UEFA Champions League matchday three starts this evening, with UEFA.com's team of reporters at every venue across Europe bringing you the latest updates from Moscow to Madrid.
All times CET.
Tuesday 19.30, UEFA.com newsdesk
The blog is closed for the day but will return in the morning with reaction to Tuesday's games and a look ahead to the second batch of matchday three fixtures. In the meantime, you can follow all of tonight's action in the MatchCentre.
Tuesday 19.20, Simon Hart at the City of Manchester Stadium
The omens are not good for a Villarreal side seeking victory in Manchester tonight. They have failed to score on their last four visits to England and have netted just once on the road in six domestic and UEFA Champions League matches this term. Factor in City's home form – nine successive wins in the Premier League, no defeat since December last year, and an unbeaten streak in Europe running back 13 matches – and it is fair to say that City must start as big favourites.
Tuesday 18.46, Alessandro Massimo in Milan
Having been on the end of 5-0 home defeat by Barcelona last time out, BATE midfielder Renan Bressan is preparing for a test he believes is just as difficult − taking on Milan at San Siro.
"It's emotional playing in Milan but we've already gained good experience in European competition," said the 22-year-old. "I'm confident about tomorrow, we'll do our best. The team is feeling good and we are fully motivated. The difficulty of playing against AC Milan is equivalent to facing Barcelona."
Tuesday 18.33, Chris Burke in Lille
Second-half goals could well be on the menu at the Stadium Lille Métropole tonight, with all but two of the 13 efforts Inter have conceded in Serie A this term coming after the break and another two following the interval in the UEFA Champions League. Lille will feel confident of exploiting that fragility as they have plundered 15 of their 18 Ligue 1 goals in the second 45 minutes – but they will also need to stay vigilant at the back until the final whistle after shipping late equalisers in both their Group B outings thus far. That is a trend the French champions will be desperate to put an end to this evening.
Tuesday 18.29, Stephen Rogers in Basel
A full house is expected tonight at St. Jakob-Park, where Basel will look to continue their impressive, unbeaten start to Group C against Benfica. Over 35,000 tickets had been sold by yesterday, with those remaining expected to be snapped up today, meaning the stadium's capacity of 37,500 could well be reached. Over 30,000 took in Basel's opening group game against Oţelul Galaţi and the enthusiasm of the Swiss champions' fans is showing no limits, with their final home group fixture against Manchester United in December already sold out.
Tuesday 18.06, Trevor Haylett in Bucharest
The last time Manchester United failed to win either of their first two UEFA Champions League games was in 1998/99 − the season they went on to lift the trophy and complete the treble. On that occasion they also began with two draws against teams beginning with B: Barcelona and Bayern.
After returning from Lisbon with a 1-1 against Benfica and then letting slip a two-goal lead at home to Basel, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is anxious for there not to be a further slip-up against Oţelul, the debutants from Romania, tonight.
And their most superstitious followers are looking back to 1999 for a lucky omen. That year they beat Bayern in the Barcelona final. With this season's showpiece set for Munich they are wondering whether it means they will beat Barcelona on Saturday 19 May.
Tuesday 17.47, Simon Hart en route to Manchester
Approaching Manchester Piccadilly station on the train and reading an article in the Independent newspaper which speculates on what would be an acceptable performance for Manchester City in their debut UEFA Champions League campaign. The conclusion reached was that the quarter-final place that last season's newcomers from the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur FC, managed "will just not be enough for many".
Of course, City must first get their first win in the competition and start climbing Group A. City's Spanish international, David Silva, says they are still adjusting – "In the Champions League we have played only twice and they have been against the top teams" – yet where City will not be found wanting is in their squad. While Spurs' form tailed off towards the end of last term, with one win in ten between late February and early May, City have a squad able to compete on all fronts.
This was never more evident than on Saturday, when Roberto Mancini was able to rest Samir Nasri, Edin Džeko, and Sergio Agüero, while keeping Silva on the bench for 65 minutes, and still send out a team strong enough to beat a previously undefeated Aston Villa FC side 4-1. This alone explains why so much is expected of Mancini's men.
Tuesday 17.44, Paul Bryan in Madrid
The Lyon squad enjoyed an afternoon stroll in bright autumnal sunshine in Madrid's picturesque Parque del Retiro today, each looking relaxed ahead of this evening's Group D encounter against a side they know so well. "We have come here expecting to get something good and we're ready to give it our best," coach Rémi Garde said ahead of the ninth meeting between these teams since September 2005. His opposite number, José Mourinho, insisted tonight's game would be anything but a walk in the park as the Merengues welcome a side the Portuguese described as "tactically strong" and "good on the counterattack".
Tuesday 17.37, Denis Orlov in Minsk
BATE could be backed in Milan by their biggest ever away following, with around 500 fans expected at San Siro for the Group H fixture. Three coaches and a double-decker bus have set off from Belarus, while supporters are also known to be travelling from Poland, Czech Republic, Italy and Switzerland.
Tuesday 17.24, Peter Murphy in Zagreb
After two Group D defeats, Dinamo have trained their sights on trumping Ajax to secure third place and a spot in the UEFA Europa League. Ajax have only won one of their last seven matches in all competitions. Joey Didulica, the former Ajax and Croatia goalkeeper, told Index.hr today that he believes Dinamo have a great chance of claiming three points. "Ajax are not in great shape. A lot of players have left and there are a lot of new players who need time to establish themselves," he said.
Tuesday 17.06, Paris Ayiomamitis in Athens
A nationwide strike over the coming two days will affect commuters as train, metro, taxi and bus services will grind to a halt. Olympiacos supporters appear unfazed, however, and are expected to pack the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium to near full capacity, heeding the call from the local sports papers to help the side and the nation regain some pride in these uncertain economic times.
Olympiacos' German defender José Holebas was keen to emphasise the importance of Dortmund's Group F visit. "It's a crucial match for both sides," he said. "We have an obligation to win. We are up against the German champions and we have to remain focused. It's all down to which team wants to win the game. We must get a result if we are to remain in contention."
Tuesday 16.56, Carlos Santos in Porto
Back from suspension following his red card in the UEFA Super Cup, Porto's Freddy Guarín is raring to go against APOEL on Wednesday. "I return with a good feeling, I'm always proud of being in this team," said the midfielder. "I hope to meet the expectations of the team and the fans by helping my team-mates on the pitch. I miss the Champions League atmosphere and I'm looking forward to tomorrow − I'll be at 100%."
Tuesday 16.29, Richard Aikman in Naples
It is 22 and a half years since Maradona's Napoli won the club's only European honour to date, beating VfB Stuttgart in the two-legged UEFA Cup final. You suspect the Napoletani do not for one moment think they are going to win the UEFA Champions League, but they are enjoying the ride while they can.
"Times are hard here at the moment," says Pasquale De Agostino. "There are not many jobs and the country has serious problems, but Napoli are giving us great joy. It wasn't so long ago we were in Serie C1, so if Napoli can bounce back, so can it's people. If we beat Bayern tonight you can come and join the party."
Tuesday 16.25, Viktor Sharafudinov in Donetsk
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has been in Donetsk today on official government business. The media say he is a keen Zenit supporter who may attend Wednesday's match at the Donbass Arena with Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych.
Tuesday 16.17, Alessandro Massimo in Milan
Milan's Thiago Silva is likely to start against BATE on Wednesday despite taking a knock to his left leg at the weekend. "I'm recovering from the injury I sustained on Saturday against Palermo," said the centre-back. "Today my condition is better than yesterday."
The Brazilian international also revealed his desire to skipper the Rossoneri in the future. "I hope to become a leader of this team and it would be an honour to become captain of this great club. I'm very happy when they compare me to Baresi and Maldini, but I'm still far from them both."
Tuesday 15.57, Carlos Santos in Porto
Vítor Pereira told the press conference that if he had to submit Porto's UEFA Champions League squad today, Walter would be included. The 22-year-old Brazilian striker has scored five times in his last two games, including four at the weekend, but at the start of the season was not considered ready for Europe's premier club competition.
Tuesday 15.56, Richard Aikman in Naples
Not everyone is quite as optimistic about Bayern's prospects tonight [see 13.45]. "I have seen us play in Italy twice before," says Roland Behlert, 43, from Munich, on his way back from a trip to Pompei. "The first time was more than 20 years ago, when we lost 2-0 here in the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final. Diego Maradona was playing in those days. I came back in March last year when we played Fiorentina and we lost again, 3-2. But luckily Arjen Robben scored a wonder goal and we went through on away goals. But that's two matches and two defeats, so I'm hoping it's third time lucky. Otherwise I'm never coming back!"
Tuesday 15.48, Steffen Potter in Leverkusen
Ömer Toprak has moved to dispel rumours of dressing room unrest at Leverkusen, where coach Robin Dutt has been accused of clashing with his players. The central defender, who came from SC Freiburg along with Dutt in the summer, said: "There is no problem between the coach and the team. For me, the coach has not changed; the mood in the team is positive, we are working with ambition and focus."
Leverkusen take on Valencia on Wednesday, and Toprak added: "We are second in this group and want to hold that position. Valencia are a top team, but we are playing at home and of course want to win." He continued: "We have to defend as a team, like we did against other top sides, Chelsea for instance. Then we will perform well against Valencia, too."
Tuesday 15.42, Peter Murphy in Zagreb
The cafes on Zagreb's main square are dotted with clusters of Ajax fans enjoying the autumn sun in the run-up to tonight's Group D encounter with Dinamo Zagreb, the first of back-to-back games between the sides. There's an 11C chill in the air, though, and a make-or-break edge to the game, which both teams have down as a must-win.
Around 200 Ajax fans have travelled to the Croatian capital. "We have come to win," says Tim from Amsterdam, who also followed his team to Zagreb for the 2007 UEFA Cup and 2009 UEFA Europa League encounters. "We need six points against Dinamo to have any chance of taking second place."
Tuesday 15.39, Türker Tozar in Istanbul
With top scorer Burak Yılmaz still having one more game of a suspension to serve, Trabzonspor coach Şenol Güneş is likely to pair Halil Altıntop and Paweł Brożek up front as his side take on CSKA.
Polish defender Arkadiusz Głowacki will return to the starting XI after being rested for the weekend league game against MKE Ankaragücü. Trabzonspor coach Şenol Güneş will be on the bench for the first time in the UEFA Champions League after completing a two-game touchline ban.
Tuesday 14.45, Chris Burke in Paris
Five defeats in eight matches in all competitions is not a record that would inspire most supporters, but the Inter fans making the last stretch of their trip to Lille by train from Paris this morning remain defiantly optimistic. "It will be a difficult match for us because we're in crisis at the moment and Lille are fourth in the French league, but we're hoping to come out on top, especially with Wesley Sneijder back and ready to contribute," said Bari-based Francesco, who is tipping the fit-again Dutch playmaker to find the net along with Diego Milito in a 2-0 win.
Franco, also from Bari, is another supporter predicting a 2-0 Nerazzurri triumph, though he is not taking the Dogues lightly. "We know all about Lille," he said. "Everyone is wary of Eden Hazard especially."
Tuesday 14.39, Berend Scholten in Diest
With Torben Joneleit, Jeroen Simaeys, Nadson and David Hubert on the injury list, Genk received another blow when Abel Masuero developed a swollen ankle at the weekend, which makes him a doubt for the trip to Chelsea. "If you saw that ankle at half-time, you would have thought he couldn't play anymore," said coach Mario Been. "But the guy is a real winner, and that is what I like." Of the encounter at Stamford Bridge, Been added: "He who has fear had better stay at home."
Tuesday 13.45, Richard Aikman in Naples
There are still springtime temperatures in Naples, though today's 19C is seven degrees cooler than yesterday, where hordes of Bayern fans have landed in the hope of enjoying a third Group A victory. Before then, however, they are lapping up the sunshine, enjoying the local delicacies and talking up their chances of beating their hosts. "It's fantastic to be here," says Michael, from Augsburg. "It's cold in Germany but here we can still drink beer in T-shirts and then watch Bayern destroy Napoli. We have a very, very good team and I am already looking forward to watching us win the final in Munich."
Tuesday 12.50, Elvir Islamović in Zagreb
Best-selling Croatian newspaper 24sata is doing its best not to be too dispirited as Ajax visit Dinamo Zagreb. "Ajax have not conceded in five matches in Croatia, but every run comes to an end at some point," it writes. "Dinamo have a great chance to take their first points in front of their own fans. Their opponents have won only one of their last seven games. They are in crisis. All we can hope is that their crisis will not end in Zagreb."
Tuesday 12.46, Carlos Santos at Estádio do Dragão
Fans and players can only hope that the weather holds as Porto gear up to take on APOEL tomorrow. Under a clear sky and warm sun, the home side had an enjoyable training session this morning, with spirits high after a comfortable 8-0 win against CA Pêro Pinheiro in their weekend Portuguese Cup fixture.
Tuesday 11.41, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Spare a thought for Valencia striker Roberto Soldado, who turned up at the airport this morning for his team's trip to Leverkusen without his wallet and all-important ID card.
The 26-year-old − whose six goals this season include a late penalty in the 1-1 matchday two draw with Chelsea − made some frantic calls home from the check-in desk and was relieved when the document was finally delivered. The Liga side are now en route to Germany − albeit slightly delayed.
Coach Unai Emery has brought all 24 available squad members to the BayArena, with Valencia having taken just two points from their opening Group E games.
Tuesday 11.41, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Explosive on the pitch but shy and reserved off it, Barcelona attacker Lionel Messi is set to offer the world his thoughts at this evening's pre-match press conference from 17.30CET. The UEFA Champions League holders face Plzeň at Camp Nou tomorrow with the Argentinian in rude health ahead of the visit of the Czech champions.
Messi increased his tally to 16 goals in 12 appearances for the Azulgrana with a double in the 3-0 weekend victory over Real Racing Club, moving second ahead of László Kubala on Barça's all-time top scorers' list. The 24-year-old is now closing on César Rodríguez's leading tally of 235 goals.
Tuesday 11.36, Pedro Gonçalves in Lisbon
Elements of the Portuguese press are feeling positive ahead of Benfica's visit to Basel. Noting that Jorge Jesus is the first coach to lead the club in two UEFA Champions League campaigns, A Bola hopes he can match Artur Jorge's side, who took seven points from their first three 1994/95 group stage games. "Victory at Basel will be a significant step towards the last 16," it writes. "Then Jorge Jesus can look to emulate the 2005/06 campaign, when Benfica [under Ronald Koeman] reached the last eight."
Record provides an unhappy reminder that it was at St. Jakob-Park where Portugal were eliminated by Germany in the quarter-finals of UEFA EURO 2008, while O Jogo shares the Benfica coach's concern about Basel following their 3-3 draw at Old Trafford last time out. The paper also notes that there is doubt over who might start on the left of midfield, with Bruno César seemingly in pole position.
Tuesday 11.00, Christian Châtelet in Paris
Goalkeeper Mickaël Landreau looks set to miss Lille's home game against Inter having not trained on Monday. The 32-year-old former French international sustained a dead leg while conceding in Les Dogues' 3-1 Ligue 1 win at AJ Auxerre on Saturday but soldiered on to finish the 90 minutes. Second-choice Vincent Enyeama, a summer arrival from Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC, looks set to deputise against Inter. "We signed Vincent for emergency cases just like this," said coach Rudi Garcia.
Tuesday 10.55, Philip Röber in Munich
Bad news for Dortmund ahead of their game against Olympiacos on Wednesday; Lucas Barrios will not be able to play. Rated doubtful at the start of the week, the Paraguayan forward had an injection yesterday in a bid to resolve a back problem, but with his situation failing to improve overnight, he has been removed from the party bound for Piraeus.
Tuesday 10.41, Fabio Balaudo in Milan
Inter are enduring a miserable start to the season, and Gazzetta dello Sport hopes that Wesley Sneijder is the man who can start to turn things around ahead of tonight's game at Lille. 'Sneijder pensaci tu!' (Think about it, Sneijder!) is their big headline in a piece that urges the Dutch attacking midfielder to provide some impetus in France. "Feeling under pressure is nothing new to me; I'll do my best," replies the former Madrid man.
Napoli are Corriere dello Sport's main concern. 'Napoli, che notte!' (Napoli, what a night!) is how they drum up excitement for Bayern's visit, with the San Paolo Stadium sold out. Club president Aurelio De Laurentiis told the paper: "I am dreaming about the perfect match. I know Bayern are afraid of us, so we must seize the day."
Tuesday 10.32, Philip Röber in Munich
Ahead of Bayern's game in Napoli, the German press are increasingly reluctant to describe their next task as the first real test of the all-conquering Bavarians' season, mindful perhaps that the Bundesliga leaders have already breezed through nominally trickier Group A ties against Villarreal and City. Die Welt writes of the game as a case of "passionate tifosi against cool Bayern", seemingly implying that the fiery crowd at the San Paolo Stadium are as big a challenge as the home side.
Local paper Abendzeitung suggests, meanwhile, that Europe presents the only meaningful challenge for Jupp Heynckes' side: "Bayern are starting to run away with the Bundesliga title, and it almost seems as if their opponents are surrendering. However, that counts for nothing in Europe, where Bayern are reaching out for the stars in the UEFA Champions League logo."
Tuesday 10.26, Delfín Ramírez in Madrid
In Spain, AS says that Madrid coach José Mourinho faces a dilemma as to whether to have Gonzalo Higuaín or Karim Benzema lead the line against Lyon tonight. "The game is between the two sides who are expected to qualify for the next stage," it notes. "Both the strikers wear the Madrid shirt, but Benzema and Higuaín (who was born in Brest) are Frenchmen too. The challenge for both is to keep their place in the starting lineup."
The paper is also concerned about Villarreal as they visit City, with both sides in search of a first group stage win. "In the land of Shakespeare, it will be or not to be for Villarreal, all or nothing," writes AS. "City come into the game with the momentum of a side that top the Premier League, but with a question over their UEFA Champions League pedigree, having not been able to overcome Napoli and Bayern."
Tuesday 10.03, UEFA.com newsdesk
Alarm bells are ringing at Manchester City, according to the Express, which writes: "Should tonight's Champions League showdown with Villarreal not go to plan, there will be no escaping the glare of the spotlight for City or their manager." Predicting that Edin Džeko and Sergio Agüero will be paired up front, it adds: "There is now little margin for error if City's long-awaited debut among Europe's elite is not to be over almost before it has begun."
The Guardian, meanwhile, reckons that, while the jury is out on City in Europe, Roberto Mancini has to be given some credit. "Mancini is to be admired for maintaining the efficiency in a line-up that tops the Premier League and has outgunned the remainder of the clubs, with 27 goals from eight games. Those appalled or merely jealous of City's means must still have to exercise restraint so they do not find themselves intrigued now that Mario Balotelli, with four goals in his last four appearances, is a trial to defenders rather than to his employers."
Tuesday 09.55,Christian Châtelet in Paris
As he answered questions from the floor at the pre-match press conference ahead of Lyon's game in Madrid, Bafétimbi Gomis said Lyon had set their sights on finishing top of Group D.
"We are naural competitors; it's a target," said the 26-year-old striker. "We are playing to get the best possible draw for the round of 16. It is no disrespect to the other teams, it is just what we aim to achieve, even though Real look like the favourites on paper."
Tuesday 09.39, Pavle Gognidze in Riga
In Russia, Sport Express cannot hide its concern, with CSKA desperately short of fit players as they prepare to take on Trabzonspor in Group B. "Since the summer break, CSKA have recorded just four wins in 15 matches, hardly fitting for one of the top sides in our game," it writes.
"When you see the speed at which sicknotes are being filled out, it's time to start thinking that something spooky is going on, as CSKA's coach once put it. As the autumn has drawn on, the situation has become a proper epidemic. Leonid Slutski genuinely doesn't have enough players for a first 18."
Tuesday 09.30, 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.
UEFA.com has previews for all eight of tonight's games (see links below) as well as features on Madrid's Iker Casillas, Basel's Marco Streller and City's David Silva. Elsewhere, Michael Ballack looks forward with hope for Leverkusen, Olympiacos boss Ernesto Valverde speaks to UEFA.com, and former APOEL defender Christos Kontis tells us how he is dealing with being forced into early retirement due to a heart condition.
Yesterday's UEFA Champions League live piece also has plenty of info about the upcoming ties.
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