Home Sports Headlines Champions League storylines: No Ronaldo vs. Messi; more Barca drama; Chelsea looking for offense

Champions League storylines: No Ronaldo vs. Messi; more Barca drama; Chelsea looking for offense

by Ryan

The Champions League group stage action rolls on as Matchday 2 gets underway on Wednesday with eight scintillating matchups. Keep in mind, because of the hiatus last season, this season’s schedule comes at us a little faster than usual, with two three-week sprints consisting of three matchdays. 

Wednesday’s Champions League schedule

(All times U.S./Eastern)

You can stream every match on CBS All Access. Sign up now and enjoy one week of CBS All Access for freeEvery match will be available on demand shortly after the final whistle. 

If keeping track of every match at the same time is your cup of tea, make sure you tune into “The Golazo Show,” CBS Sports’ live whip-around show on group stage matchdays. “The Golazo Show” will keep avid soccer fans in the loop by featuring every goal each matchday on CBS Sports Network and CBS All Access with coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET on matchdays. 

If you missed action from the previous day, check out “The Champions Club,” featuring Jules Breach, Julien Laurens and “The Beast” Ade Akinfenwa. It’s the ultimate nightly highlights show for fans of the Champions League on CBS All Access

Here’s what to know about Wednesday’s action:

No Ronaldo vs. Messi

When the draw took place, all eyes were on the possible renewal of the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry when Barcelona and Juventus were paired Group G. It’s all for naught, at least in the first meeting in Turin, due to Ronaldo’s COVID-19 prognosis. The Portuguese striker, who contracted the respiratory virus nearly two weeks ago, was still testing positive as of Tuesday afternoon, 24 hours before the match. He’s a no-go for Juventus, who will likely lean on Spanish international Alvaro Morata to fill his place in the starting XI. Morata scored a brace in the UCL opener against Dynamo Kiev, a 3-0 win.

Ronaldo won’t be the only playing missing for Juve. Here’s what Andrea Pirlo had to say prior to the news that Ronaldo won’t suit up for the Old Lady.

“Chiellini will not be there, Bonucci will try to recover and we haven’t received the go-ahead from the doctor for De Ligt. We will count on the players we have available,” Juve’s manager said.

As for Barcelona, Gerard Pique (suspension) and Philippe Coutinho (hamstring tear) will also sit this one out. It’s a watered-down matchup from what we initially anticipated on paper, but nonetheless we’ll all be watching on Wednesday, especially with Americans Sergino Dest and Weston McKennie expected to feature.

Bartomeu out, Koeman asks for patience

As if the Barcelona drama doesn’t stop, on Tuesday, just days removed from a 3-1 loss to rival Real Madrid, team president Josep Maria Bartomeu and the entire board resigned after six years at the helm, leaving the club in a difficult financial position especially with the pandemic. His tenure was expected to come to a close in March, but a vote of no confidence was expected in a few days in a referendum. Despite announcing on Monday that he would not resign, Bartomeu had a change of heart on Tuesday rather than wait for the fans’ vote of confidence. A managing committee will be formed to oversee the day-to-day operations ahead of the elections, which will take place within 90 days. 

Ronald Koeman, who was appointed as manager by Bartomeu following a humiliating 8-2 shellacking by Bayern Munich in the Champions League last season, is asking for patience as he navigates a tricky rebuild with little help financially and drama from Messi before and after his decision to stay with the club and see out the final season of his contract.

“When I was in talks with Barca about becoming the coach, I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy job,” Koeman said. “Firstly because of the changes we wanted to make and secondly because of the situation with COVID-19 and the pandemic. It’s a big challenge and I only ask calm and time because we’re changing a lot of things.”

Craving even more coverage of the world’s game? Listen below and subscribe to ¡Qué Golazo! A Daily CBS Soccer Podcast where we take you beyond the pitch and around the globe for commentary, previews, recaps and more.

Chelsea go for three consecutive clean sheets

Known for having some defensive lapses as of late, especially at the goalkeeper, Chelsea have strung together back-to-back clean sheets with Edouard Mendy. Sure, it’s good news for the Blues. But while they may have solved some issues at the back, Frank Lampard’s side has gone 211 minutes without finding the back of the net.

To make matters worse, Chelsea will be missing veteran center-back Thiago Silva, who did not fly to Russia for Wednesday’s match against Krasnodar due to fitness (not injury) concerns. His center-back mate Kurt Zouma insists that Chelsea will be fine at the back against Krasnodar without the Brazilian.

“He brings experience. We know that he’s been winning trophies, a lot of trophies,” he said. “As soon as he came in he was already in the group trying to talk to players, help people — which is great for us. We know that he brings calm and all his experience. We can learn a lot from him.

“We’ve got quality everywhere. Of course Thiago Silva has been doing good since he came but before he was here we were doing good too. There’s nothing to prove.”

Cavani still waiting for UCL debut for Man United

Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani, who joined Manchester United on transfer deadline day, made his first appearance for the Red Devils over the weekend in a scoreless draw to Chelsea. He is eyeing his first Champions League action in nearly eight months (March 11) when he was still a PSG player as Manchester United welcome RB Leipzig to Old Trafford. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hinted that he’ll use “more or less the same squad” as Saturday, which gives us a good chance of seeing El Matador kicking the star ball around on Wednesday. As for United’s opponent, RB Leipzig, they could be without rising American star Tyler Adams, who’s nursing a knee injury to his lateral ligament which he suffered in training last week. 

Lazio shorthanded due to COVID-19

Lazio kicked off their Champions League campaign with an impressive 3-1 home win over Borussia Dortmund, but now Simone Inzaghi’s side is shorthanded heading into Wednesday’s match at Club Brugge with just 16 players due to some speculated positive COVID-19 tests. The team did not make any names official, but several players did not make the trip and top scorer Ciro Immobile did not train with the club.

“There are some players who have remained in Rome, [Wednesday] we will be 16,” Inzaghi said in his pre-match press conference. “[Wednesday] the club will issue a statement regarding the COVID-19 situation.”

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