PARIS, Sept 28, (AFP): Reigning champions Barcelona face Bayer Leverkusen without the injured Lionel Messi while Jose Mourinho goes back to his old club Porto with Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday.
AFP Sport runs the rule over the eight games being played in Groups E, F, G and H on Tuesday (kick-offs 1845 GMT):
At Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona (ESP) vs Bayer Leverkusen (GER)
Barcelona are reeling from the blow of losing Lionel Messi for up to eight weeks with knee ligament damage as they prepare to welcome Leverkusen to the Camp Nou. The Argentine, who became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League game when Barca crushed Leverkusen 7-1 in the round of 16 at the Camp Nou in 2011/12, came off early in Barca’s 2-1 win over Las Palmas in La Liga on Saturday and will be missed as the reigning European champions seek a first win in Group E. However, it was Luis Suarez who scored in their 1-1 draw at Roma two weeks ago and the Uruguayan also got both goals against Las Palmas. The Catalans are also without the injured Claudio Bravo, Thomas Vermaelen and Rafinha, reducing Luis Enrique’s squad to just 15 fit outfield players. Meanwhile, Leverkusen make the trip fresh from a 3-0 victory at Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga on Saturday and beat BATE 4-1 in their opening group game.
At Barysaw, Belarus
BATE (BLR) vs Roma (ITA)
Roma are the favourites heading into the game in Belarus, although the Italian side make the trip without Edin Dzeko, Francesco Totti and Seydou Keita, who are all injured. Roma coach Rudi Garcia also has bad memories of meetings with BATE — they beat Lille when he was in charge of the French side in the 2012/13 group stage. Nevertheless, the Giallorossi are fresh from a 5-1 win against Carpi in Serie A at the weekend and are now looking to build on an encouraging 1-1 draw with Barcelona a fortnight ago. BATE have already won three times at home in the qualifiers and play-offs in this season’s competition and won 2-1 at Minsk on Friday to go 12 points clear in their domestic league.
At Munich, Germany
Bayern Munich (GER) vs Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)
Both sides are looking to build on wins in their opening matches as they clash at the Allianz Arena, but anything other than a convincing Bayern win would be a major surprise. The German champions are in rampant form, having won nine games in a row in all competitions, scoring 29 goals in the process. They beat Olympiakos 3-0 in Greece in their Group F opener and won by the same scoreline at Mainz in the Bundesliga on Saturday. For Pep Guardiola’s side this game comes ahead of a huge clash with Borussia Dortmund next weekend, but he will not be able to rotate his squad too much with the likes of Medhi Benatia, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery on the sidelines. Dinamo Zagreb should be able to travel to Bavaria with the pressure off following their 2-1 win over Arsenal in their opening game which was a first victory in 16 attempts in the group stage. They are a side in form though — the Croatian champions won 4-1 against Osijek on Friday and have not lost in 45 competitive games since last November.
Arsenal (ENG) vs Olympiakos (GRE)
Arsenal head into their home clash with Greek champions Olympiakos buoyed by a superb 5-2 victory at Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday but with little margin for error in Group F after their shock 2-1 reverse in Zagreb two weeks ago. Alexis Sanchez scored a hat-trick against Leicester and, with Olivier Giroud suspended, Arsenal will look to the Chilean to lead them against an Olympiakos side who were beaten 3-0 at home by Bayern in their group opener. “Mathematically we can qualify without any problem if we can produce our performances that we want at home,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. History is certainly on the Gunners’ side — they are unbeaten in eight home meetings with Greek teams, while Olympiakos have lost on all 12 past visits to England. Marco Silva’s side made it five wins from five domestic league games when they beat PAS Giannina 5-1 on Saturday.
At Haifa, Israel
Maccabi Tel-Aviv (ISR) vs Dynamo Kiev (UKR)
Maccabi host a Champions League group game for the first time since 2004 and do so looking to bounce back from a 4-0 loss at Chelsea in their Group G opener. Dynamo, meanwhile, come into the game after drawing 2-2 with Porto in their first match and are unbeaten since going down to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukrainian Super Cup in July. The Israeli club are hosting group games at the ultra-modern Sammy Ofer stadium, 100 kilometres up the Mediterranean coast from Tel Aviv in Haifa. It was there that Slavisa Jokanovic’s side beat Maccabi Haifa 2-0 in their domestic league at the weekend.
At Oporto, Portugal
FC Porto (POR) vs Chelsea (ENG)
There is no shortage of sub-plots surrounding this encounter at the Estadio do Dragao. Above all, sees Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho returns to face the club he led to Champions League glory in 2004. He has been back since — in his first season at Chelsea, the London club lost 2-1 at Porto in the group stage, while they drew 1-1 there in the last 16 in 2006/07. But there is increased pressure on Mourinho just now — they eased past Maccabi Tel-Aviv 4-0 in their Group G opener but a 2-2 draw at Newcastle United on Saturday continued their sluggish start in the Premier League. Porto, meanwhile, could only draw 2-2 at Moreirense on Friday but they are top of the Portuguese league and remain unbeaten. And in Iker Casillas they have a goalkeeper who would surely love to get one over on Mourinho, the two not enjoying the best of relationships with one another at Real Madrid.
At Lyon, France
Lyon (FRA) vs Valencia (ESP)
In arguably the most open group of all, there is little margin for error for either Lyon or Valencia as they meet at the Stade de Gerland. Lyon were held by nine-man Gent in their Group H opener and lost 3-1 in Bordeaux in Ligue 1 at the weekend. Coach Hubert Fournier could almost field an entire team of injured players just now, with the outstanding Nabil Fekir leading the long list of absentees. Valencia were beaten by Zenit St Petersburg in their first outing and, while they beat French opposition in Monaco in the play-offs, they have struggled domestically so far. That has increased the pressure on coach Nuno Espirito Santo, although they did beat Granada 1-0 on Friday.
At St Petersburg, Russia
Zenit St Petersburg (RUS) vs Gent (BEL)
In such a close section, Andre Villas-Boas’s Zenit can take a big step towards qualification by beating Gent. The Russian side drew 2-2 with Spartak Moscow on Saturday and are third in their domestic Premier League, eight points behind leaders CSKA Moscow. However, in Hulk they have one of the most potent forwards in the competition — he scored two thumping goals in the win in Valencia two weeks ago and was also on target against Spartak. Gent, appearing in the group stage for the first time, travel without the suspended Thomas Foket and Brecht Dejaegere after their red cards in the draw with Lyon. They remain unbeaten this season after a 3-1 win at Waasland-Beveren on Saturday.