Champions League Tuesday preview: City in Russia, Roma hosts Bayern

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This week brings us some salivating Champions League matches as the group stage still hasn’t totally shaped out yet and a number of spots are wide open.

All kicks are at 2:45pm ET except a noon kick for the game in Moscow. We’ll break things down group by group:

GROUP E:

CSKA Moscow vs. Manchester City

City will be missing Frank Lampard as they head to Russia to face CSKA Moscow.  The home side talked some smack before the match, as striker Ahmed Musa called Manchester City “very weak this year.”

The match is a must-win for both sides, so the match could be a wide-open affair. Manchester City have just one point in two matches and risk falling six points back of a knockout round position. Meanwhile, CSKA have been defeated in both games thus far.

Roma vs. Bayern Munich

The Italians have eaten Serie A alive this season alongside Juventus, and Roma is poised to make a serious European statement. Their key will be ensnaring Xabi Alonso in the Bayern Munich midfield, who is funneling everything for the Germans and as a result picking up literally hundreds of completed passes a game.

It’s unsure if he will play, but former Roma midfielder Mehdi Benatia will be returning to the club where he made a name for himself. He has been a big part of Bayern’s success with the team picking up plenty of injuries to their back line.

GROUP F:

Barcelona vs Ajax

The Spanish giants are hoping to put their disappointing loss to PSG behind them and catch the Parisians by taking down a tough Ajax squad. The Dutch side has disappointed in recent years in Europe’s top competition, but have been inconsistent so far in both the Champions League and the Eredivisie.

Barcelona has to be careful not to look past Ajax towards their La Liga matchup with Real Madrid on the weekend which will mark Luis Suarez’s return.  Ajax manager Frank de Boer played four years at the Nou Camp.

APOEL vs Paris Saint-Germain

The French club has the unique perspective of top teams where the Champions League is far and away their most important competition. It’s netted them four points and a top spot in Group F, a point ahead of Barcelona coming into these matches. They can ill afford to slip, however, as APOEL has already drawn Ajax and worked hard against the Catalans.

source: Getty Images
Schalke will need Julian Draxler at his absolute best if they are to stake a leading claim to a knockout stage position ahead of Sporting.

Gobs of star players are missing for PSG, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Marquinhos, while David Luiz, Blaise Matuidi, and Thiago Silva are question marks, so this game has upset written all over it. Lots of pressure will be on Edinson Cavani to pick up the slack.

GROUP G:

Chelsea vs Maribor

The Blues take on Slovenian side Maribor hoping to take a firm hold of not just the Premier League but Group G as well. A win could put them four points clear at the top of the group, while even a draw would leave them no less than equal at the top.

Schalke 04 vs Sporting CP

Both sides will be looking to take hold of the second spot in Group G behind Chelsea in one of the more even matchups this week.  Schalke are missing a good group of players due to injury, including Jefferson Farfan. They’re still getting used to new manager Roberto Di Matteo’s style as well, and are one of the most inconsistent clubs this season, having pulled off stunning wins and horrific losses.

GROUP H:

Porto vs Athletic Bilbao

Porto look to hold onto their annual breeze into the knockout stage with a chance to go four points clear on the top as they take on winless Athletic Bilbao. The Portuguese trounced BATE Borisov 6-0 and drew 2-2 with Shakhtar Donetsk. Conversely, Bilbao have lost to Borisov 2-1. Take from that what you will.

BATE Borisov vs Shakhtar Donetsk

Shakhtar have been surprisingly defensive this Champions League campaign, with just 13 shots to their name over the first two matches, both of which ended in draws. They have a chance to buck that trend in Belarus.