Champions League football is back on the menu this week, with the first group stages fixtures set to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.
All four English Premier League sides have ambitions of making it through their pools and pushing towards the latter stages, but will have to overcome seasoned European opponents to do so.
But who has the toughest opening fixture of the four?
Manchester United vs Leverkusen
The Premier League champions welcome Bundesliga side Leverkusen to Old Trafford on Tuesday and will look to get off to a winning start in Group A.
The German side have started their domestic campaign strongly, winning four of their first five games and will look to make a statement with a competitive showing at Old Trafford.
In Stefan Kiessling the visitors have a striker in form; the Germany international has four goals from five games. Lars Bender in the side’s midfield and South Korean forward Heung Min-Son are others to watch.
Verdict – United go into the clash as overwhelming favourites and anything other than a home win will be a disappointment to David Moyes.
Viktoria Plzen vs Manchester City
The long trip to eastern Europe that Manuel Pellegrini’s men have to make will be worth it if they get three points, but that is not guaranteed against a team that are improving.
Plzen enter the Champions League group stage for only the second time after being crowned as Czech champions last term. Their squad is predominantly home-grown talent and there is something of the unknown for City.
Although City have much superior players, it will be whether they can handle the conditions that will depend on how many points they come away with.
Verdict – City have the better side on paper, but it could well be a tricky fixture for the Etihad Stadium outfit.
Chelsea vs Basel
Jose Mourinho will be keen to make amends for the weekend defeat to Everton, as Basel are the visitors to Stamford Bridge. The Blues beat the Swiss side in their run to the Europa League final last season.
The visitors have plenty of recent European experience but lack the individual flair to break Chelsea down. Expect a defensive showing from Basel, and it will be up to the Blues to break their opponents down.
Verdict - Basel will put up more of a fight at home, and alarm bells will be going off if Chelsea don’t get three points here.
Marseille vs Arsenal
With Borussia Dortmund and Napoli to play also, Arsenal will look to maximise the points they can get from the two fixtures against Marseille. No pushovers in anyone’s book, but the Gunners have superior class to the Ligue 1 outfit.
Marseille started their domestic season well but have dropped points in their last two fixtures. The atmosphere at the Stade Velodrome will make it testing for Arsenal, but if the north London side play the way they have been this term to date, three valuable points will be up for grabs.
Verdict – Arsenal have injury concerns but should be too good for the French side.
image: © [puamelia]