Heavyweights hit the road
Most of the UEFA Champions League’s big hitters face away ties on Matchday 2 of this year’s competition, with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and Bayern Munich travelling to Benfica, Ajax, CFR Cluj, Nordsjaelland and BATE Borisov respectively.
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Match of the day
Benfica-Barcelona, Group G, Estadio do Sport, Lisbon, Tuesday 2 October 2012
Benfica’s clash with Barcelona carries particular significance, given that every time the two teams have met in the competition, the winner has gone on to lift the trophy. The Lisbon outfit started the trend in Berne in 1961, when they beat their Catalan opponents in the final under the guidance of Bela Guttmann.
The current Benfica side are looking for their first win in 30 years against Spanish opposition, and will no doubt look to target a Barça back-line that has leaked goals this season in the absence of Carles Puyol. The Catalans conceded two in their group opener against Spartak Moscow, and let in two more in their recent league game against Sevilla. Lionel Messi’s starting position will also be in the spotlight. In the recent meeting with Sevilla, in which Barça came from 2-0 down to win 3-2, the Argentinian dropped deep to give his central attacking role to David Villa, scorer of the winning goal.
The other matches
Tuesday 2 October 2012
Juventus, unbeaten in 45 Serie A matches, have enjoyed an exceptional start to the season. The Italians fought back from two goals down to draw with Chelsea in their opening group match, and recently claimed a crushing 4-1 victory over Roma in Serie A. They will, however, need to be on their guard against visiting Shakhtar and their Armenian striker, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who scored twice for the Ukrainians on Matchday 1. Reigning champions Chelsea, meanwhile, travel to Denmark to take on Nordsjaelland, who will be facing English opposition for the very first time.
BATE Borisov-Bayern Munich
Having claimed their maiden Champions League victory against Lille, BATE Borisov face another stern test against Bayern Munich, who are unbeaten at the top of the Bundesliga. Valencia and Lille, meanwhile, are struggling in eighth and 15th in their respective domestic leagues, and both sides desperately need a victory to kickstart their campaigns.
Spartak Moscow-Celtic (18.00 CET)
Spartak Moscow gave Barcelona an extremely uncomfortable time at the Camp Nou in their group opener, and they will be hoping for a similarly strong display at home to Celtic.
CFR Cluj-Manchester United
Manchester United will be looking to record their 100th victory against 91 different opponents when they travel to Romania to take on CFR Cluj, who were surprise victors over Braga in their group opener. Braga, for their part, need a positive result from their trip to Galatasaray if they are to keep their hopes of qualification from Group H alive.
Wednesday 3 October 2012
Dynamo Kyiv-Dinamo Zagreb
FC Porto-Paris Saint-Germain
The main event in Group A sees the two winners from Matchday 1 go head-to-head. FC Porto, unbeaten at home in the competition since losing to Chelsea in November 2009, host an ambitious Paris Saint-Germain side who are gradually finding their rhythm in Ligue 1, and for whom Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be looking to celebrate his 31st birthday in style.
Having secured away victories in their respective group openers, Schalke and Arsenal both have the chance to strengthen their footholds in the section. The Gunners, who are unbeaten at home in the Champions League since May 2009, when they lost 3-1 to Manchester United, face Olympiacos for the third time in four years. Arsene Wenger’s men will be hoping for a strong performance to erase the memory of their recent 2-1 home defeat by Chelsea in the Premier League. Schalke, with the in-form Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, start as favourites against French champions Montpellier, who have endured a difficult start to the new season.
Zenit St. Petersburg-AC Milan (18.00 CET)
Two of the competition’s supposed ‘minnows’ have every chance of causing a stir in Group C. Despite having parted company with their main sponsor, Malaga are enjoying a superb start to the season. The Spaniards, who won their opening group match convincingly, now face a tricky test away to Anderlecht, but will take hope from the Belgians’ first-round home record of seven defeats and two draws. AC Milan, meanwhile, have a new core of young talent, but are still in the process of rebuilding. They can expect a difficult away trip to Zenit St. Petersburg, with the Russians unbeaten at home since their 2-1 defeat by Real Madrid in September 2008.
Manchester City-Borussia Dortmund
In a section as tough as this, even the slightest slip-up at home could prove costly. While Real Madrid are finding their form and will be hopeful of a good result in Amsterdam, Borussia Dortmund face an altogether more difficult away trip to Manchester City, who are unbeaten at home in 17 Champions League games. City, however, will be wary of the threat of Marco Reus, who scored twice in Dortmund’s recent 5-0 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach.
Player to watch
Edin Dzeko, 26, has 25 goals in 47 international outings for Bosnia-Herzegovina, and is Roberto Mancini’s impact substitute of choice when Manchester City need a breakthrough. Indeed, Dzeko’s introduction from the bench usually sees City switch to all-out attack, and, since joining the English champions, he has become something of a specialist when it comes to scoring late in games. The forward beat his own record on Saturday by finding the net barely two minutes after coming off the bench against Fulham.
14 – The total number of UEFA Champions League games that Nordsjaelland’s players have appeared in. Their opposite numbers at Chelsea have played in 726 matches between them.
Have Your Say
Can CFR Cluj cause a huge upset against Manchester United?