign just a point behind champions Paris Saint-Germain to earn Champions League qualification for the first time since 2002/03. The summer departures of Lois Openda and Seko Fofana were a blow, exits which contributed to the club’s worst start to a league campaign in 62 years as Lens picked up only a point from their first five games.
WAHINIFICENT ✨ pic.twitter.com/pZyvbxKwTD
— Ligue 1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) October 1, 2023
Franck Haise has overseen an upturn in recent weeks with back-to-back wins lifting Lens from Ligue 1’s relegation places, while Elye Wahi opened his account in the win over Strasbourg at the weekend. Wahi was linked with Chelsea and West Ham during the summer and scored 19 league goals for Montepllier last season. The 20-year-old will be Lens’ chief threat on Tuesday evening.
Osimhen argument ended ahead of Real Madrid visit?
Victor Osimhen’s fallout with Napoli has been one of the most bizarre stories of the season’s opening weeks, with the forward’s agent threatening legal action against the club after a TikTok video was released on club channels mocking the star striker.
Europe’s elite clubs were placed on red-alert at the situation, but Napoli appear to have navigated the issue with a grovelling apology and the resignation of the club’s social media executive.
Osimhen issued his own statement declaring his love for Napoli, one which appears to have put to bed any animosity. The timing is perfect for Napoli ahead of a mouthwatering clash with Real Madrid this week. The Spanish giants are among the clubs who have considered Osimhen, but will now be tasked with stopping one of European football’s finest forwards.
— Lega Serie A (@SerieA) September 28, 2023
Osimhen has scored in back-to-back wins over Udinese and Lecce, as Napoli have bounced back from a mixed start to the season, and the visit of the 14-time European champions is a glamour tie he will relish. Each opened with wins on Matchday One and the victors in Naples can take control of Group C.
St James’ set for star-studded occasion.
St James’ Park is preparing to welcome Champions League football to the ground for the first time in 20 years, with the visit of Paris Saint-Germain to the North East an occasion to savour.
Newcastle made a solid start to their Champions League campaign with a goalless draw at AC Milan, with the Magpies battling to a result on Matchday One. Handed a daunting draw, the club’s home games will be crucial to their chances of progressing to the knockout rounds.
Eddie Howe’s side will not be short of backing on Wednesday evening, as Kylian Mbappe and company line up in opposition. European success has proven elusive for PSG, but the French champions have often breezed through the group stages of this competition.
Looks like Newcastle are planning something special for their first home Champions League match in 20 years 🤩
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 2, 2023
Lionel Messi and Neymar might have moved on, but there’s star power throughout the Parisian’s squad with Mbappe the headline act. These are the sort of nights Newcastle have dreamed about since Champions League football became a reality.
Leipzig beware of City backlash
Manchester City travel to face RB Leipzig looking to bounce back from successive defeats in all competitions. City exited the Carabao Cup at Newcastle, before defeat at Wolves last weekend confirmed consecutive losses for the first time since January 2022.
City’s defeats have come in the absence of the suspended Rodri, but the midfielder will be free to return for European competition.
Leipzig, meanwhile, have started the season well with one defeat from nine games in all competitions, but know better than most the threat City can pose. The Germans were on the wrong end of a 7-0 defeat to the holders last season, as Erling Haaland hit five goals in a devastating performance.
𝐖𝐞’𝐫𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐮𝐧𝐛𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐬𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐠𝐚𝐦𝐞𝐬 📈📈
✔️ 5-1 vs. Stuttgart
✔️ 3-0 vs. Union
✔️ 3-0 vs. Augsburg
✔️ 3-1 vs. Young Boys
✔️ 1-0 vs. Gladbach
✔️ 3-2 vs. Wiesbaden
⚖️ 2-2 vs. Bayern pic.twitter.com/C0InoWtS4a
— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) October 1, 2023
Leipzig should pose a much tougher test in Germany this week, having rebuilt well following the exits of Dominik Szoboszlai, Christopher Nkunku and now-Man City defender Josko Gvardiol, who will return to face his former club.
In Xavi Simons and Lois Openda, Leipzig have two emerging names who have hit the ground running at the Red Bull Arena.