UEFA Champions League 2013-14: Previewing Top Opening Group Stage Matchups
UEFA Champions League action will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday with the start of group stage play across Europe.
Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City will all be in action on Tuesday, each looking to pick up three huge points to put towards a berth in the round of 16. Wednesday's action will feature more high-powered clubs, including Chelsea, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.
In addition to the handful of beloved clubs set go head-to-head, there will be no shortage of big-name superstar talent to watch for.
Below we'll preview the top opening group stage clashes on the schedule.
Galatasaray vs. Real Madrid: Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 2:45 p.m. ET (7:45 p.m. BST)
Spanish giants Real Madrid will look to get off to a strong start in Group B on Tuesday, when they travel to Istanbul to take on Galatasaray, the club they outlasted to reach the semifinals of last year's tournament.
Who will win this matchup in Istanbul?
Carlo Ancelotti's squad will be heavy favorites to do some damage in the group stage as well as in the later rounds of the Champions League tournament this year—and for obvious reason. With two of the world's top players on board in Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, Real will be both fun to watch and difficult to beat.
But what makes this particular matchup great is that Galatasaray have some can't-miss talent of their own with Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder leading the way.
These two clubs thrilled in the quarterfinals last spring, with Madrid surviving 5-3 on aggregate. Therefore, Tuesday's group opener promises to live up to expectations.
Napoli vs. Borussia Dortmund: Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 2:45 ET (7:45 p.m. BST)
On Wednesday, the 2012-13 Champions League runners-up will visit Italy to take on Napoli in a highly anticipated Group F opener.
Which is the best club in Group F?
Napoli are currently flying high in Serie A, winning all three of their matches thus far to jump out to the top of the league table. Led by Gonzalo Higuain and Marek Hamsik, Rafael Benitez' squad will have an excellent shot to surprise Dortmund, who are cruising in the Bundesliga this season, having won all five of their matches.
So long as Napoli can neutralize Robert Lewandowski and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the final third, the Italians should have a shot at picking up a crucial point or more, which would go a long way in a challenging table that also features English powerhouse Arsenal.
AC Milan vs. Celtic: Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 2:45 p.m. ET (7:45 p.m. BST)
In a matchup of two well-known clubs that reached the Champions League round of 16 a year ago, AC Milan will host Celtic to begin play in Group H on Wednesday.
Which team is more likely to reach the round of 16 again in 2013-14?
Milan has struggled out of the gate in Serie A play this season, winning just one of their first three matches.
Star forward Mario Balotelli has three goals in five appearances for the Italian club this season and will need to be at his best on Wednesday if he and his squad hope to pick up some key points in group play. After all, Celtic are off to another strong start in the Scottish Premier League and have shown in the past that they are capable of making deep runs in Champions League play.
Led by Anthony Stokes and Kris Commons, who have combined to score five goals for the Hoops, Celtic are a dangerous team in Group G—and one Milan will have to worry about with Barcelona likely to win the table.
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