The 2011/12 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals kick-off this week before the return legs next week. UEFA.com's team of reporters and correspondents from across Europe will bring you all the build-up as we count down to kick-off on Tuesday.
All times CET.
Monday 20.10, Carlos Machado, Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica
David Luiz enjoyed happy times at Benfica but the Chelsea defender told the press this evening that he is here to help upset his former club. "I am pleased to return to a place where I was very happy," he said. "But the past doesn't matter now. The pressure is huge for both clubs. I know what the atmosphere and the fans are like here but we have the experience to deal with it. People know the love I have for Benfica; I will always love this club but I am a professional and will do my job to help my team."
Monday 19.15, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
Bayern have completed the summer signing of Schweinsteiger – Tobias Schweinsteiger, that is, Bastian's elder brother. The 30-year-old will arrive from third-tier side SSV Jahn Regensburg and play for the reserve team. "I hope that I can help the younger players with my experience," said Schweinsteiger. "And of course I am happy that I will finally get to play in the same club as my brother." Tobias is currently the captain of Regensburg and the striker has scored 12 goals this season.
Monday 18.15, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
Franz Beckenbauer has been reflecting on his coaching stint at Marseille through rose-tinted glasses: "It was a relatively short but incredibly intense and very nice excursion which I did not want to miss at any cost. Olympique and Marseille is an incredible work of art. Marseille, this pulsating, heavenly city directly by the sea. And then that club – an institution in France and especially the city, which lives its football and its euphoria with the fans like few others. For a footballer, there is hardly anything more beautiful than this city and this club."
Monday 17.50, John Leonidou in Nicosia
APOEL captain Constantinos Charalambides struggled to contain his excitement ahead of the visit of Real Madrid. "Dreaming of a crammed, blue and yellow GSP tomorrow filled with crazy fans in the stands and a team hungry for victory," he said on his Twitter account. Meanwhile, APOEL's Spanish goalkeeper Urko Pardo – who was on the books of Barcelona – told Spanish newspaper Marca that he was looking to do his old club a favour. "A piece of my heart belongs to Barcelona so I hope that we can knock Real Madrid out," he said. "We have come this far so you cannot rule anything out."
Monday 17.44, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
Bayern forward Mario Gomez has scored ten UEFA Champions League goals in seven appearances going into Wednesday's game at the Stade Vélodrome, a record that has earned him high praise from Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer. "The large amount of goals he has scored is in his favour," he said. "He is a finisher and has the ideal attributes. He is not the ideal player for build-up play, but neither was Gerd [Müller], except for the one-twos." Gomez is also optimistic about extending his current deal beyond summer 2013. "The chance of me extending my contract is very good," said the 26-year-old. "I have a very good feeling about it."
Monday 17.20, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Xabi Alonso has featured in all of Madrid's UEFA Champions League matches this campaign but despite his absence through suspension, Sami Khedira believes there is enough talent in their squad to beat APOEL. "Alonso is an excellent player but we have other great players who can come into midfielder as cover," he said. "Even though he is an important player, we can win this game without him. We are looking strong and we are ready for tomorrow. We know APOEL are a good team. They have tremendous team spirit and have eliminated strong sides like Lyon."
Monday 16.50, UEFA.com London newsdesk
APOEL forward Esteban Solari, brother of former Madrid star Santiago, has warned Tuesday's opponents that his side will not just be relying on a good result at home on Tuesday to do well in this tie. "This first game is always important, but we have shown in this competition that we are not the sort of side that solely rely on their home form," he said of his team, who have only lost two away games in their run from the play-offs to the last eight. "We will be looking at this tie against Real as a two-legged tie and not just solely focusing on our home game."
Monday 16.19, John Leonidou in Nicosia
APOEL's clash with Real Madrid has been the talk of the island. The general view is that APOEL will need a good slice of fortune if they are to topple the Spanish team. One enthusiastic APOEL fan whom I spoke to today, however, says his team are "miracle-workers" and that the right result on Tuesday could set them on their way to yet another giant-killing. "Nobody ever believed we could go this far," said Costas Kyprianou. "This reminds me of EURO 2004 when everybody kept saying Greece had no chance against Portugal, no chance against France, against the Czech Republic and then against Portugal again in the final! We are on a run and, in this day and age, anything can happen."
Monday 16.00, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
José Mourinho and Sami Khedira will attend Madrid's press conference which is due to begin in an hour. With defensive midfielder Xabi Alonso suspended for the encounter against APOEL, Spanish daily AS says the visitors are likely to opt for Esteban Granero to partner Khedira in midfield which would be the first time this season the pair have started a game together. The nine-time European champions arrived at Larnaca International Airport in good spirits last night following a four-and-a-half hour flight. Along with Alonso, the injured Ángel Di María, Ricardo Carvalho, Lassana Diarra and José Callejón failed to make the trip.
Monday 15.48, José Nuno Pimentel in Lisbon
A good mood marked Benfica's training session on Monday morning. Perhaps the most interesting observation from the session was the return to action of Yannick Djaló, after his recovery from a thigh injury. Signed in January, the 25-year-old Portuguese forward, who made his name at Benfica's city rivals Sporting Clube de Portugal, has made just two substitute appearances (one in the league and one in the League Cup) for the Eagles and is eager to impress the fans. The match with the Blues could come a little bit early for him however.
Monday 15.31, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
Beckenbauer is also fully aware of the role that will be played by the Marseille support on Wednesday: "Anyone who knows the enthusiasm and incredible football passion in Marseille knows very well what awaits Bayern. The Stade Vélodrome can be compared to Anfield or Dortmund. The fanatical crowd play a very important part in the success of Olympique Marseille."
Monday 15.26, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer was coach and technical director at Marseille in the 1990/91 season and has urged Bayern not to underestimate the French side, despite their weak domestic form: "There can be such strange patterns. I can remember my time at FC Bayern. We were placed 12th or 14th in the Bundesliga and won the European Cup. In a situation in which things don't go well on the domestic front, an experienced team turn their entire energy towards the international competition to bring the season to a good end. So I can see the French side focusing on the Champions League."
Monday 15.07, Fabio Balaudo, Italian newsdesk
Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimović has urged his side to not focus purely on the threat of Lionel Messi but to defend as Barcelona will, telling Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet: "To get titles, you need to win these kinds of games. We must focus on stopping Barcelona as a whole team, not just Messi. And they will try to stop Milan, not just me.
Monday 14.53, John Leonidou in Nicosia
Sport Day claims that "APOEL are ready for the Real challenge", saying the Cypriot title holders have "nothing to lose" and featuring a picture of APOEL players celebrating from a previous game. The article also warns that "mistakes are forbidden" in the game against Jose Mourinho's side.
Monday 14.37, Christian Châtelet, French newsdesk
Marseille trained this morning without their best striker this term, Loïc Rémy, who followed a personal programme due to thigh pains. Meanwhile, centre-back Souleymane Diawara is set to undergo surgery on Thursday, following his knee injury, and is likely to be sidelined until next season. "I will be back," said the 33-year-old Senegalese international.
Monday 14.20, José Nuno Pimentel in Lisbon
Much of the talk in the Portuguese press is about Roberto Di Matteo wanting former Benfica stars Ramires and David Luiz to give the Chelsea coach some precious information about their old club. Record says that the Benfica coach has his own tactics figured out, however, stating: "Cardozo and Aimar are [Jorge] Jesus's favourites in attacking the English fleet."
Monday 14.08, John Leonidou in Nicosia
APOEL may be preparing to face Real Madrid in the biggest game in Cyprus's history tomorrow, but the front pages are dominated by domestic league leaders AEL Limassol FC who won 1-0 at Ethnikos Achnas FC on Sunday to increase their lead. Second-placed AC Omonia are three points behind while APOEL, in third, are four points adrift heading into the end-of-season playoffs. APOEL's tie with Real has been pushed inside, with Goal newspaper stating that coach Ivan Jovanović is "leaving nothing to chance" having meticulously studied television footage of Tuesday night's opponents. The paper also says that the GSP stadium will be "like a volcano" on the night of the game.
Monday 13.36, Fabio Balaudo, Italian newsdesk
The game against Barcelona is approaching and Milan CEO Adriano Galliani is philosophical about the outcome. "It will be a huge game and we are used to such occasions," he told Corriere dello Sport. "We are among the best clubs in Europe, but this is football – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I'd rather beat them [at San Siro] than keep a clean sheet, as we usually play pretty well against Barcelona. Due to a twist of fate we have faced them and Real Madrid in the last two years; perhaps we were unlucky with the draw, but I think they were, too."
Monday 13.10, José Nuno Pimentel in Lisbon
Former Benfica and Chelsea defender Emerson Thome told O Jogo newspaper that he believes the quality of set pieces could be decisive in tomorrow's game at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica. The 39-year-old encouraged Benfica to profit from every free-kick and corner and to control the game. "Benfica have much more potential than Chelsea," he said. Thome ended his career in 2007 with Japan's Vissel Kobe after playing for Benfica in 1995/96 and Chelsea in 1999/2000.
Monday 12.42, Christian Châtelet, French newsdesk
The Bayern delegation are expected to touch down at 12.35 tomorrow on French soil. They have booked the Pullman Hotel La Corniche, one of the nicest places in Marseille. It has not been decided if they will fly back after the game or the following day.
Monday 12.10, Matthew Spiro in Paris
Marseille may have ended a run of seven straight defeats at OGC Nice on Saturday, yet the 1-1 draw came at a significant cost with defender Souleymane Diawara damaging knee ligaments at the Stade du Ray. Like captain Steve Mandanda, the centre-back was already suspended for the visit of Bayern on Wednesday but Diawara will now play no further part in the campaign. Didier Deschamps will be keeping his fingers crossed that top-scorer Loïc Rémy is passed fit, although the France striker – rested at the weekend – is still troubled by a longstanding thigh problem. Meanwhile, the OM coach has not yet confirmed which of his two stand-in goalkeepers, Gennaro Bracigliano or Elinton Andrade, will feature in the first leg.
Monday 11.46, Christian Châtelet, French newsdesk
Former Marseille and Bayern defender Bixente Lizarazu told local newspaper La Provence that he is sure OM "will give a different account of themselves in the Champions League" as they head into Wednesday's encounter without a win in eight matches in all competitions. "I remember my experience with Bordeaux [who reached the UEFA Cup final in 1995/96]," he said. "We struggled in the league but reached the final against Bayern. The problem here is that Didier [Deschamps] will be missing two key players in the first leg [suspended goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and injured Souleymane Diawara]."
Monday 11.00, UEFA.com newsdesk
Before the day's business gets under way, starting with press conference news from Nicosia, a gentle reminder that there are a number of ways to win great prizes with UEFA.com, including Predictor, Player Rater, and Classics.
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