5 talking points ahead of this week’s Champions League fixtures

The Champions League returns this week with three of England’s four representatives at home.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the main talking points before the second round of matches.

Happy home for holders

Champions League football returns to Anfield for the first time since their famous comeback against Barcelona
Champions League football returns to Anfield for the first time since their famous comeback against Barcelona (Peter Byrne/PA)

Champions League football returns to Anfield for the first time since that memorable 4-0 win against Barcelona in May, a night which has gone down in history as one of the best comebacks in the history of the competition. While the Reds, unbeaten at home in the competition since 2014, are not likely to produce anything as dramatic as that when they host Red Bull Salzburg, they do need a win to get the defence of their crown up and running after defeat against Napoli a fortnight ago.

Spurs face Bayern battle

Striker Robert Lewandowski and his Bayern Munich team-mates pose a significant hurdle for Tottenham
Striker Robert Lewandowski and his Bayern Munich team-mates pose a significant hurdle for Tottenham (Tony Marshall/PA)

Tottenham are also need a good result after they failed to hold onto a 2-0 lead against Olympiakos on match day one. However, that may be a tough as the visitors are Bayern Munich. There is no recent history between the two but if there are any omens their last meeting came in 1983 when Spurs won 2-0 to overturn a 1-0 first-leg defeat on their way to winning the UEFA Cup that season. However, the Bundesliga giants have dropped just four points in the league this season courtesy of two draws; by contrast the hosts’ form is worse than patchy with just three wins in nine matches in all competitions.

Time for Pep to make a case for the defence

Manchester City’s makeshift centre-back pairing of Nicolas Otamendi (left) and Fernandinho (need a commanding performance
Manchester City’s makeshift centre-back pairing of Nicolas Otamendi (left) and Fernandinho need a commanding performance (Dave Thompson/PA)

Dinamo Zagreb are unlikely to cause Manchester City many problems at the Etihad Stadium but manager Pep Guardiola would no doubt like to see a morale-boosting clean sheet after more questions were asked about his makeshift defence against Everton at the weekend. Midfielder Fernandinho will be pressed into action again alongside Nicolas Otamendi in the centre and any further issues against the Croatians would leave Guardiola with more awkward questions to answer.

Encouragement for Lampard in Lille

Chelsea's improving form should give manager Frank Lampard encouragement for the trip to Lille
Chelsea’s improving form should give manager Frank Lampard encouragement for the trip to Lille (Steven Paston/PA)

Chelsea appear to be running into some form after two confidence-boosting wins in a week ahead of their trip to Lille. That is exactly what they need as they head to the Stade Pierre Mauroy, where their opponents have not lost since March. However, Ligue 1’s fourth-placed side – who have former Chelsea striker Loic Remy in their squad – have been inconsistent so far this season and that offers Blues boss Frank Lampard hope, especially after seeing 10 different players score in their last three matches.

Barcelona v Inter Milan

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde remains under scrutiny
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde remains under scrutiny (Nick Potts/PA)

Back-to-back LaLiga wins have barely eased the scrutiny on Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde and the criticism will return with a vengeance should they fail to beat Serie A leaders Inter Milan at home. Without the injured Lionel Messi, who is hopeful of being fit for the game after a thigh problem, the Catalan side have been exposed but even if the Argentina star does return he is yet to score in three matches against the Italians. Inter have conceded just three goals in seven games and will arrive at the Nou Camp with a plan to, first and foremost, frustrate and negate. Barca, after a goalless draw in Dortmund, need a win and Valverde even more so.

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