Arsenal and Manchester United have been leading the way when it comes to the Europa League. And they will want to keep things this way as they are punching below their weight in their domestic league.
The Reds, who slumped to their fourth league defeat of the season with a 1-0 loss at Bournemouth on the weekend, are currently only 10th in the Premier League with 13 points from 11 matches – 18 points behind run-away leaders Liverpool.
Although slightly better, the Gunners are also not having the domestic season their fans are hoping for. They have four points more than United and are fifth, but six points adrift of the fourth-placed Chelsea.
In the Europa League, both clubs are looking strong and seem well en route to the knock-out stage.
Arsenal have an unblemished record in Group F, ahead of their away trip to Vitória de Guimarães. They have a three point advantage over Eintracht Frankfurt, who are away to Standard Liège in the other group game on Thursday.
United, meanwhile, top group L followed by Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. Partizan Belgrade, who visit Old Trafford on Thursday, sit third.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s team have yet to concede in the Europa League, but have also only managed two goals – one in a 1-0 win in their opening game against Astana and the other in the 1-0 victory in Belgrade on the last match-day.
Pressure on Solskjær will only have been increased by the defeat against Bournemouth and the Norwegian will be keen to ensure that United qualify for the next round as early as possible.
But with French international Paul Pogba out injured, the coach is running out of options to play upfront.
In Germany, Bayern Munich will be in a tough position when facing Borussia Dortmund for this saturday’s Bundesliga Klassiker.
It will be for the defending champions the best possible opportunity to bounce back at home from the humiliating 5-1 defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt on the weekend.
But a day after the defeat in Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac was fired. His assistant Hansi Flick was given the job on an interim basis.
The former Bayern midfielder’s task will not have been made any easier as three centre-backs have been ruled out. Jerome Boateng, Germany international Niklas Süle and Bayern’s most expensive-ever signing, Lucas Hernandez, will all be missing.
Their opponent Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, go into the match buoyed by a 3-0 league victory against the only previously unbeaten team in the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg.
That victory occurred just a few days after Dortmund came from behind to beat the log leaders Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1 in a cup match.
A victory for the home side would see Bayern move ahead of Dortmund, who currently are second in the Bundesliga three points behind Mönchengladbach, while Bayern are fourth, a further point behind.
History clearly favours Bayern, who have won the last five Klassiker at home, scoring an astonishing 22 goals and conceding just three.
Football fans throughout Africa will be able to see if history repeats itself or if Dortmund will be able to have the upper-hand on Munich as Der Klassiker, as well as Europa League matches, will be shown live and exclusive on the StarTimes football channels.
Peter Auf der Heyde
Peter Auf der Heyde is an award-winning football journalist and author, who covers the big European leagues. As a South African by birth, he is particularly interested in the African connection within European football and has covered 12 consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments live. Formerly head of sport at the English service of the German Press Association, he is one of the leading Bundesliga experts.
Auf der Heyde played professionally for Bosmont Chelsea in the South African top flight and now spends his time migrating between South Africa, Germany and the UK.