What to watch out for in the Champions League

Can Guus Hiddink's return help Chelsea oust Paris? Will Zenit emerge sparkling from their winter break? Is Edin Džeko headed for the bench at Roma?

Guus Hiddink has put a spring back in Chelsea's step
Guus Hiddink has put a spring back in Chelsea's step ©AFP/Getty Images

Can Hiddink work Chelsea magic again?
When Guus Hiddink was appointed Chelsea's interim manager back in 2008/09, the Dutchman remained undefeated in the UEFA Champions League, overseeing wins against Juventus (3-2 on aggregate, round of 16) and Liverpool (7-5 on aggregate, quarter-finals) – and only being denied a place in the final by Andrés Iniesta's last-gasp equaliser in the semi-final second leg. Hiddink, therefore, registered two victories and four draws in his six UEFA Champions League matches and has compiled a similarly unbeaten domestic record since succeeding José Mourinho in December.

However, his charges must now overcome a Paris Saint-Germain side who have not lost in 44 domestic fixtures – putting Chelsea's untarnished 11-game sequence under Hiddink into perspective. The Dutchman, though, has plenty of UEFA Champions League pedigree, having taken PSV to the 2004/05 semi-finals – again undone by an away goal, this time from AC Milan's Massimo Ambrosini – and claimed the trophy with the Eindhoven club in 1988.
Paris v Chelsea, Tuesday

New Zenit signings Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Kokorin
New Zenit signings Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Kokorin©FC Zenit St Petersburg

Will Zenit roar out of hibernation?
Goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev and and midfielder Viktor Fayzulin definitely miss Zenit's last-16 opener against Benfica through injury, while another midfielder, Aleksandr Ryazantsev, is doubtful. That and a lack of competitive football during the Russian winter break might be cause for concern.

Training camps in Qatar, Portugal and Spain could help keep Zenit sharp, though, enabling André Villas-Boas to bed in in three signings – former Terek Grozny anchorman Maurício and Russian internationals Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Kokorin, both ex-Dinamo Moskva players. "Benfica look quite strong now," said Zenit's Portuguese coach. "They haven't lost for quite some time. But they have their biggest matches ahead and you can be 100% sure we will take on Benfica with full commitment."
Benfica v Zenit, Tuesday

The goals have dried up for Roma's Edin Džeko
The goals have dried up for Roma's Edin Džeko©Getty Images

Nine or false nine for Roma?
This is probably Luciano Spalletti's biggest dilemma for the visit of Real Madrid. Roma had great expectations when they recruited Edin Džeko last summer, but the Bosnia and Herzegovina ace has scored only four times in Serie A. Meanwhile, forwards Stephan El Shaarawy and Diego Perotti have shone since joining Roma in January, with the latter operating as 'false nine'.

"When you have a bad period at a big club it's always going to cause a stir," Spalletti said of Džeko. "But I'm sure we can help him out of this situation." Ominously for the No9, the coach famously led Roma to 11 straight wins in 2005/06 while using Francesco Totti as a striker; he adopted the same tactic when the Giallorossi eliminated Madrid in 2007/08. Will he try to surprise the Merengues again or does he rely on Džeko coming good?
Roma v Real Madrid, Wednesday

Sven Kum's: Belgium's Player of the Year
Sven Kum's: Belgium's Player of the Year©Getty Images

Gent hold on to their crown jewels
The success of Hein Vanhaezebrouck's well-drilled Gent side ensured some interest in his players over the winter recess. The fact Gent kept hold of all their biggest names – agreeing contract extensions until 2019 with Belgian Player of the Year Sven Kums, goalkeeper Matz Sels, Nana Asare, Moses Simon and Danijel Milicevic – was a major triumph. "I like it here," midfielder Kums said. "I always said I could easily see myself staying here."

Their guests, meanwhile, are not having an easy time. Wolfsburg have won once in eight Bundesliga outings, forward Bas Dost is injured, Nicklas Bendtner is out of sorts, and Basel rebuffed their approach to sign Breel Embolo in the winter. Goalscoring duties will likely fall to Max Kruse, Julian Draxler and André Schürrle.
Gent v Wolfsburg, Wednesday

All games kick off at 20.45CET

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