Paris Saint-Germain’s showdown with Barcelona will share top billing with Roma’s trip to Manchester City as the UEFA Champions League resumes Tuesday night with the start of the second serving of group games.
The other fixtures include five matches between teams meeting for the first time in what could well prove tense encounters, with no side having managed to win away in Groups E to H last time out.
Manchester City can certainly ill afford a slip against Giallorossi in the ‘group of death’ after kicking off with a loss to Bayern Munich, while Chelsea need to bounce back from their home draw with Schalke at Sporting Lisbon, where English clubs have traditionally struggled down the years.
So far this season, PSG have looked anything but the juggernaut that strolled to last year’s Ligue 1 title, recording five draws and three wins and generally struggling to kill off games. In contrast, Barcelona are riding high at the top of the Spanish La Liga and seem to have rediscovered their swagger of old.
They look a frightening proposition, particularly as PSG coach Laurent Blanc must wait for late fitness news on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while Ezequiel Lavezzi is definitely out and captain Thiago Silva a major doubt.
The hosts will base their tactical approach on whether Ibrahimovic plays or not, implementing their usual 4-3-3 with Edinson Cavani on the flank if he does, or a 4-4-2 with a playmaker behind the forwards if their Swedish talisman is unable to feature.
PSG will take confidence from their ten-game unbeaten run in home Champions League games, while previous meetings between the sides have yielded a win apiece and three draws.
Barça will look as so often to Lionel Messi to tip that statistic in their favour, though it is the Argentinian’s selflessness that has shone brightest this season, four of his six assists having been served up to Neymar.
Indeed, the star duo were clearly operating on the same wavelength against Granada on Saturday, with Neymar hitting a hat-trick and Messi claiming a double as Barcelona extended their run of clean sheets to six La Liga contests.
Manchester City are unbeaten at home against Italian opposition, boasting a return of two wins and two draws from four matches. Upcoming visitors Roma have struggled on English soil, meanwhile, triumphing just once on 17 visits, and although Francesco Totti and teammates recorded their biggest ever Champions League win last time out by downing CSKA Moscow 5-1, they will be well aware that their heaviest loss in the competition was inflicted in Manchester.
That came against United, however, the Red Devils racking up a 7-1 scoreline on 10 April 2007.
Sporting Lisbon have lost just once in 11 home meetings with English sides, Manchester United’s 1-0 success on 19 September 2007 not enough to undermine a notable tally of seven victories and three stalemates in the other fixtures.
As for Chelsea, they have not won in three Champions League outings, their run of two defeats and a draw representing their longest winless sequence at this level.
PSG coach Laurent Blanc played together with his Barcelona counterpart Luis Enrique during his only season at the Camp Nou, in 1996/97. Three of Blanc’s charges are Barça alumni as well, Ibrahimovic, Thiago Motta and Maxwell having all turned out for the Catalan giants.
CSKA vs Bayern Munich 17:00
Man City vs Roma 19:45
Apoel Nicosa vs Ajax 19:45
PSG vs Barcelona 19:45
Schalke vs NK Maribor 19:45
Sporting vs Chelsea 19:45
BATE vs Athletico Bilbao 19:45