FC Bayern München welcome a resurgent AC Milan for a crunch encounter tonight when Matchday Three of the UEFA Champions League gets under way.
Bayern have been quarter-finalists or better in every Champions League season since 1997/98 but they have just one point from their first two games and need a result at home to get their campaign back on track. However, they will be up against a Milan team featuring Rivaldo, Rui Costa and the five-goal Champions League top scorer Filippo Inzaghi. Elsewhere, it is make or break for Bayern's German rivals Bayer 04 Leverkusen, who, along with another of tonight's teams Newcastle United FC, have still to register a point in the competition.
There are no such problems for Manchester United FC and FC Barcelona, two of the three sides in action tonight with 100 per cent records. If United and Barça can make it three wins from three, they will find themselves in a commanding position by the halfway point of the first group stage.
Likewise Milan - the other team with a perfect record - and it is at the Olympiastadion in Munich where the real drama promises to be. Carlo Ancelotti's side can move eight points clear of Bayern with victory and, after their 4-0 away demolition of RC Deportivo La Coruña last week, anything seems possible in Group G. Bayern, winners of the Champions League in 2001, know defeat would leave them with a mountain to climb and will be roared on by an expectant home crowd. Deportivo welcome French contenders RC Lens in the other group game.
In Group E, Juventus FC host Newcastle and, with the English club beaten twice already, Juve and the in-form Alessandro Del Piero will have every confidence of taking a stranglehold on the group. Feyenoord, who like the Bianconeri have four points so far, will feel the same way about their chances at home against an FC Dynamo Kyiv side beaten 5-0 by Juve last week.
Manchester United have been in impressive form in Group F. After a 5-2 home victory against Maccabi Haifa, the 1999 winners earned a 2-1 away win in Leverkusen last week. Despite the absence of Ruud van Nistelrooij, they will look to build on that with a home victory against an Olympiakos Pireaus FC team beaten 3-0 at Maccabi last week. For their part, the Israeli challengers host Leverkusen in Nicosia, Cyprus, knowing another strong showing could put them in the driving seat for a place in the second group stage.
Group H has been all about Barcelona so far. Coach Louis van Gaal, who has picked the same starting lineup for every league and Champions League match this season, has hinted at changes against FC Lokomotiv Moskva. The home side have just one point to Barça's six and will need to improve this evening. The other match in the pool sees Galatasaray SK looking to bounce back after last week's home defeat by Barça with a good showing at home against Club Brugge KV.
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