UEFA Champions League

Glamour ties aplenty as winners meet

Napoli's Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain (L) vies with Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny

Matchday 2 of the group phase of the UEFA Champions League promises to be a thrilling one, featuring no fewer than six matches between teams who won their opening games. Topping the bill are Benfica’s visit to Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City’s home game with Bayern Munich and Napoli’s trip to Arsenal.

Two sides with work to do after slipping up on Matchday 1 are 2012 champions Chelsea and last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund. After slumping at home to Basel the Londoners will be intent on taking something from their trip to Bucharest, while Jurgen Klopp’s men need to bounce back fast from their reverse at Napoli. 

Match of the dayArsenal-Napoli, Group F, Emirates Stadium, London, Tuesday 1 October, 20:45

Though dark horses for the European title, these two sides have made fast starts to the season, winning their opening group matches and installing themselves at the top of their respective league championships, albeit briefly in the case of Napoli, who now lie second to Roma. Sticking to the same transfer policy they have pursued for the last few seasons, Arsenal have added no one else but Mesut Ozil to their squad. The German has slotted in straightaway in North London and his polished passing has helped the Gunners take a two-point lead in the Premier League. The Italians, meanwhile, have shown that there is life after Edinson Cavani, with Gonzalo Higuain having already earned his place in the hearts of the fans, Marek Hamsik taking over at the team’s figurehead, and Goran Pandev – the scorer of a match-winning brace against Genoa at the weekend – proving just as dangerous as ever when he drops into space. The two sides have never met in the competition, though Napoli coach Rafael Benitez has tasted victory over Arsenal before, guiding Liverpool to a 5-3 aggregate win in the 2007/08 quarter-finals.

*The other matches *

Tuesday 1 October
Group E*
Basel-Schalke 04
Steaua Bucharest-Chelsea

Surprise winners at Chelsea on Matchday One, the Swiss face a stern test at home to a Schalke side that also have their sights set on a Round-of-16 place. Basel remain on top in the championship despite a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Sion at the weekend, while their German rivals relinquished a 2-0 lead in drawing 3-3 with Hoffenheim, a result that leaves them in the bottom half of the Bundesliga. For their part Chelsea have yet to hit their stride in Jose Mourinho’s second coming. A little off the pace in the league, the Blues* *continue to rely on their old guard and will be hoping for a better result than they managed away to Steaua in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League Round of 16 tie last season, which ended in a 1-0 defeat.

Group F
Borussia Dortmund-Marseille

Despite losing to Napoli in their first outing in the section, Dortmund continue to lead the way in the Bundesliga and overpowered Freiburg 5-0 on Saturday, with both Marco Reus and Robert Lewandoski getting on the scoresheet twice. After going down at home to Arsenal, l'OM can ill afford to come away from the BVB Stadion empty-handed. 

*Group G
*Zenit Saint-Petersburg-Austria Vienna (18:00)
* *FC Porto-Atletico Madrid

Not for the first time Porto are showing their ability to maintain a strong challenge in Europe despite the departure of some key players. They face a formidable challenge this week against a combative Atletico side transformed by Diego Simeone. In-form striker Diego Costa has more than made up for the loss of Radamel Falcao and continued his purple patch by scoring the only goal of Saturday’s derby against Real Madrid, a win that maintained Atleti’s perfect start to the domestic campaign.

Group H
Ajax-AC Milan

Barcelona have matched Simeone’s side by also posting seven wins out of seven, their best ever Liga start. On the downside Lionel Messi has picked up yet another injury to his right thigh and will miss the trip to Celtic Park, where Barça went down 2-1 last season. Hit by a spate of injuries and Mario Balotelli’s league suspension, Milan will be banking on their experience when they visit Amsterdam, where they have not lost since 1994.

Wednesday 2 October

Group A
Shakhtar Donetsk-Manchester United
Bayer Leverkusen-Real Sociedad

Defeated three times in six matches, Manchester United have made their worse start to a league season in 24 years and find themselves in an unfamiliar 12th place in the Premier League. After watching a reshuffled line-up go down 2-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, United boss David Moyes said he was “concerned” about his side, who now face a tricky trip to Donetsk, where no English team has ever won. 

Group B
Real Madrid-Copenhagen

In the wake of their derby defeat to Atletico, Cristiano Ronaldo said only the players were to blame, and coach Carlo Ancelotti will be keen for them to get straight back on track when Copenhagen visit the Bernabeu. Over at the Juventus Stadium, meanwhile, Roberto Mancini will make his debut in the Gala dugout following Fatih Terim’s sacking last week.  

Group C
Paris Saint-Germain-Benfica

Unbeaten in their last nine games in the Champions League, having won six of them, PSG impressed in Piraeus on Matchday One and will be aiming to produce another powerful display against their main rivals in the group.

Group D
CSKA Moscow-Viktoria Plzen (18:00)
Manchester City-Bayern Munich

Bayern face their first major European test under Pep Guardiola. Though City have yet to progress beyond the group phase, they are unbeaten in their last 20 home games. Manuel Pellegrini’s men are blowing hot and cold this season, however, hammering city rivals United 4-1 before going down 3-2 at Aston Villa on Saturday. Meanwhile, torrential rain has forced CSKA Moscow to switch their game with Viktoria Plzen to Zenit Saint-Petersburg’s home ground.

Player to watch
Turkish international Arda Turan has come into his own as a playmaker at Atletico Madrid and has just extended his contract with the club to 2017, having joined Los Colchoneros two years ago. Prior to moving to the Spanish capital he was voted the Turkish league’s player of the season three times and became Galatasaray youngest ever captain at the age of 22. Since bursting onto the scene at UEFA EURO 2008, Arda has developed into the archetypal midfield linchpin, a role he also performs with distinction for his country, for whom he has made 64 appearances and scored 12 goals.

The stat
0 -The number of times Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini got the better of Pep Guardiola in their various meetings in La Liga. The Chilean took on Guardiola’s Barça on several occasions during his spells in charge at Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga without ever managing to record a win.

What they said
“People say we want to change our style but that’s not true. We're just looking for different solutions,” Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino.* *

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