Champions League MD1 Group Stage Previews: Lazio-Dortmund, Inter-Gladbach

Seven reasons why we love the Champions League, including Jose Mourinho, PSG and the music

A look ahead to two intriguing Italy vs Germany club encounters from MD1 as the Champions League group stages return in midweek. Lazio host Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night before Inter welcome Borussia Monchengladbach back to Europe’s elite club competition after a three-year absence. Which players will shine for their respective sides here?

Lazio vs Dortmund: BVB travel to face out-of-form I Biancocelesti
Tuesday, kick-off at 8pm BST

Having been bested over two legs against eventual finalists PSG, Borussia Dortmund start the new Champions League campaign with an away trip to Rome.

Serie A side Lazio have excelled over the past year and as such, this represents a tricky opening to their Group F campaign.

However, Tuesday’s hosts have just four points from four top-flight games to start the new campaign. After a three-match winless run, can they beat stiff competition here?

Tommaso Augello had a goal and assist in the first-half alone, as Sampdoria recorded successive Serie A victories with no issues against Lazio on Saturday.

Silky Sampdoria see off Lazio in style | Forza Italian Football

Although they didn’t have Immobile and others vs. Sampdoria, Lazio must improve vs. Dortmund

It could’ve been even worse for Simone Inzaghi’s men, as the Blucerchiati squandered three big chances – one from summer signing Mikkel Damsgaard and two from loanee winger Keita Balde.

In fairness, they had multiple players ruled out – top goalscorer Ciro Immobile (suspension), midfielder Manuel Lazzari (muscle) are just two examples.

Nonetheless, expect alterations when hosting a Borussia Dortmund side packed with talent across the pitch. They don’t need a second invitation to capitalise here.

Reus helps Borussia Dortmund earn narrow 1-0 win against Hoffenheim

Marco Reus led like a captain, coming off the bench to score their matchwinner vs. Hoffenheim

Marco Reus came off the bench to score their winner away to Hoffenheim and Favre will shuffle his options after fielding a rotated side with players’ international exertions in mind on Saturday.

Jude Bellingham and Raphael Guerreiro impressed from the bench, while Thomas Delaney filled in well after Lukasz Piszczek’s first-half injury.

An interesting subplot to this game: although these two sides have never met in a competitive fixture before, the opposing managers have.

Dating back to the 2017-18 Europa League campaign, Inzaghi has a 2-0 H2H record against Lucien Favre, when the now-BVB boss was in charge at Ligue 1’s OGC Nice.

That season, Lazio got to the quarter-finals before losing 6-5 on aggregate to Red Bull Salzburg.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Inzaghi’s psychological edge has a tactical impact, in what many believe is a make-or-break campaign for Favre’s tenure at Dortmund.

Possible line-ups

Lazio: Strakosha; Fares, Hoedt, Acerbi, Patric; Leiva, Milinkovic-Savic, Parolo; Alberto, Immobile, Correa.

Dortmund: Hitz; Passlack, Can, Hummels, Meunier; Bellingham, Witsel, Delaney; Brandt, Haaland, Sancho.

Inter Milan vs gladbach: A tricky test on their UCL return
Wednesday, kick-off at 8pm BST

After a three-year absence from the competition, Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach make their return to Champions League football on Wednesday night. Their opening game? Facing Europa League runners-up Inter Milan away, no less.

It’s exactly the sort of acid test head coach Marco Rose would expect, as his Gladbach side have been rewarded for an excellent 2019-20 domestic campaign with tougher opposition this term.

Inter hope to bounce back after a 2-1 derby defeat by Milan on Saturday, while their visitors conceded a late equaliser to drop two points at home against Wolfsburg later that night.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic double sees AC Milan sink Inter in derby - Eurosport

Who else? Ibrahimovic returned after a 14-day COVID-19 quarantine, sinking Inter in Saturday’s derby

Inter had their chances, but weren’t helped by some shoddy early defending as a returning Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted a quick-fire brace to help Milan snap a five-match winless H2H streak.

Aleksandar Kolarov lacked composure in the area and gave away a penalty after sliding late on Ibrahimovic, who had his spot-kick saved but bundled home the rebound.

Samir Handanovic could do nothing to stop his second either: Rafael Leao effortlessly ghosting past Danilo D’Ambrosio before fizzing a cross to the far post for Ibrahimovic to score again.

Romelu Lukaku halved the deficit just before the half-hour mark, but despite having more shots (18, six on target), the Nerazzurri couldn’t find an equaliser.

Antonio Conte will urge them to hone their cutting edge against Gladbach here, especially with key players Milan Skriniar and Radja Nainggolan doubtful after positive COVID-19 tests.

Gladbach too face a nervy wait on key forward Marcus Thuram, who limped off just after Wout Weghorst’s 85th-minute equaliser for Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Bundesliga: Borussia Mönchengladbach spielt remis gegen VfL Wolfsburg - DER SPIEGEL

Thuram produced an encouraging outing vs. Wolfsburg before limping off late (Picture: Revierfoto)

It was his best display of the new campaign to date and if not for his goalscoring contributions last term, they wouldn’t be playing Champions League football again.

The 23-year-old winger scored 14 goals and created nine assists across all competitions, so if not passed fit, will be missed.

Inter hope to start as they mean to go on, against a determined Gladbach side aware they’re in a tough group, but won’t make any excuses regardless.

I’d predict a defiant response from their hosts though, after suffering a preventable derby defeat last time out.

Possible line-ups

Inter: Handanovic; Kolarov, de Vrij, Bastoni, Hakimi; Eriksen, Vidal, Barella; Perisic, Lukaku, Martinez.

Gladbach: Sommer; Wendt, Elvedi, Ginter, Lainer; Neuhaus, Kramer, Stindl, Thuram, Embolo, Hofmann.

Other MD1 fixtures this week are as follows (8pm unless stated):

Tuesday
Group E
Chelsea vs Sevilla, Stade Rennais vs FC Krasnodar
Group F
KO: 1755 BST – Zenit vs Club Brugge
Group G
1755 KO: Dynamo Kyiv vs Juventus, Barcelona vs Ferencvaros
Group H
PSG vs Manchester United, RB Leipzig vs Basaksehir
Wednesday
Group A
1755 KO: RB Salzburg vs Lokomotiv Moscow, Bayern vs Atletico
Group B
5:55pm – Real Madrid vs Shakhtar Donetsk
Group C
Manchester City vs Porto, Olympiacos vs Marseille
Group D
Ajax vs Liverpool, FC Midtjylland vs Atalanta

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