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UCL: Manchester clubs aim to maintain top form in group openers and more

Aguero (Reuters Pictures)

Manchester City and Manchester United have each tried to out-do the other during sterling starts to Premier League play, but both turn their attention to the UEFA Champions League, where the results matter even more.

City hosts Napoli (2:45 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus/ in its UCL debut in a match boasting some of the world's top attacking talent. Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko have taken little time to establish themselves as goal-scoring threats this season, while David Silva has been a maestro in setting up the City attack. The English side will likely need to post some goals to counter Napoli's Edinson Cavani-Marek Hamsik-Ezequiel Lavezzi trio in order to get off to a strong start in the loaded Group A.

United faces Benfica in a Group C tilt in Portugal (2:45 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel) without the services of Rio Ferdinand, but the club has displayed its depth early on this season and has done nothing to dissuade those who believe the Red Devils should make another deep tournament run.

Here's a look ahead to the rest of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League matches:

Dinamo Zagreb vs. Real Madrid, 2:45 pm., Sports Networks

Jose Mourniho won't be in the coaching box as Madrid's quest to bring the ultimate prize back the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu kicks off in Croatia. Mourinho will be serving the first of his three-match ban, but Madrid shouldn't be too troubled in its Group D opener.

Villarreal vs. Bayern Munich, 2:45 p.m.,

Fresh off a 7-0 win in Bundesliga play, Bayern Munich has the look of a contender as it braces for a match against Giueseppe Rossi and a capable Villarreal side in their Group A (aka Group of Death) opener.

Lille vs. CSKA Moscow, 2:45 p.m.,

Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard and the French champions open Group B play looking to take advantage of a weakened CSKA side that won't have goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev or Japanese star Keisuke Honda due to long-term injuries.

Ajax vs. Lyon, 2:45 p.m.,

Ajax and Lyon are two teams that always seem to give the opposition fits in Champions League play. Both figure to be chasing second place in the group behind Real Madrid, and there's no better way to get the inside track on that by topping their chief competition for the spot.

FC Basel vs. Otelul Galati, 2:45 p.m.,

The two Group C underdogs square off knowing that the opening match is the best opportunity to secure three points ahead of future games against United and Benfica.

Inter Milan vs. Trabzonspor, 2:45 p.m.,

Inter stumbled out of the gates in Serie A with a 4-3 loss to Palermo last weekend, but the club faces Trabzonspor, which is only in the Champions League because Turkey's actual qualifier, Fenerbahce, was prohibited from the tournament due to a match-fixing scandal.


Which game are you looking forward to watching the most? How do you see the Group A matches unfolding? Do you see Manchester United, Real Madrid, Inter Milan or Bayern Munich having a tough time in their opening games?

Share your thoughts below.


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