First off, here’s how match day one went in the four groups on preview:
Group E: Bayern Munich 2-0 AS Roma. CFR Cluj 2-1 FC Basle
Group F: MSK Zilina 1-4 Chelsea. Olympique Marseille 0-1 Spartak Moscow
Group G: Real Madrid 2-0 AFC Ajax. AC Milan 2-0 AJ Auxerre
Group H: Arsenal 6-0 Sporting Braga. Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 Partizan Belgrade
Much has happened since a fortnight ago when these matches were played with Chelsea and Arsenal falling to first league defeats of their seasons, Bayern being stunned at home by surprise Bundesliga leaders FSV Mainz, Roma edging Inter Milan in Serie A in what should prove a real confidence booster for the Italians and Real Madrid dropping points in a goalless draw against newly promoted Levante to leave los Merengues playing chase in la Liga already.
In Group E, Roma’s seeming revival will be tested by CFR Cluj at the Stadio Olimpico which may prove a bit too imposing for the visiting Romanian side. A win for Roma in this match is especially crucial as any other result will deeply jeopardise Giallorossi’s chance of making the knock-out round. Bayern Munich, that have French winger Franck Ribery back, is favourite to win the trip to Switzerland to face Basle as the Bavarians will be out to get the home loss by Mainz behind them.
Group F sees an attractive fixture with French champions Marseille visiting the Stamford Bridge fortress to face Chelsea and its former striker Didier Drogba. Marseille may not have the quality of players or home advantage as Manchester City but there is much the French side can take to the Bridge. That said, Chelsea is known to recover very well from losses as against City on Saturday and Marseille will be made to rue losing its first match at home to Spartak. The Russians can consolidate on that crucial win with what should be a stroll of a game against visiting debutantes Zilina. A win for Spartak there would mean six points in the bag before a dreaded double header of games against Chelsea with the Blues visiting Russia in the first of those games in mid October.
In Group G, Ajax must utilise its youth and home advantage against seven time champions Milan that have former Ajax striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in its fold along with Alex Pato, Robinho and the ever dreaded Ronaldinho to bank on to ruffle the Ajax back line. Luis Suarez will be key if Ajax is to win otherwise, experience will play in favour of Milan with a point from the trip in the least.
Milan will also be driven to win by the looming fixture with Real Madrid coming after this and with the Spaniards not in top form, an upset in the form of a loss or draw against Auxerre will swing the group advantage to Milan… Jose Mourinho has his work cut out.
Finally from Group H, Arsenal face a tricky trip to Partizan Belgrade without captain Cesc Fàbregas and goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, who was chief culprit in the shock 2-3 reverse at home to West Brom in the Premier League, giving Polish keeper Lukasz Fabianski a starting berth and his chance to be Arsenal’s first choice keeper. Safe for that department, the Gunners should get a point at worst from this trip. Braga meanwhile must pick up from an appaling opening day display at the Emirates when Shakhtar visit Portugal looking to consolidate on its opening day win over Partizan. Any less than a win for Braga will poise Shakhtar for the double salvo in October against Arsenal and a reunion of Eduardo da Silva with his former employers.