United, Juve, out for European boost
22 October 2013, 11:05
Manchester - Both Manchester United and Juventus will be looking to get some succour
from Europe after disappointing results in their domestic leagues at the
weekend while Welsh star Gareth Bale could make only his second start
of the season for Real Madrid after a succession of niggling injuries:
Bayer Leverkusen (GER) v Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
Leverkusen limbered up for this match in controversial fashion, beating
Hoffenheim 2-1 courtesy of a 'phantom' goal - Stefan Kiessling heading
the winner via a hole in the side netting.
While the Bundesliga powers that be mull over what to do about the
result Leverkusen are lying third, one point behind Bayern Munich, their
best ever domestic start.
Rolled over by Manchester United in their Group A opener the Germans got
their European bid up and running at the second attempt, against Real
Shakhtar, second only on goal difference to United, will be keen to
dispel memories of last season's trip to Germany when the wheels came
off their campaign with a 3-0 last 16 loss at Borussia Dortmund.
The Ukrainian champions, appearing at the group stage for the fourth
successive season, have begun brightly with a win over Real Sociedad and
a draw against United.
Manchester United (ENG) v Real Sociedad (ESP)
United may be enduring a torrid start to the Premier League, the weekend
draw with Southampton leaving the titleholders in unusual territory
-eighth place and their worst start in 24 years. Europe has proved more
forgiving, with David Moyes' side topping Group A on goal difference
after the Leverkusen win and Shakhtar stalemate.
Pointless Real need to leave Old Trafford with something if they are to
inject some life into their first CL campaign in a decade. Whatever
happens the outcome is unlikely to be as harsh as their only previous
visit to England, when they crashed 6-0 at Liverpool in the 1975/76 Uefa
They received a welcome boost for this first ever meeting between the
two teams with a 2-1 win over Valencia in La Liga at the weekend.
Real Madrid (ESP) v Juventus (ITA)
Real Madrid are sailing regally to the knockout stages, the Spaniards'
topping Group B after crushing defeats of FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray.
Real could field Gareth Bale, who returned to action after minor
injuries as a late substitute in Saturday's 2-0 win over Malaga which
left Carlo Ancelotti's men in third. Juve's visit precedes the first 'el
clasico' of the season with a trip to Barcelona looming at the weekend.
Xabi Alonso, sidelined since fracturing a foot in August, is full
recovered but unlikely to be thrust straight back into the fray.
With two draws Juve are waiting for their first win, and hardly had the
best preparations for the trip to the Bernabeu a 4-2 loss, their first
of the season, to Fiorentina. Coach Antonio Conte spoke about "a massive
test', adding: "Madrid are arguably one of the most ambitious teams.
We're facing a club that really want this title, because of their
history and their hunt for a tenth European Cup."
Galatasaray (TUR) FC Copenhagen (DEN)
Both teams, with one point apiece, are out to bag their first wins in
Istanbul. Galatasaray picked themselves up from an opening drubbing by
Real to share the spoils with Juventus. Having made it into the knockout
stages last season they need to get moving if they are to have any hope
of repeating that feat this time against Danish champions Copenhagen.
Anderlecht (BEL) v Paris Saint Germain (FRA)
Paris Saint Germain should be anticipating a third successive win in
three Champions League games as they face an Anderlecht side devoid of
confidence and pointless. Ligue 1 leaders after trouncing Bastia at the
weekend PSG will be without defender Christophe Jallet, Javier Pastore
and Thiago Silva, all injured but such are the riches at coach Laurent
Blanc's disposal that their absences shouldn't matter. Anderlecht coach
John van den Brom sent out the youngest team in the club's history for
the 2-0 league win over Mons last Friday and could well do the same on
Wednesday where out of form skipper Guillaume Gillet is likely to start
on the bench.
Benfica (POR) v Olympiakos (GRE)
Both these sides will see the outcome of their two matches as pivotal as
to who finishes second and a place in the knockout phase. Both have one
win to their credit in the opening two games, over hapless Anderlecht.
Benfica will fancy their chances for this game as they have won their
last seven European home matches while Olympiakos have yet to beat
Portuguese opposition away and have not managed a goal in five trips to
Portugal. Olympiakos have been in imperious form in their own league,
winning seven and drawing one of the matches, the latest a 4-1 away win
against Platanias on Saturday.
CSKA Moscow (RUS) v Manchester City (ENG)
Both will fancy their chances of taking the runners up spot with Pilsen
pretty much out of the running and while City have a woeful away record
losing five of their six Champions League away games in the past two
campaigns they have a chance of recording their second successive away
win this season as CSKA have a poor home record, taking just three
points from a possible nine in their last appearance in the CL in
2011/12. City warmed up with a psychological boosting first away win in
the Premier League on Saturday, 3-1 at West Ham with Sergio Aguero key
to the victory. City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes he now has the
squad strength to make an impact both domestically and on the continent.
CSKA by contrast are now winless and goalless in their last five
domestic matches and without playmaker Alan Dzagoev, who is injured.
Bayern Munich (GER) v Viktoria Pilsen (CZE)
Holders Bayern should have little trouble in making it nine points from
three games against pointless Pilsen although coach Pep Guardiola wants
to see a marked improvement in their first-half displays which have been
generally lethargic all season. The hosts, though, will be missing
Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri and Brazilian defender Dante, who are
both injured, while Guardiola will hope that resting French star Franck
Ribery at the weekend has allowed him to recover fully from a sore
ankle. Pilsen may be struggling to make an impression on the Champions
League but they said on Monday they had won an important battle to
retain the services of their coach Pavel Vrba, who has guided them to
two titles since arriving in 2008. However, they are presently trailing
leaders Sparta Prague by six points and have just one win from their
last four games.