Champions League: English teams' prospects heading into matchday 2
England has four teams in Champions League action over the next two days. Tonight, Manchester City is away at Hoffenheim and neighbours United host Valencia. Then on Wednesday, Liverpool travel to Napoli while Tottenham Hotspur welcomes Barcelona.
Can City arrest the slump?
Man City notched another record in the last showing. This time, however, it wasn't a product of their free-flowing, spontaneous football; nor was it a reflection on the usual control and authority they impose on games. Rather, it was an unwanted reminder that the Citizens continue to struggle against Europe's elite.
City became the first British side to lose four straight Champions League matches. Having tasted defeat last season in the round of 16 second-leg against Basel before succumbing twice to Liverpool, they fell 2-1 at home to Lyon two weeks ago.
It doesn't get much easier for Pep Guardiola's men, either. They travel to Hoffenheim, a team, like Lyon, which is designed to cause City problems. Julian Nagelsmann is a pioneer in the world of ‘laptop-management’, as snarky traditionalists label it. The 31-year-old has imprinted his charges with a clear DNA, one focusing on high-intensity pressing and attacking endeavour. If there is one style which threatens to unravel the Premier League champions, it is this.
Man City cannot afford to let that happen. Victory is surely a must if they are to retain any hope of winning the trophy.
Time to earn your Spurs
There was a collective, knowing sigh when Tottenham fumbled their 1-0 lead over Inter Milan. It would have been a valuable three points, but instead, they returned empty-handed, undone by Mauro Icardi and the ensuing defensive panic.
That loss leaves Spurs in a rather tricky position, turning the Barcelona clash into a must win. Had they held onto the lead in the San Siro, the pressure would be significantly reduced. Now, the North Londoners are burdened by the knowledge that a defeat to the Catalan giants will cut them six points adrift of the top two, presuming Inter overcome PSV Eindhoven.
If Mauricio Pochettino holds aspirations of one day managing Real Madrid, this is the perfect audition. It's an opportunity to curry favour with the Los Blancos hierarchy, which would, as ever, relish Barca's downfall.
More of the same please, United
A convincing victory at Young Boys means Man United welcome Valencia spearheading the group. As Old Trafford continues to host melodrama, intrigue and back-stabbing, the Spanish side could cause an upset, even if they are languishing 14th in La Liga.
In the group's other encounter, a Cristiano Ronaldo-less Juventus should have enough to see off Swiss threat at home. Victory would set up a mouth-watering narrative to United and Juve's upcoming back-to-back clashes. Not only would they be a battle of two European heavyweights, but also an opportunity to wrestle top spot.
Will the Reds be slain in Italy?
Jurgen Klopp leads his Red Army into the gladiator’s pit. Napoli could only manage a draw away to Red Star Belgrade in the opener. They will view Liverpool's visit as a chance to earn a scalp.
With Paris Saint-Germain primed for a party on the same night against Serb opposition, the Italians know a win over the Reds should ensure top spot after matchday two.
A Liverpool victory, meanwhile, would cement their authority on the group.