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Pellegrini, Guardiola duel again

Updated: 2013-10-02 07:36
By Agence France-Presse in Paris (China Daily)

Manchester United faces tough Champions League test after worst Premier League start in 24 years

Manchester City's home clash with Pep Guardiola's reigning European champion Bayern Munich will capture the imagination of most fans on Wednesday evening, while the pressure is on David Moyes as Manchester United faces Shakhtar Donetsk.

Group A

Bayer Leverkusen (GER) vs Real Sociedad (ESP): Both Leverkusen and Real Sociedad are looking to get their campaigns up and running after suffering defeats on matchday one. Leverkusen went down 4-2 to Manchester United at Old Trafford in its opening game, while the Basque side lost 2-0 at home against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sami Hyypia's team has a chance of registering all three points at the BayArena, however, fresh from a third straight Bundesliga win on Saturday against Hannover.

Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) vs Manchester United (ENG): A trip to deepest Ukraine is surely the last thing David Moyes wanted as the pressure builds on the Scotsman following Manchester United's worst start to a domestic campaign in 24 years. United's 2-1 home loss to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday was its third defeat in just six Premier League games, but at least Moyes oversaw a 4-2 win against Bayer Leverkusen in his opening Champions League group game two weeks ago. Wayne Rooney scored twice in that game and Moyes will need the England star at his best in the Donbass Arena. Shakhtar needed a late comeback to draw 2-2 away to unheralded local rival Metalurg on the weekend but its European opener was an impressive 2-0 win at Real Sociedad.

Group B

Real Madrid (ESP) vs FC Copenhagen (DEN): After the humiliation of losing the Madrid derby on the weekend, Real coach Carlo Ancelotti knows the importance of getting back to winning ways in Europe.The visit of a Copenhagen side that sits second from the bottom of the Danish league and lost 3-2 to Brondby on the weekend should provide the perfect opportunity for the Spanish giant, although Stale Solbakken's men did hold Juventus in their opening Group B game.

Juventus (ITA) vs Galatasaray (TUR): After being held by Copenhagen two weeks ago, Italian champion Juventus chases a first win in Group B hosting Galatasaray, which is seeking to rebound from a 6-1 thumping at the hands of Real Madrid. Antonio Conte's Juve, which won the last of its two European Cups in 1996, beat city rival Torino 1-0 on the weekend thanks to a Paul Pogba strike and remains unbeaten in all competitions this season. The Turks come into the game with a new coach who is familiar with taking on Juve. Former Lazio, Inter Milan and Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini was on Monday appointed as the replacement for the sacked Fatih Terim.

Group C

Anderlecht (BEL) vs Olympiakos (GRE): Belgian champion Anderlecht and Greek titleholder Olympiakos are, on paper, the outsiders to qualify from Group C and both were beaten on matchday one. Anderlecht went down 2-0 away to Benfica while Olympiakos was outclassed in a 4-1 home loss to Paris Saint-Germain. The Belgians have a proud history and beat AEK Athens home and away when they last faced Greek opponents in the Europa League two years ago, but John Van den Brom's men are fourth in their domestic Pro League. Olympiakos, which has lost 99 times in Europe, leads the Greek Super League without a defeat this season.

Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) vs Benfica (POR): Paris Saint-Germain underlined its status as Group C favorites by thumping Olympiakos in Greece two weeks ago, and can take a big step towards qualifying for the last 16 by beating Benfica at the Parc des Princes. Laurent Blanc's side has struggled to convince so far this season, but remains unbeaten in all competitions while Benfica - which beat Anderlecht 2-0 in its opening game - is only fifth in the Portuguese top flight, five points behind leader Porto. PSG will be without captain Thiago Silva due to injury as they chase revenge for a defeat to the same team in the Europa League last 16 in 2011.

Group D

CSKA Moscow (RUS) vs Viktoria Pilsen (CZE): The poor state of the Arena Khimki pitch in Moscow led to this match being moved to St Petersburg. CSKA and the Czech champion both lost their opening games and are expected to fight it out for third place in Group D behind Bayern Munich and Manchester City. CSKA's preparations for this encounter have not been the best: a 2-0 loss at Terek Grozny on the weekend extended its streak of scoreless games to three. In contrast, Pavel Vrba's Pilsen is still unbeaten in the Czech league and has won five and lost two of its last seven European away games.

Manchester City (ENG) vs Bayern Munich (GER): This encounter at Etihad Stadium promises to be fascinating, with City manager Manuel Pellegrini coming up against Bayern's Pep Guardiola again. The pair are familiar with one another from their time in Spain, in particular when they occupied the dugouts at Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively in 2009-10. The two Group D favorites meet on the back of wins in their opening matches, with City triumphing away to Viktoria Pilsen while Bayern beat CSKA Moscow at home. Goals from David Silva and Yaya Toure gave City a 2-0 win when it played host to Bayern in this competition two years ago, but the English side has failed to progress beyond the group stage in either of the last two years while Bayern is the reigning European champion.

(China Daily 10/02/2013 page11)

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