Holders Inter Milan are one of six teams, along with Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Real Madrid, who know that victory in the fourth round of UEFA Champions League group games will secure their place in the last 16.
With the calendar reversing all the fixtures from last time out, memories of those previous engagements will be fresh in the mind. Meanwhile, former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez will be returning to a Premier League ground to take on Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho will be back in Milan.
Matchday 4 fixtures
Tuesday 2 November
Group A: Tottenham Hotspur-Inter Milan, Werder Bremen-Twente
Group B: Hapoel Tel-Aviv-Schalke, Benfica-Lyon
Group C: Valencia-Rangers, Bursaspor-Manchester United
Group D: Rubin Kazan-Panathinaikos, Copenhagen-Barcelona
Wednesday 3 November
Group E: Basel-Roma, Cluj-Bayern Munich
Group F: Chelsea-Spartak Moscow, Zilina-Marseille
Group G: Auxerre-Ajax, AC Milan-Real Madrid
Group H: Partizan Belgrade-Braga, Shakhtar Donetsk-Arsenal
Match of the day
AC Milan-Real Madrid, Group G, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, 20.45
Beaten 2-1 at home by Juventus on Saturday, AC Milan could hardly have prepared in worse fashion for this top-of-the-table showdown. The hosts can ill-afford another slip-up either, after losing 2-0 at the Bernabeu last time out in a game in which they were easily outplayed for a punishing 20-minute period. The seven-time winners have now dropped five points overall and find themselves under serious pressure from Ajax, and coach Massimiliano Allegri still shows no signs of having found the best way to use his Brazilian trio Robinho, Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic. That problem is all the more pressing considering that Real Madrid have yet to concede a single goal so far and will be under little obligation to attack. Buoyed by winning their first three outings, Los Merengues will be able to let their opponents come at them and allow livewire attacker Cristiano Ronaldo to wreak havoc on the break. However, Real have never triumphed away to I Rossoneri, having suffered five defeats and drawn once in six visits.
The other matches
Reigning European champions Inter can expect a serious test at White Hart Lane as Tottenham set out to consolidate second spot in Group A. Belief was running through the London club’s ranks following Gareth Bale’s late hat-trick during their 4-3 reverse in Italy, but confidence has no doubt taken a hit since Saturday’s 2-0 setback at Manchester United. Meanwhile, Nerazzurri coach Benitez will remind his troops that they were cruising at 4-0 before Bale left his mark, and he will be hoping for more of the same from in-form Samuel Eto’o, who heads the competition's scoring chart with six goals, as well as the assists' table with three. Elsewhere in the section, Werder Bremen will be without midfielder Tim Borowski when they welcome Twente. The Bundesliga outfit fell 3-2 to Nuremburg at the weekend but nothing short of victory will do against the Dutch champions if they are to keep their qualification dreams alive.
At ease in Europe, where they have won all three of their Group B meetings, Lyon have proved a lot shakier on the Ligue 1 stage. They went some way to bridging that gap by seeing off Sochaux 2-1 on Saturday and coach Claude Puel was even able to rotate his squad, with one eye on the awkward trip to Lisbon, where Benfica have minimal room for error after suffering a pair of defeats. As for Schalke, beaten 1-0 at home by Bayer Leverkusen, the Champions League could be their only means of saving their season, but they will need to prevail away to a Hapoel Tel-Aviv side finding life tough at this level.
In Group C, the mission for Manchester United will be to launch themselves further clear of the pack away against Turkish champions Bursaspor, the only club yet to register a single goal. The Red Devils' closest rivals Valencia and Rangers will be otherwise occupied in Spain, with the Scottish side poised for an exacting encounter after they could only draw 1-1 at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle on domestic duty.
Barcelona will be contesting their 150th match in Europe’s most prestigious club competition (82 wins, 40 draws and 27 defeats) and they would surely have preferred an easier challenge to bring up the milestone. Hosts Copenhagen posed the Catalan giants plenty of problems two weeks ago before a pair of Lionel Messi efforts decided the outcome, and the Danish champions have scored at least one goal in each of their last 16 European home fixtures. Josep Guardiola’s charges will therefore be hoping they can rediscover the fluidity they displayed last term and in Saturday’s 5-0 defeat of Sevilla. In Group D’s other contest, Rubin Kazan entertain Panathinaikos in what could well be the match that decides who advances to the UEFA Europa League.
Still experiencing troubles both on and off the pitch, Group E strugglers Roma succumbed 3-1 at home to Basel last time out and need to avoid a repeat. Bayern Munich are the hot favourites to graduate from the pool and will be anxious to continue their forward march at Cluj, despite the absence of Miroslav Klose, Mark van Bommel, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Breno.
In Group F, Chelsea renew acquaintances with the Spartak Moscow side they saw off 2-0 in the Russian capital, meaning they will be confident of claiming a fourth successive win that could play into the hands of Marseille. The French club travel to Slovakia to take on Zilina, who have lost all three of their encounters.
While Milan and Real cross swords in Group G, Ajax will be out to secure at least a draw at Auxerre. Matches between the two sides have tended to be tight affairs down the years, with Ajax posting four wins and Auxerre enjoying three.
In Group H, Arsenal and their prolific forwards will be in the Ukraine, where Shakhtar Donetsk will want at least a draw to strengthen their hold on second spot. Shakhtar’s nearest rivals Braga will do their best to keep up the pressure away to Partizan.
Player to watch
Scorer of Tottenham’s last four goals at this level, Gareth Bale struck a magnificent hat-trick at Inter Milan last time out. Still only 21, the bright young hope of Welsh football has already made 27 outings for his country, scoring three times, and can operate in any position on the left flank. Many eyes will be on him again as he comes back up against veteran Javier Zanetti, not a player who usually appreciates being shown up by feisty youngsters.
4.67 – The average number of goals Arsenal have registered per game so far. Having plundered 14 in three outings, they lead the way ahead of champions Inter (ten), Tottenham (nine), and Barcelona and Chelsea (both eight).
What they said
"Since Mourinho has arrived, several things have changed: discipline, aggression, our style of play and the fact that we’re all working together towards the same goal,” Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid attacker.
Have your say
Will AC Milan exact their revenge on Real Madrid? Which teams will pull off upsets? Which players will steal the Champions League headlines in midweek?