Five CL Matches To Tickle Your Fancy

Matt Stanger picks five of this week's most intriguing Champions League clashes. Can City overcome the challenge of Bayern Munich? Will United bounce back?

Last Updated: 01/10/13 at 09:11 Post Comment

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Arsenal v Napoli
First in the Premier League meets second in Serie A as Arsenal play host to in-form Napoli on Tuesday. The Gunners are flying at the moment after five successive top-flight victories and Aaron Ramsey will be aiming to continue the blistering form that has seen him notch eight goals in his last eight matches. Napoli will provide tough opposition, though, after winning five of their first six fixtures in Serie A with just a solitary slip-up at home to Sassuolo. It was a shock to see the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Marek Hamsik fail to shoot down a team that lost 7-0 at home to Internazionale in the previous fixture, and that 1-1 draw should give Arsenal encouragement ahead of Tuesday. Napoli did bounce back with a 2-0 win over Genoa at the weekend, however, as Higuain and Hamsik were rested for the trip to the Emirates. With those two back in Benitez's starting line-up, Laurent Koscielny can ill afford to have one of his brainfades in this crucial Group F clash.


Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester United
Although the sales of Willian, Fernandinho and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have weakened Shakhtar over the last nine months, they proved their quality once again with a 2-0 win at Real Sociedad in their Group A opener. Attacking midfielder Alex Teixeira shone at the Anoeta with two well-taken goals and Manchester United will need to mark the Brazilian closely on Wednesday. The big question for David Moyes is who to start in defence after Rio Ferdinand's poor displays in the defeats to West Brom and Manchester City. Nemanja Vidic is expected to return, but perhaps it would be best for Moyes to partner the captain with Jonny Evans, who was the champions' most consistent performer in defence last season. United's squad will also be looking to prove their manager wrong after he dismissed his team's Champions League hopes and a win in Ukraine would go a long way in helping to secure top spot in the group.


Porto v Atletico Madrid
Porto are flying again at the top of the Primeira Liga, winning five and drawing one of their first six matches. Last season's top scorer Jackson Martinez has scored five in five so far, while his compatriot Juan Quintero, who was the star of the Under-20 World Cup in the summer, was given a brief first taste of Champions League football in the 1-0 win over Austria Vienna. Porto should find it tough going against Atletico, however, with the Spanish side winning all of their first seven matches in La Liga and defeating Real Madrid in the derby on Saturday. Diego Costa grabbed the winning goal in a 1-0 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu and Porto will be wary of the Brazilian on Tuesday after he seamlessly stepped into Falcao's shoes with eight goals so far this season.


Ajax v AC Milan
A match that brings back memories of the 1995 final when a brilliant Ajax side defeated Milan 1-0 thanks to Patrick Kluivert's late strike. Both teams are a far cry from the quality on show that night and both have lost two games so far this season in a mixed start. Ajax will be hoping to achieve where PSV failed in the play-off, though, in beating a Milan side boosted by Mario Balotelli's return after he was suspended for the weekend win over Sampdoria. The Eredivisie champions are still adjusting to life without Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld (and Ryan Babel, of course), and will be looking to captain Siem de Jong to provide the driving force against Milan. The 24-year-old scored three times against Manchester City in the group stage last year and has already netted three times in the league in the new campaign.


Manchester City v Bayern Munich
If City have any hopes of topping Group D they will need to beat Bayern at home on Wednesday, but their opponents in 2011/12 are strong contenders to retain their title and travel to the Etihad on the back of five straight victories. After a slightly shaky start under Pep Guardiola, the German treble winners have scored 14 goals and conceded only once in their last five matches. They possess incredible quality throughout the first-team squad and embarrassed Barcelona with a 7-0 aggregate victory in last year's semi-final. Yaya Toure and Fernandinho offer City hope that they can win the midfield battle, however, and much depends on Sergio Aguero making a full recovery from a knock that ruled him out of Saturday's defeat to Aston Villa.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

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