UEFA Champions League matchday two concludes this evening, with UEFA.com's team of reporters at every venue bringing you the latest updates from across Europe.
All times CET.
Wednesday 19.45, UEFA.com newsdesk
The blog is closing now with the game in St Petersburg finishing and the other seven starting in an hour. You can continue to follow events as they happen before, during and after tonight's games in the UEFA.com MatchCentre. And join us from 13.00CET on Monday 17 October as we count down to matchday three.
Wednesday 19.15, UEFA.com newsdesk
You can have your say on the action and put yourself in line to win exclusive tickets in our Player Rater feature. Then tomorrow stand by for our Ups and Downs poll with even more great prizes.
Wednesday 18.41, Ian Holyman at BayArena
EURO '96 winner Matthias Sammer, now German Football Association (DFB) technical director, is taking in the Zenit-Porto match being shown here inside the stadium. Leverkusen would dearly love someone of Sammer's calibre in their side today – a real class act.
Wednesday 18.00, UEFA.com newsdesk
Zenit against Porto has started in Russia, follow the game in the UEFA.com Matchcentre. The other seven fixtures begin at 20.45.
Wednesday 17.47, Richard Aikman at San Siro
With five matches remaining until the end of the group stage there is still a long way to go, especially if you are Viktoria Plzeň's coach driver. John has driven more than 1,000km to pick the players up from the airport and ferry them the 2km between their hotel and the stadium, but he doesn't seem to mind.
"I've been doing this job for seven years and this is the first time we have come so far," he says, referring to the competition rather than the road miles. "It's fantastic. I think there are 4,000 Plzeň supporters here today, including me, and even the players are excited."
The players, though, didn't have to drive a coach across the Alps for ten hours and you can't help but wonder whether John will be as enthusiastic after his next Hannibalesque assignment: Barcelona in three weeks' time.
Wednesday 17.42, Ian Holyman at BayArena
This is fantastic! I step out of my hotel room and I can almost see the pitch. I'm actually staying inside the stadium where the finishing touches are being made for tonight's game. It's a shirtsleeves evening in western Germany where the local fans will be hoping the result is as agreeable as the weather after three straight defeats for their side in all competitions.
Wednesday 17.15, Viktor Sharafudinov at Donbass Arena
On a warm evening throughout Europe it is certainly hot in Donetsk and fans are enjoying the weather as they gather around the Donbass Arena. About 48,000 are expected in all, with 700 of those supporting APOEL as they aim to continue their good start at Shakhtar.
Wednesday 17.05, UEFA.com newsdesk
Juan Mata's swift return to his old club Valencia with new paymasters Chelsea is among tonight's highlights and UEFA.com spoke to the Spain striker's former coach Unai Emery and current manager André Villas-Boas about his qualities.
Wednesday 16.35, Richard Aikman at San Siro
One of the officials I spoke to who was at the stadium yesterday was annoyed at Viktoria Plzeň's behaviour. "They stayed here so late training last night that I missed the Inter game," said Giuseppe.
The visitors' lack of consideration for Beppe's evening's entertainment suggests how painstakingly they have prepared for this match. The Czech champions wanted to test the pitch conditions at the exact same time they will be playing tonight - a routine that has served them well considering they have won at FC Pyunik (4-0), Rosenborg BK (1-0) and FC København (3-1) so far this season.
Of course there is a world of difference between qualifying matches and the real thing but the players are enjoying their moment in the sun, much like their supporters, some of whom have gathered outside the team hotel to urge on their heroes as they step onto their gleaming black coach. Either that or they are here to catch a glimpse of some of the models appearing in Milan Fashion Week.
Wednesday 16.15, UEFA.com newsdesk
Our new-look MatchCentre goes live in two hours ahead of the early kick-off between Zenit and Porto. Features includeupdates, stats and an attack indicator while our MatchCentre editors will supply expert commentary, context and colour throughout.
Still with live commentary and instant updates from all the venues, our new application has been further enriched by polls, photos and videos. As well as being able to join the discussion in our MatchCentre chat before, during and after games, you can also have your say via Facebook and Twitter.
Wednesday 16.01, Trevor Huggins en route to Arsenal Stadium
The sunnier outlook is not just confined to the skies over north London. Arsenal's form has improved since their last UEFA Champions League outing, albeit with the victories being registered against fourth-tier opponents Shrewsbury Town FC, in the League Cup, and ten-man Bolton Wanderers FC in the Premier League.
A good result tonight would provide Arsène Wenger's side with a valuable lift ahead of what promises to be a torrid north London derby at Tottenham Hotspur FC on Sunday.
Ernesto Valverde's decision to rest midfielder Ariel Ibagaza and Marko Pantelić for Saturday's game at Ergotelis FC was vindicated by a 3-2 victory which leaves two key Olympiacos players ready for battle at Arsenal Stadium.
Wednesday 15.45, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Poor Gerard Piqué was the victim of team-mate Cesc Fàbregas's antics on board Barcelona's flight to Minsk yesterday. The recent acquisition from Arsenal caught the Spain centre-back dozing on board and began tickling his lips with a rolled up piece of paper much to onlooker Carles Puyol's amusement. What's worse, Fàbregas subsequently put an image capturing the incident up on his twitter page but has subsequently removed it, perhaps after some persuasion from the 1.92m tall Piqué.
The serious business begins this evening for Josep Guardiola's men who face an BATE Borisov side who have gone 16 games unbeaten at home in all competitions since their season began in April. Viktor Goncharenko's team opened their Group H account with a 1-1 draw away to FC Viktoria Plzeň and are seeking their first ever home victory in the UEFA Champions League.
Wednesday 15.30, UEFA.com newsdesk
Alongside today's eight group games, the UEFA Women's Champions League has got into full swing this week with the first legs of the round of 32, when the top seeds enter. Hoping to continue a happy week for their club, Lyon's female side have just begun their title defence away to Romania's CFF Olimpia Cluj, one of today's ten fixtures. Follow the scores live.
Wednesday 15.25, Matthew Spiro in Marseille
Marseille is a truly wonderful place to visit in September; the heat is not quite as stifling as during the summer months – it is about 28C today without a cloud in the sky – and the breeze coming in from the Mediterranean makes the Vieux Port a lovely spot for an afternoon coffee.
Didier Deschamps will certainly be appreciating the cooler temperatures. The Marseille boss was asked yesterday whether the return of the UEFA Champions League offers his side a chance to "breathe a little" away from the troubles of their Ligue 1 campaign. "Why? Are we on oxygen?" was quick-witted Deschamps' response. OM's domestic health may not yet be critical but conceding a late equaliser to Valenciennes FC on Saturday has left them a lowly 13th.
They are fighting fit in the Europe, though, having already won away to Olympiacos, and can take a big step towards the last 16 by taking maximum plunder from their next two matches at home to Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal. The trouble is the tourists aren't the only ones who enjoy visiting the Phocéen city in September. In the last two seasons, AC Milan and FC Spartak Moskva have both prevailed at the Stade Vélodrome around this time of year. Should the German champions continue that trend tonight, Deschamps may be calling for the oxygen mask after all.
Wednesday 15.07, UEFA.com newsdesk
Staying with the same game, we have dug out a couple of impressive stats related to Danny Welbeck's double for United last night. According to Stuart Mathieson, United correspondent for the Manchester Evening News, the 20-year-old became "the first Mancunian striker to score in Europe for United since Brian Kidd in the 60s". For all the young players that United have produced, he was also the first "out-and-out striker from United's legendary youth system" to score in Europe since Mark Hughes in 1994.
Wednesday 15.05, Steffen Potter in Frankfurt
Going back to last night's action, German tabloid Bild asks the question "Who can stop this team?" after Jupp Heynckes' Bayern served up a tenth consecutive victory, and clean sheet, in beating Manchester City last night.
"Bayern have already silenced the Bundesliga, now it is Europe's turn," noted the paper, which listed ten good reasons why the Bavarians are looking unstoppable, including a "concrete defence", "the Jupp factor", "Gigant [Mario] Gomez" and the coming of age of Toni Kroos. Also singled out are the contributions of "Super [Manuel] Neuer" together with Franck Ribéry, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
Over the border in Switzerland, Blick is busy helping its readers digest Basel's thrilling 3-3 draw at Manchester United. "The draw at Manchester United, which lets FCB stay top of the group, is one of the biggest sensations in Swiss football."
Wednesday 14.43, Graham Hunter en route to Valencia
One sad part of the build-up to this special occasion for Valencia fans and members is the death of their popular former coach, Paco Real. Not only did he coach the first team, the youth team and head the youth academy he was also an adept external relations director over many years at the Mestalla. The 72-year-old, who passed away on Tuesday, spent four decades working for the club he loved.
Wednesday 14.41, Steffen Potter in Frankfurt
Over in Marseille, it looks like Marcel Schmelzer and Sven Bender will be fit for Dortmund's Group F fixture at the Stade Vélodrome, with both having competed in yesterday's ten v ten training match. "Luckily, they both got back to fitness really quickly," said coach Jürgen Klopp. "They will definitely return to action well rested."
Left-back Schmelzer tore muscle fibres in his thigh around a fortnight ago, while Bender had been suffering from a hip injury.
Wednesday 14.31, Trevor Huggins in London
In a fabulous demonstration of sportsmanship, Olympiacos have brought the Greek weather with them for tonight's UEFA Champions League game at Arsenal. North London is sweltering in early afternoon temeperatures of 26C, with predictions of hitting 28C later in the day, as the capital basks in what feels like Greek island holiday weather.
Arsenal face their first home game of this season's campaign after a bittersweet trip to Germany. Before the Group F match against Dortmund, Arsenal's players would probably have settled for a creditable 1-1 draw with the German champions. However, conceding an equaliser in the 88th minute will have felt like two points dropped, and will only increase the stakes for the home side.
Olympiacos will meanwhile feel they too have something to prove after opening with a 1-0 defeat against Marseille in Piraeus in what was their first competitive game since April. With their domestic league campaign now finally under way, and two wins posted, Ernesto Valverde will be expecting more bite from his side tonight, whatever the weather.
Wednesday 13.40, Richard Aikman in Milan
Plzeň's players seemed a little overawed by the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza when they arrived for training last night. "We don't have stadiums like this back home," said club captain Pavel Vrba. The players will hope they are not overwhelmed by the occasion, which Vrba described as "the highlight of our season". If they are looking for good omens, there is always the referee: Florian Meyer was in charge when Milan lost 1-0 against FC Zürich a year and two days ago.
Wednesday 13.37, Graham Hunter en route to Valencia
Valencia's local football paper SuperDeporte uses the headline 'Night For Revenge' as it looks ahead to Chelsea's visit, with the Blues having won their last two ties at Mestalla. Madrid-based sports daily AS reckons it is "Soldado against Torres", noting: 'The battle of the sharp-shooters will mark the return of Juan Mata to Mestalla."
In the national daily El País, Mata said that he will have to "beef up physically like Cesc Fàbregas did" if is to be a long-term success at Chelsea.
Wednesday 13.05, José Nuno Pimentel in Lisbon
Following two successive league draws, Porto coach Vítor Pereira will have to make changes to the team that was held 2-2 by fellow UEFA Champions League contenders SL Benfica on Friday, since midfielder Fredy Guarín is serving the second half of a two-game suspension for the match against Zenit. Suspended for the Benfica match, James Rodríguez is set to return in Russia.
Zenit's former Porto defender Bruno Alves is also serving a ban, and club-mate and fellow Portuguese international Danny said: "Bruno is sad not to be able to play in such an emotional match." He added: "I know Porto only too well. They play great football as a team, but we are at home so they should be worried about us."
Wednesday 12.58, Richard Aikman in Milan
It is 27C in Milan and Plžen fans are making the most of this Indian summer, with hundreds of them keeping staff busy at the fresco bars in the centre of the city. As they look ahead to tonight's game, the Czech fans may be hoping that Zlatan Ibrahimović will delay his comeback by a few more days, but any such dreams are likely to go unfulfilled.
The Swedish international's reappearance would end a tricky spell for the Italian champions, who are still without the injured Robinho, Pato, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Matthieu Flamini, Massimo Ambrosini, Philippe Mexès and Gennaro Gattuso. Even if Ibrahimović does play, a first UEFA Champions League outing for Simone Andrea Ganz is likely at some stage. At 18 years and seven days, the son of former Milan striker Maurizio would become the third youngest Rossonero to appear in Europe's premier club competition.
Wednesday 11.55, Paolo Menicucci in Milan
"The genius and the wise man," is how Corriere dello Sport characterises Ezequiel Lavezzi and Claudio Ranieri as it salutes the men behind Napoli and Inter's wins against Villarreal and CSKA Moskva respectively. "Napoli's attack is lethal," the newspaper continued, while Ranieri was praised for using a playing system that suited Inter after replacing Gian Piero Gasperini as Nerazzurri coach.
Meanwhile Gazzetta dello Sport play with Mauro Zárate's name, hailing the Argentinean forward's winner at CSKA with the words: "Tsar-ate of Moscow."
Wednesday 11.50, Graham Hunter en route to Valencia
This will be the fifth time since 2007 that Valencia and Chelsea have met in the UEFA Champions League, and for all of the Blues' reputation as big spenders, it is interesting to note that it is the Spanish side which has been through the most changes over that period.
Ten of the players who featured in Chelsea's 2-1 win at Mestalla four years ago are still with the club. However, for Valencia only two remain: midfield stalwart David Albelda and full back Miguel.
The Valencia lineup for that game was:
Hildebrand, Albiol, Marchena, Helguera, Miguel, Moretti, Albelda (Baraja 75), Joaquín (Arizmendi 88), Silva, Villa, Morientes (Žigić 69).
Wednesday 11.45, José Nuno Pimentel in Lisbon
Benfica's 1-0 win at Oţelul has come as a relief in Portugal with A Bola saluting their "first away win in the Champions League since 2007", adding: "They are on the right track. A good first half and crucial win with a goal from a combination of two left-sided players, Nicolás Gaitán and Bruno César – the best players on the field."
Record is a little less generous, writing: "The Eagles dominated and could have won by a bigger margin." O Jogo was also unconvinced. "Without giving too much, Benfica took a firm step toward the knockout stages with their 90th victory in the competition. It was all perfect in terms of numbers, but not so good in terms of performance."
Wednesday 11.38, Delfín Ramírez in Madrid
Real Madrid's 3-0 win against Ajax showcased Los Merengues' terrifying power on the counterattack, with El País noting: "Madrid has a professorship in this regard. Their play is a hymn to the counterattack, a method this team has perfected like no other, and which is impossible to stop for almost everyone. Their first goal against Ajax was a candidate for a Nobel Prize in counterattacking, Mesut Özil, Kaká, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, synchronising at full pelt before the Portuguese finished. Real Madrid do not hypnotise with the ball, they do not dominate a game with it; instead, they are patient without the ball, not desperate to seek out openings, but confident that their opponents will give them chances."
Superdeporte, meanwhile, had sympathy for Villarreal, whose 2-0 defeat at Napoli hinged – the paper feels - on two defensive lapses. "The Spanish team came into the game with the idea of controlling the contest. They did that in the first ten minutes, and even managed to launch a couple of counterattacks. But those moments were a mirage, as the Italian team took just two minutes to turn the game in their favour."
Wednesday 11.13, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou in Athens
Ernesto Valverde revealed what his main concern is as Olympiacos visit Arsenal, saying: "The pace of English teams is way superior to the Greek league. That's why we need to have good reflexes and be extra vigilant. We have improved since the opening match against Marseille and we want to make our fans proud, by getting a positive result."
Olympiacos expect to have around 3,000 supporters in London tonight, the majority of them students at English universities.
Centre-back Olof Mellberg, meanwhile, remembers taking on Arsenal's Robin van Persie during his time as an Aston Villa FC player. "He was playing more as a winger then," the Swede recalled. "Nowadays, he features more as a lone striker. He scores lots of goals and also has excellent ball skills, but he is not the only dangerous Arsenal player. We need to be very careful."
Wednesday 11.06, Christian Châtelet in Paris
Bafétimbi Gomis was the star man in Lyon's 2-0 win against Dinamo last night according to the local newspaper, Le Progrès, which went into raptures over the 26-year-old's opening goal. "If he carries on like this, Bafé Gomis will do some real damage this season," the report sings. "Already on target six times in eight league matches, he scored his second European goal yesterday evening. Eight goals in 12 games, that tells its own story for a striker. When Lisandro (currently injured) reaches such heights, he is described as a superstar. Bafé Gomis deserves to be called one as well."
Wednesday 10.58, Ian Holyman en route to Leverkusen
A posse of Dortmund fans are making themselves heard in Paris's Gare du Nord as they head across the city before going south to Marseille. I'm going in the opposite direction, up to Leverkusen, who play Genk. With a draw and a defeat respectively from their opening games, it is an important night for both German sides.
Wednesday 10.53, UEFA.com newsdesk
You can decide who the best players of the week on the pitch were with our Ups and Downs feature, which will have a new selection of podium moments on Thursday, but there is no doubt who the star of the week's press conferences was. BATE's Filipp Rudik is now a firm favourite with UEFA.com; read his thoughts ahead of his side's meeting with Barcelona tonight to see why.
Sample quote: "We have already discussed our tactics. We'll kick the ball out of play and hope for the best. Let's see if we can get the ball into their half first."
Wednesday 10.43, UEFA.com newsdesk
"Basel faulty," is the Sun's headline over their review of United's 3-3 draw last night, with the report echoing the feelings of most British fans: "What on earth was going on at Old Trafford last night? Both sets of fans in this famous ground were left completely stunned after watching Manchester United blow a two-goal lead to come within minutes of losing. You have to read it again to believe it." The Telegraph added: "On few occasions in his 26 years at Old Trafford will [Sir Alex] Ferguson's side have allowed themselves to be complicit in such drama."
Perhaps fortunately for United, City have stolen the back pages for all the wrong reasons following their 2-0 defeat at Bayern, where manager Roberto Mancini had a public falling-out with strikers Edin Džeko and Carlos Tévez. However, the Mail feels the real damage was done on the pitch. "That had to hurt," it thundered. "That feeling of being slapped down and put firmly back in one's place by one of the big boys; by a Bayern Munich team who reminded the Champions League newcomers, through two goals from Mario Gomez, that they know a thing or two about performing at this level."
Wednesday 10.24, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou in Athens
The words "dare", "dream", "no fear" and Barack Obama-inspired mottos like "yes, they can" feature in nearly all the Greek sports papers' headlines this morning as Olympiacos head to London to take on Arsenal. The Greek press is itching to see the champions earn their first UEFA Champions League points this season, but acknowledges that a huge task lies ahead.
Moreover, Olympiacos's record in England is not the best – their nine trips to Blighty in UEFA competitions have ended in nine defeats, with one goal scored (Rivaldo's free-kick at Liverpool FC in December 2004) and 29 conceded.
Wednesday 10.00, UEFA.com newsdesk
Before embarking on the day's business, a reminder that there are many ways to win with UEFA.com, including Predictor, Player Rater, and Classics. There are some great prizes on offer, and do not forget our new Ups and Downs feature.
We have highlights from all eight of last night's games and as kick-off approaches join our new MatchCentre from 17.15CET.
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