The Champions Cup is back and we are all primed and ready for a fortnight of action packed thrills and spills. On the face of it Pool Three looks to be one of the more straightforward groups in the competition. Saracens are two from two and sitting top. Glasgow and Cardiff have both won one game and are in second are third respectively. Whilst some peoples’ pre-tournament dark horses Lyon sitting bottom without a single point.
Here at Last Word on Rugby we will be previewing the next two rounds of Champions Cup action. Analysing the chances of all teams and how we see this pool panning out. Back to back fixtures always causes intrigue and excitement so expect nothing different over the next fortnight.
Are Lyon Easy Pickings?
Big spending Lyon were primed to make and impact on this seasons Champions cup. However they have failed to turn their big name signings into performances and results. With no points from two games it is almost a mathematical certainty that they will not qualify. Glasgow will be looking at their two games against the French side with glee.
Lyon are sitting in fourth place in the Top 14 and it must be difficult for them to prioritise the Champions Cup. However with the first of the two games being at home this at least gives Lyon a chance to play for pride in front of their fans. Therefore Glasgow may not have it all their own way. Despite this should Lyon go behind early in this game we could see the side capitulate and Glasgow run away with proceedings.
This then makes the next two weekends a very interesting proposition for Glasgow. Should they pick up two wins they could be in prime position to qualify for the quarter finals. They may not need to worry about Saracens as they should have enough to go through in second place.
Cardiff – The Welsh Dark Horses
Before the competition very few people gave Cardiff much of a chance in their pool. However after an impressive win over Lyon has given coach John Mulvihill hope of qualification. It is still realistically a long shot for Cardiff as they face English Champions back to back in rounds three and four.
Cardiff have been on a tough run of form with defeats to Ulster and the Cheetahs in the last month. This is not the ideal preparation for matches against Saracens. However the Blues are known as a very difficult side to play against so Saracens may not have it all their own way.
Is it Saracens to Lose?
As one of the pre-tournament favourites, qualification was a minimum expectation for Saracens. They have started well and return to the Champions Cup unbeaten in the Premiership. Therefore it is difficult to look past Saracens over the next couple of weeks.
However Saracens are still battling a number of injuries with both the Vunipolas still out along with Schalk Burger who is nursing a hand injury. We have seen Saracens squad stretched to its thinnest point over the past few weeks. So will we see this pressure takes it toll during the Champions Cup.
Overall it is very difficult to look past Saracens and it is definitely their pool to lose. At their best Saracens will win this weekend but if they are slightly off their game Cardiff could really spring an upset against the former European Champions.
This pool could really split into two halves after these rounds of games. Given the poor form of Lyon in the competition and Saracens’ prowess, Glasgow and the north London side could be well clear of their rivals after round four reaches it conclusion. However we should not totally write off Cardiff and Lyon as they have both shown that they can put in big performances when needed. We should keep a close eye on this pool as it is not quite done and dusted yet.
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