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Barca-Milan headlines opening day of UEFA Champions League group stage

Barca (Getty Images)

The UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off on Tuesday with half of the teams in action, but one match wil command a bit more attention than the rest.

Defending European champion Barcelona welcomes AC Milan to Camp Nou for a high-profile group-stage opener (2:45 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel). Even though former Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out with a hamstring injury for Milan, there will still be plenty of starpower on the field for both sides as Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Alexandre Pato, Robinho and Antonio Cassano are all expected suit up. Carles Puyol is said to be making his return from offseason knee surgery for Barcelona, as well.

Barcelona and Milan are each coming off of disappointing 2-2 draws in league play and are in search of taking an early advantage in Group H. While both are fully expected to advance from a group that also contains Viktoria Plzen and BATE Borisov, it's still important to get their quests for a European championship started on the right foot.

Here's a look ahead to all of Tuesday's UCL matches:

Chelsea vs. Bayer Leverkusen, 2:45 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus/

Michael Ballack returns to Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving Chelsea in this matchup between Group E combatants. American goalkeeper David Yelldell is likely to remain on the bench as the backup for Leverkusen.

Genk vs. Valencia, 2:45 p.m.,

While Chelsea is the favorite, Group E is pretty wide open, making this opener between the Belgian and Spanish sides all the more important.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Arsenal, 2:45 p.m.,

The defending German champions pose a huge threat to Arsenal, which is still adjusting to all of its new parts after a busy transfer season. Dortmund hasn't gotten off to the hottest of starts in domestic play but will still give Arsenal all it can handle in their Group F opener. 

Olympiakos vs. Marseille, 2:45 p.m.,

Both are up against the odds to advance from Group F, and it remains to be seen if Marseille has to overcome the absence of Mathieu Valbuena, who is a doubt with a leg injury that he suffered in domestic play.

Porto vs. Shakhtar Donetsk, 2:45 p.m.,

Porto hasn't skipped a beat after its brilliant 2010-2011 campaign, and even though manager Andre Vilas-Boas is with Chelsea and striker Radamel Falcao is with Atletico Madrid, the Portuguese champions still boast plenty to give their Ukranian opponents a tough Group G opener.

APOEL vs. Zenit-St. Petersburg, 2 p.m.,

U.S. Soccer fans may recognize Nicolas Lombaerts for Zenit, the goal-scorer in Belgium's 1-0 victory over the USA last week. Both teams figure to be chasing Porto for the top spot in Group G, with Zenit being the group's wild card.

Viktoria Plzen vs. BATE Borisov, 2:45 p.m.,

Both are heavy underdogs in Group H, but if there's a winner, it will have an early place among the top two spots in the group.


Who do you think will win the Barcelona-AC Milan match? Which other matches are you looking forward to seeing? Who else do you see winning on Tuesday?

Share your thoughts below.


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