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Who could provide a shock in the Champions League group stages?

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Champions League

The 2019-20 Champions League group stage is well underway, with the third round of games being played this week. As we reach the halfway stage, it’s looking great for some of the early favourites, with Manchester City and Bayern Munich topping their respective groups. But with gaps starting to show between teams in each group, who looks as though they can cause a shock and progress to the knockout stages? Let’s take a look at some of the possible contenders and if you think one of the teams is worth an outside punt, check out the latest Champions League odds: https://www.paddypower.com/football/uefa-champions-league.

Club Brugge

When the draw was made, Group A looked like it would be a formality with 13-time winners Real Madrid and Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain the favourites to progress. The group has been anything but easy thus far and Belgian outfit Club Brugge sit in second place with two points from two games. 

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After a 0-0 draw in their opening fixture with Galatasaray, Brugge travelled to the Bernabéu and found themselves two goals in front at half time. Unfortunately for the Blue-Blacks, Real pegged them back and a sending off for Ruud Vormer allowed Casemiro to equalise from the resulting free kick. Had they held on, daylight would have separated Brugge from the chasing pack but instead, it’s a solitary point.

Brugge are on a six-game unbeaten streak in the Champions League and while next opponents PSG are a formidable force, with Los Blancos struggling to pick up points and Galatasaray failing to score goals, the Belgians must fancy their chances of progression.

Valencia

As things stand in Group H, Valencia and Chelsea find themselves in a battle for the coveted runners-up place. Chelsea may be the favourites with the bookies to progress, but having already beaten Frank Lampard’s men, we believe Valencia have what it takes.

Los Ches didn’t have the best start to the season and sacked manager Marcelino after just three league games. They currently sit eighth in La Liga with three wins from their opening eight games. Despite the 3-0 hammering to Ajax in their last Champions League match, Albert Celades has turned around their domestic fortunes and this new-found confidence should transfer to the European stage too. 

Valencia host Lille in matchday three and with the Ligue 1 club sitting bottom of the group with no points, it’s a chance for Celades’ side to strengthen their grip on progression to the knockout stages.

Red Bull Salzburg

Group E is something of an unknown entity, and looks to be anybody’s game. Red Bull Salzburg are currently unbeaten in the Austrian Bundesliga and sit third in their Champions League group. Level on points with Liverpool and just one point behind leaders Napoli, Salzburg host the Italians next and the result could well turn the tide of the group going into the second half of the stage.

Although Salzburg lost 4-3 to Liverpool in their last game, they’re scoring goals, having hammered Genk 6-2 in matchday one. While it’s a massive ask to overhaul the current holders, the Austrian side could well spring a surprise in the group – but don’t be surprised if it ends up being decided by head-to-head record. Fans probably wouldn’t like to be reminded of their Europa League round of 16 exit last season – after being 3-1 up from the first leg, they were knocked out by Napoli 4-3 on aggregate.

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Ajax Amsterdam

Spurs Line Up Replacement For Top Man Utd Target

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Hakim Ziyech

North London club Tottenham Hotspur have lined up Ajax Amsterdam star Hakim Ziyech as a replacement for Christian Eriksen if the Danish international leaves the club.

This is according to the latest reports emanating from the media in the United Kingdom.

Christian Eriksen has less than one year left on his Spurs contract at the moment and he could leave the club in the New Year.

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According to the specific report from 90min, Tottenham Hotspur have identified Hakim Ziyech as the man to replace Christian Eriksen at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Christian Eriksen has the opportunity to speak to foreign clubs about leaving on a free transfer next summer as of the start of January 2019.

The former Ajax Amsterdam playmaker had a lot of clubs on his trail in the summer but nothing tangible came out of the several transfer rumors.

Foreign clubs like Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid were all linked with Christian Eriksen this summer.

Premier League giants Manchester United are also interested in the Spurs player with recent reports claiming that the Red Devils want to sign him in the New Year.

The Red Devils are willing to spend as much as £42m on him.

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What Erik ten Hag Said About Man United’s January Transfer Target

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A Report broke out yesterday via The Telegraaf revealing that Manchester United And Tottenham are set to battle for Ajax’s young goalie Andre Onana as both clubs seek to end their poor run of form at the back of the pitch.

The Red Devils, despite upgrading their defense last summer, have failed to keep many clean sheets this season, no thanks to David De Gea’s inconsistent display.

Just like Man United, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has seen Hugo Lloris make some costly errors in the opening stages of the season before the Frenchman picked up an injury last month.

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However, Ajax manager Erik ten Hag has expressed his thoughts on the rumors linking his goalkeeper to the Premier League giants.

According to him in a press conference ahead of Ajax’s Champions League clash with Chelsea, the Cameroon international is having a great development under his watch and it’s no surprise to see him attracts interest from top clubs in Europe.

He said: “He(Onana) is going through a fantastic development and proves himself on Champions League evenings.

“Only then is he really challenged and then you see him reach such a high level. I enjoy that and I think he is certainly good enough for the Premier League”

Ligue 1 Champions PSG are also said to be interested in the goalie’s services having sanctioned Buffon’s return to Juventus.

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Ajax Amsterdam

Champions League: Chelsea Starting Lineup vs Ajax Revealed

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The youthful Chelsea side under manager Frank Lampard made a big statement in the last matchday of the Champions League following the win over Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam.

Chelsea beat Ajax 1-0 in their backyard to claim a major scalp and also replace their Dutch opponents at the top of Group H.

Both teams meet again at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea hoping to take a big step towards qualification for the knockout stage with a win in front of their home fans.

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Chelsea have to be wary of an Ajax Amsterdam side capable of delivering big results away from home.

Ajax Amsterdam reached the semifinals of the competition last season and they claimed big scalps on the road against established Champions League teams like Real Madrid and Juventus.

In addition, Ajax have already beaten Spanish La Liga giants Valencia away from home in the Champions League this season.

Belgian international Michy Batshuayi came off the bench to score the only goal of the game for Chelsea the last time the two teams met in Amsterdam.

Possible Chelsea XI vs Ajax: Kepa Arrizabalaga; Cesar Azpilicueta, Kurt Zouma, Fikayo Tomori, Emerson Palmieri; Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Mason Mount; Willian, Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham.

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What Frank Lampard Said After Big Win Over Ajax

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Frank Lampard

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has praised his players for the character shown during their Champions League clash with Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam.

Last season’s semifinalists Ajax Amsterdam were beaten 1-0 at home by Chelsea in the Group H match-up.

After the game, Frank Lampard spoke to reporters about the impressive victory.

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According to him, the Ajax performance and result is the template ahead of future games.

Frank Lampard said that his players showed that they can beat the best teams.

Second-half substitute Michy Batshuayi scored the only goal of the game with five minutes left on the clock after combining well with fellow substitute Christian Pulisic.

The result took Chelsea to the top of Group H at the expense of their opponents Ajax Amsterdam.

Both teams have six points each ahead of Valencia and Lille who are in third and fourth position with four points and one point respectively.

In the other game in Group H, hosts Lille came from a goal down to rescue their first point of the campaign via a 1-1 draw with Spanish La Liga giants Valencia.

Denis Cheryshev gave the visitors the lead in the first half before Jonathan Ikone earned a share of the spoils for his French Ligue 1 club.

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Solskjaer Not Convinced This £100m-rated Star Will Solve Man United’s Creativity Problems

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Donny Van Der Beek

Manchester United manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer, who could be shown the exit door due to poor results, is far from convinced with what he has seen from Ajax youngster Donny Van de Beek so far this season.

The Dutchman was linked with a switch to the Old Trafford outfit in the summer but the Norwegian tactician turned down the chance to capture his services.

According to British media The Mirror, Solskjaer was pleased with the fact that Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay were available ahead of the season, hence, he kicked against splashing £35m on the midfielder.

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Unfortunately, the decision seemed to have backfired judging by the team’s lack of creativity in the middle of the pitch.

Despite the current uninspiring form at Old Trafford, reports claimed that Solskjaer isn’t ready to change his mind and he won’t be competing with Real Madrid for the Ajax youngster when the winter transaction period commences in January.

Real Madrid are now tipped as the possible destination for the Dutchman who helped Ajax to a semifinal spot in last season’s Champions League competition.

The Los Blancos are told to offer an increased price of £100m by the Eredivisie side if they must lure the young midfielder to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

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Europa League: Young Nigerian Attacker Stars In Emphatic Arsenal Win

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Bukayo Saka

Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka was the star of the show as the Gunner got their Europa League campaign off to an excellent start.

The Nigerian attacker inspired Arsenal to a 3-0 win over hosts Eintracht Frankfurt FC of Germany in their opening game in Group F.

Arsenal were beaten finalists from last year in the Europa League, while Eintracht Frankfurt reached the semifinals of the competition.

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The Gunners were able to navigate a tricky away fixture against Eintracht Frankfurt buoyed by the brilliance of Bukayo Saka who was making his first start for Arsenal this season.

He was part of an Arsenal front three including leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Emile Smith-Rowe.

Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez made some saves to keep the scoreline at goalless before young midfielder Joe Willock gave the Gunners the lead with seven first half minutes to go off an assist from Bukayo Saka.

The Gunners also had Emiliano Martinez to thank for keeping the hosts at bay with some commanding goalkeeping.

Bukayo Saka then went from provider to goalscorer in the final ten minutes of the game shortly after Eintracht Frankfurt had been reduced to ten men.

Midfielder Dominik Kohr was sent off for two yellow cards.

Saka scored the second goal off an assist from summer signing and second half substitute Nicholas Pepe before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wrapped up the victory off another assist from the impressive Bukayo Saka.

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£46m Man Utd Bid Rejected For Ajax Attacker

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Premier League giants Manchester United have had a big bid turned down for Ajax Amsterdam attacker David Neres according to the newest reports in the media.

David Neres has been attracting the interest of a lot of sides on the European football scene after his impressive performances for Dutch Eredivisie giants Ajax Amsterdam last season.

According to the specific publication from Yahoo Sports Brazil, Manchester United made a £46m bid for David Neres and it was immediately turned down with Ajax holding out for €70m (£64m) for him.

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David Neres was said to be close to a contract extension at Ajax until the interest from Manchester United surfaced.

David Neres had previously been linked with other Premier League teams like Everton, Arsenal and Chelsea.

The Brazilian international was a key member of the Ajax Amsterdam team that reached the semifinals of the Champions League before they were beaten by Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur over two legs.

Apart from their Champions League heroics, David Neres and Ajax Amsterdam also won two major trophies namely the Dutch Eredivisie title and the Dutch Cup title.

David Neres was part of the Brazilian squad that won the just concluded COPA America tournament on home soil.

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Man Utd Target Close To Finalising Deal, Medical Set For This Week

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Ajax Amsterdam defender Matthijs De Ligt is reportedly closing in on his much publicised move to Italian Serie A champions Juventus.

According to the publication from the stables of Italian transfer news portal La Gazzetta dello Sport, De Ligt will join Juventus after Ajax agreed on an initial transfer fee of £63m for him plus add-ons and bonuses.

De Ligt has been penciled in for a medical this week as per the aforementioned report.

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The 19-year-old was thought to be on his way to Spanish champions Barcelona but the Catalans were unable to agree to personal terms with the player.

Juventus made the right offer in his eyes and that explains why the Italians will secure his transfer ahead of other clubs like Manchester United, Paris Saint Germain (PSG) and Liverpool.

His Juventus contract will have a release clause of £135m which is more than 200% of what the likes of PSG and Manchester United could have paid for him this summer.

De Ligt is regarded as one of the best teenagers in world football after his impressive outings for Ajax Amsterdam since he broke into the team two years ago.

He is also the youngest skipper in the club’s history at the age of 18.

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