Bayern Munich begin the defense of their UEFA Champions League crown with a home fixture against CSKA Moscow on Tuesday.Bayern made amends for their 2012 final defeat in Europe’s premier club competition – which they lost on penalties to Chelsea – with a 2-1 triumph last season against fellow Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.The Bavarian giants have made three of the last four Champions League finals and under new manager Pep Guardiola will attempt to be the first ever German side to retain their title.
CSKA will also enter the match in superb form, having won six of their first eight matches in the Russian Premier League, and drawing the other two.Leonid Slutsky’sside won the title last season and have won two Russian Cups in the last four seasons.They reached the last eight of the competition in the 2009-2010 season and also progressed from the group stages in the 2011-12 campaign.
Manchester City will aim to finally make a lasting impact on the UEFA Champions League when they open their campaign against Viktoria Plzen.City’s two previous ventures into Europe’s elite club competition saw them crash out in the group stages, as they finished third in their group in 2011-12 before ending the first round at the bottom of the table last season – largely thanks to their wretched away record that saw them fail to pick up a single point on the road.
For their part, Plzen head into the competition in superb form, having won all six of their qualifying matches.They also top their domestic league table after an unbeaten start consisting of six victories and two draws.Their only other group stage appearance came in 2011-12, when they finished a creditable third in a group containing Barcelona, Milan and BATEBorisov.They will also draw some confidence from their performance in last year’s UEFA Europa League, as they finished above Atletico Madrid in the first phase and dealt with Napoli before being knocked out by Fenerbahce 2-1 on aggregate in the last 16.
What to expect from the Matches
Bayern defeated Hannover 2-0 on Saturday to make it four Bundesliga wins from five matches this season, while they also won the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea last month.Bayern have several injury problems, with Thiago and Javi Martinez sidelined after undergoing ankle and groin injuries, while Gotze has not played since injuring his ankle in that Super Cup triumph.
Ahmed Musa and SeydouDoumbia have been in good scoring form this season while the likes of Keisuke Honda, Alan Dzagoev and ZoranTosic give them plenty of quality in midfield.CSKA defeated Rostov 1-0 on Saturday and will feel quietly confident but Bayern should have too much quality in front of their home fans.
City have boughtSevilla duo Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, with Fernandinho, StevanJovetic and Martin Demichelis also bolstering their side.That gives City a squad with plenty of flair and experience to call on as Pellegrini targets the European improvement that the club’s fans, and their owners, so
desperately crave.His side have hardly enjoyed ideal preparation for their first foray into Europe this season, after being held to a 0-0 draw by Stoke on Saturday.After resting several of his stars at the Britannia Stadium, Pellegrini is likely to return to a more familiar line-up against Plzen, with Sergio Aguero, Navas and Fernandinho all in line to play from the start. He could also be boosted by the return of captain Vincent Kompany, who has been battling a groin problem.
The hosts, who will likely look to top scorer in qualifying Marian Cisovsky to provide their goal threat, will undoubtedly start as underdogs.However, with City picking up just the one away win in six in the Champions League matches to date, coupled with the fact that Plzen have only failed to triumph in one of their previous 11 home matches in Europe, they will retain some hope of an upset.
Players to watch out for
Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich):The 21-year-old attacking midfielder was the defending champions’ €37m flagship signing this summer. He starred in Dortmund’s run to the final last season, and can light up the tournament again this year.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City):The Argentine has seen some of the goal-scoring burden taken off his shoulders following the arrival of Negredo, but he will have to step up in matches like these to make sure the Citizens do no repeat their performances from last season’s group stage.
Predicted Score lines &Starting line ups
Bayern Munich 3-0 CSKA Moscow
Viktoria Plzen 0-2 Manchester City