Manchester United will be without Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney when they seek to kick-start their UEFA Champions League campaign at in-form Group C rivals Valencia on Wednesday.
Welsh veteran Giggs, 36, has been ruled out after picking up a hamstring injury in United's 2-2 Premier League draw at Bolton Wanderers on Sunday. "It is a hamstring and I am afraid he will be out for a couple of weeks," said United coach Sir Alex Ferguson, after seeing his side register their third draw in three away league matches this season.
Rooney was also withdrawn early against Bolton and television cameras later showed him holding an ice pack against his ankle. The England international has struggled for form this season, scoring just one goal for United since the start of the campaign as rumours swirl in the tabloid press about his private life.
Ferguson had already been deprived of Antonio Valencia's services after the Ecuador winger sustained a serious ankle injury in the disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Rangers in United's opening group game. Owen Hargreaves (knee) and Michael Carrick (Achilles) are also missing.
Valencia assumed early control of Group C with a 4-0 thrashing of Turkish outfit Bursaspor and the trip to La Mestalla will be United's most challenging assignment of the group phase. Unai Emery's side lost Spanish internationals David Villa and David Silva in the summer, but after four wins from five matches they currently top the Spanish top flight.
"The players are grasping that the most important thing is the team and not the individuals and that is the key to the good start," said Emery after his side's 2-0 win at Sporting Gijon on Saturday.
Barcelona are a point behind Valencia in La Liga and the Catalan giants received an unexpected fillip on Monday when Lionel Messi was named in the squad for their Group D trip to Russians Rubin Kazan. The gifted Argentine forward, who scored 45 goals in all competitions last term, had been expected to be sidelined for longer after damaging ankle ligaments against Atletico Madrid on 19 September.
France international defender Eric Abidal has also been included in Pep Guardiola's 19-man squad, but utility player Adriano misses out with a torn thigh muscle. Barcelona, European champions for a third time in 2009, opened their campaign with a superb 5-1 thrashing of Panathinaikos. They will, however, be justly wary of Rubin, who pulled off a shock 2-1 win at Camp Nou in the group phase of last season's competition.
Defending champions Inter Milan host Werder Bremen in Group A, having slumped to the first league defeat of the Rafael Benitez era at the weekend. The Nerazzurri went down 1-0 at Roma in Serie A and are likely to be without last season's top scorer Diego Milito due to a thigh strain.
Bremen, meanwhile, must forego the services of influential trio Clemens Fritz, Torsten Frings and Claudio Pizarro, all of whom succumbed to injury in Saturday's 3-2 defeat of Hamburg in the Bundesliga. "This is a harsh blow to us, a huge loss of quality ahead of a difficult trip," said Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf. Inter kicked off the group with a 2-2 draw at competition debutants FC Twente and the Dutch side pursue their Champions League adventure with a visit to Tottenham.
In Group B, Lyon will look to put their abysmal domestic form behind them when they travel to Hapoel Tel Aviv. Claude Puel's side, Champions League semi-finalists last season, are 18th in Ligue 1 after losing at home to local rivals Saint-Etienne on Saturday. Schalke, who lost 1-0 at Lyon in their group opener, host Portuguese champions Benfica in the night's other Group B fixture.