The Uefa Champions League returns on Tuesday with several blockbuster matches and few teams looking to payback for their previous shortcomings.
Match Day 7 kicks off with Shakhtar Donetsk hosting 2012-2013 champions Bayern Munich, while Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea are up at the Parc des Princes, home of French Ligue 1 champions Paris St-Germain (PSG).
Shakhtar Donetsk- Bayern Munich
Bayern warmed up for this game with an 8-0 mauling of Hamburg at the weekend. Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben all grabbed braces, with substitute Franck Ribery and Robert Lewandowski completing the rout.
Shakhtar, who return to the Ukrainian Premier League action at the end of the month after their winter break, are hoping their last league result in December- a 4-1 win over Hoverla- could spur them on. The Pitmen have been involved in several friendly matches during the winter break, including victories over Brazilian clubs Atletico Mineiro and Internacional and a goalless draw with Flamengo.
Brazilian midfielder Bernard is the only Shakhtar player sidelined with an ankle problem. Suspended midfielder Taras Stepanenko travelled with the rest of the team’s squad from Kyiv to Lviv last night despite being unavailable for the fixture at the Arena Lviv. Shakhtar have been forced to abandon their Dombass Arena home due to crisis in Ukraine.
Bayern captain Philip Lahm has began training, 14 weeks after fracturing his ankle but Tuesday’s cracker must have come too early for the ex-Germany international.
“Xabi Alonso trained well yesterday and today but his fitness is still open question. We’ll make a decision tomorrow,” manager Pep Guardiola said.
The Bavarians have won, drawn once apiece and suffered three defeats in their previous trip to Ukraine. Another German Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund eliminated Shakhtar at this stage of the 2012-13 competition en route to losing to rivals in the Wembly final.
Speaking about a side which scored 15 goals in the group stages, Bayern defender Juan Bernat said: “They are a team with dangerous players up front, decisive players. They have a lot of talent, so we have to watch out against them, but it’s important that we focus on ourselves, that we know what we have to do. And yes, we’ll do things well. We don’t have any problems at the moment, but we do respect Shakhtar − they are a great team.”
Chelsea progressed to the semi-final of Europe’s elite competition last term at the expense of the Parisians courtesy of an away goal in a 3-1 first leg defeat on the road. The Blues eventually scaled through with a 2-0 victory in London in the return leg.
Portuguese boss Mourinho’s first Champions League game in charge of the west London outfit in 2005 came at PSG, which they won 3-0.
PSG will be without three players- namely: newly crowned African champion Serge Aurier, Frenchman Yohan Cabaye, and Lucas Moura- who picked up injuries during the 2-2 home draw with Caen at the weekend. Thiago Motta, Marquinhos and Blaise Matuidi are doubtful for now, according to manager Laurent Blanc.
“Serge Aurier, Yohan Cabaye and Lucas Moura are officially out, unfortunately. There are two or three other players who are doubtful [Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi, Marquinhos], we’ll have to assess their fitness after today’s training session,” Blanc said in his pre-game media conference.
“I’ll ask them if they are 100% fit and ready for this match, as for this type of fixtures, you need all your players on the pitch to be at 100%. We’ll have a very competitive squad. We need lads like Thiago Motta, who has so much experience in the Champions League, and who also won it…”
John Obi Mikel, who missed last week’s 2-1 win at home to Everton, was the only player not involved in Chelsea’s final training at Cobham on Monday morning, prior to their flight to Paris.