United, Chelsea aim high in Europe
Mourinho targets Benfica victory as Antonio Conte’s Blues host Roma
José Mourinho’s Manchester United will be looking to maintain their robust start to their Champions League campaign when they head to Benfica on Wednesday, while Antonio Conte’s Chelsea face Roma.
Barcelona and Lionel Messi play their first home match at the Camp Nou since the Catalonian independence referendum, which plunged Spain into chaos, when Olympiakos visit.
Here is a look at some of Wednesday’s main games.
Benfica vs Man United
United can take a giant stride towards a first appearance in the knockout stages since the 2013-14 season with a win at pointless Benfica — a repeat of the 1968 final. The Portuguese champions suffered a 5-0 defeat at Basel last time out after an opening home loss to CSKA Moscow.
United played out a dire 0-0 draw at Liverpool on Saturday, falling two points behind Manchester City in the Premier League after failing to score for the first time this term.
Sweden defender Victor Lindelof returns to his former club following his close-season move to United, while Andre Almeida is serving a two-match ban for Benfica.
Bayern Munich vs Celtic
Jupp Heynckes embarked on his fourth spell as Bayern Munich coach with a 5-0 rout of Freiburg on Saturday after replacing the sacked Carlo Ancelotti. The 72-year-old led Bayern to the treble in 2013 before retiring and was brought in to steady the ship after Bayern were thumped 3-0 by Paris Saint-Germain in their last European outing.
Celtic recorded a first group stage win away from home in 17 attempts with an impressive 3-0 victory at Anderlecht in September. Bayern have never lost against Scottish opposition in Munich, defeating Celtic 2-1 during the 2003-04 competition in their only previous meeting in Germany.
Anderlecht vs PSG
Paris Saint-Germain’s electrifying strikeforce of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe has propelled the French heavyweights to commanding back-to-back wins in the section.
Anderlecht could be in for another long evening as they search for their first goal and point. PSG thrashed the Belgians 5-0 in 2013-14 when Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored four times in Brussels. Cavani and Marco Verratti could return for Unai Emery’s team after missing the hard-fought 2-1 win at Dijon at the weekend, which sent them six points clear in France.
Anderlecht have turned things around after a poor start, but have won just once in their past eight Champions League home games.
Chelsea vs Roma
Conte’s Chelsea can cement their status at the top of the pool with a third consecutive win, although Roma would replace the Blues at the summit if they can pull off an upset at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea suffered a shock 2-1 loss at bottom side Crystal Palace on Saturday — their second on the trot — to drop nine points behind Premier League leaders City.
Roma succumbed to a Lorenzo Insigne strike in a 1-0 reverse at home to Serie A high-flyers Napoli and have only won on one of 15 prior visits to England. Alvaro Morata could return from injury for Chelsea, but influential midfielder N’Golo Kante remains sidelined.
Barcelona vs Olympiakos
Politics has played a bigger role in Catalonia than football since the region held a referendum that infuriated the Spanish government.
On the pitch, Ernesto Valverde is reunited with the club he guided to three Greek titles in two different stints from 2008-09 and 2010-12 as Barcelona hunt a third consecutive group win.
Barcelona’s perfect start to the La Liga season was ended by Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Atletico, but the Catalan giants remain four points clear in Spain — fuelled in large part by Lionel Messi’s 11 goals.
They are also unbeaten in 22 home Champions League matches dating back to 2013, while Olympiakos have made a worryingly sluggish start in Greece on the back of a seventh championship in a row.
They were beaten by Sporting Lisbon and Juventus in their first two games.
Juventus vs Sporting
The six-time successive Italian champions suffered a first home defeat in more than two years after going down 2-1 to Lazio at the weekend to fall five points behind Napoli in Serie A.
These two coming clashes will be key to both sides’ hopes of clinging onto Barcelona’s coattails, although Sporting have a dreadful record in Italy, drawing three and losing 10 of their 13 previous matches.
Sporting warmed up for their trip to Turin with a goalless stalemate against Portuguese leaders Porto, staying two points adrift.
A narrow 1-0 loss to Barcelona before the international break is Sporting’s lone defeat in 14 outings this season.