After the exploits of match-day 1, last week’s Champions League results saw the four Italian clubs end the second round of the group stage with not a single win between them, with Lazio, Atalanta and Inter all earning hard-fought draws, and Juventus faltering to their first defeat or the season against Barcelona. On Tuesday night, Round 3 of the Champions League group stage will kick-off, and we have a full preview dedicated for the four matches involving the Italian sides.
Real Madrid – Inter
Looking at the standings of Group B after two rounds, one might think he’d need to turn his screen upside down, with 13-time winners Real Madrid finding themselves bottom of the group with just one point and Inter just ahead of them with an extra point. Ukranian champions Shakhtar Donetsk are currently leading the group after earning a shocking win in Madrid, followed by a goalless draw against the Nerazzurri.
Los Blancos will maintain their 4-3-3 formation with Karim Benzema leading the line, and expected to be flanked by Marco Asensio and the returning Eden Hazard. Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Casemiro should feature in midfield. On the other hand, Antonio Conte will have to rely on Ivan Persic once again to act as an emergency striker alongside Lautaro Martinez, in the absence of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez. Ashley Young and Achraf Hakimi should play as wing-backs in Inter’s 3-4-1-2 formation.
With Zinedine Zidane’s side desperate for a home win that would elevate them from the bottom, a third draw would be considered an acceptable result for Inter before heading for the return fixture in Milano.
Atalanta – Liverpool
In another compelling Tuesday night fixture, Atalanta are set to welcome a very prestigious guest to the Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo. Liverpool have already started their Champions League campaign with two wins over Ajax and Midtjylland, while La Dea have followed-up their opening winning over the Danish minnows, with a come-from-behind draw against the Dutch champions.
Gian Piero Gasperini has some major headaches in choosing his lineup, with the likes of Marten De Roon, Hans Hateboer, and Robin Gosens all possibly out. His 3-4-1-2 should nonetheless feature a great attacking trio, with captain Alejandro Gomez playing behind Colombian strikers Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel. From his side, Jurgen Klopp might decide to rest his formidable attacking force of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Firmino, and offer an opportunity to shine for the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Diogo Jota, and Takumi Minamino.
With the two sides finding themselves in the top positions of Group D, an exciting fixture awaits football purists. A shocking win for the Italians could be hard to get considering the absentees in Gasperini’s squad, but even a point against the Premier League champions would prove to be vital for their qualification hopes.
Zenit St. Petersburg – Lazio
In Wednesday’s early fixture, Lazio will look to maintain their positive Champions League start when they lock horns with Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg away from home in Round 3. The Aquile are currently top of the group after an impressive opening victory against Borussia Dortmund and an away draw last week in Brugge.
Zenit coach Sergei Semak will be missing former Barcelona winger Malcolm, but his 4-5-1 formation will nonetheless feature former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, Colombian midfielder Wílmar Barrios, and veteran striker Artem Dzyuba. On the other hand, Simone Inzaghi will try to pick up the pieces from his Covid-19 decimated squad, as he’s expected to rely on Joaquin Correa and the returning Ciro Immobile in attack, supported by star midfielder Sergei Milinkovic-Savic in a 3-5-2 formation.
Although a cold Russian match is never an easy assignment, a Biancocelesti victory could put them in a prime position for an early qualification.
Juventus – Ferencvaros
In a classic David Vs Goliath matchup, Juventus will be looking to put their last week’s woes behind them, and return to the right track when they welcome Group G minnows, Ferencvaros. The Hungarian champions earned their first Champions League point in a 2-2 home draw against Dynamo Kyiv.
Andrea Pirlo is once again able to rely on the returning Cristiano Ronaldo, with Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala vying for a spot alongside the Portuguese megastar. Aaron Ramsey, Dejan Kulusevski and captain Giorgio Chiellini should also find their way back to the Bianconeri starting line-up. Serhiy Rebrov will be expected to maintain his 4-3-3 formation, with his Ukrainian compatriot Oleksandr Zubkov and Tokmac Nguen supporting Brazilian striker Isael.
There’s simply no other option for Andrea Pirlo but to build on the Spezia win and quickly bring an end to the club’s negative run, and the encounter against Ferencvaros in Champion League Round 3 presents a golden opportunity to do so.