Champions League: English Big Guns Chelsea F.C., Manchester City F.C Face German Challenge
In-form Premier League leaders Chelsea, with maximum points on the domestic front after four games, will be looking to repeat last season's display against Schalke 04 whom they beat 3-0 home and away. In another big game, five-time winners Bayern Munich, who made a third consecutive European semi-final last season, face off against English Premier League winners Manchester City for the third time in four years in the group stage starting in Munich.
English heavyweights Chelsea and Manchester City get their Champions League campaigns off the mark on Wednesday against German rivals Schalke 04 and Bayern Munich, with Paris Saint German star Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to his old club Ajax and Spanish giants Barcelona also in action.
AFP Sports takes a look at the second batch of elite European fixtures in Groups E, F, G and H:
BAYERN MUNICH (GER) v MANCHESTER CITY (ENG)
Five-time winners Bayern, who made a third consecutive European semi-final last season, face off against English Premier League winners Manchester City for the third time in four years in the group stage starting in Munich.
City came from two goals down to end Bundesliga champions Bayern's record ten-game run of Champions League wins last season. Both teams finished level on points with Bayern coming out on top after their 3-1 win at City.
Bayern eliminated Arsenal in the last 16 and City's neighbours Manchester United in the quarter-finals, before losing to eventual champions Real Madrid 5-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals.
The 2013 winners are boosted by France playmaker Franck Ribery who marked his return from a knee injury to score in a 2-0 win over VfB Stuttgart that put the champions joint top of the Bundesliga.
City, meanwhile, have had a sluggish start to their Premier League title defense with a draw against Arsenal on Sunday leaving them fifth with just seven points for their first four games.
ROMA (ITA) v CSKA MOSCOW (RUS)
Roma coach Rudi Garcia is set to hand former Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita his full debut when the Giallorossi end a four-year absence from the Champions League by hosting CSKA Moscow.
Malian international Keita, who has come off the bench in two league wins so far, is set to step in for the suspended Daniele De Rossi.
Roma last competed in the competition in the 2010/2011 season, when they reached the round of 16, and will be desperate to make a positive start in a Group E which also features favourites Manchester City and Bayern Munich.
While Roma are without attacking midfielder Kevin Strootman (knee) and possibly defender Leandro Castan (thigh), CSKA have far bigger worries in comparison.
Defender Georgi Schennikov, midfielder Rasmus Elm and forward Vitinho are sidelined with injury, while halfback Aleksandrs Cauna is a fitness doubt.
Russian international Alan Dzagoev and Swede Pontus Wernbloom will also sit out the first of a three-match ban following red cards last season against Czech side Viktoria Plzen.
Garcia rested several key players, namely Gervinho, Francesco Totti and Juan Iturbe in last weekend's 1-0 win at Empoli, suggesting they will start at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.
BARCELONA (ESP) v APOEL NICOSIA (CYP)
New Barcelona coach Luis Enrique's European campaign debuts with La Liga runners-up hosting Cypriot outfit Apoel, competing in the group stage for the third time and quarter-finalists in 2011/12 .
Last season the Catalans failed to reach at least the semi-finals for the first time since 2007 being stopped in the quarter-finals by eventual runners-up Atletico Madrid.
The four-time winners are however boosted by the statistic of having lost just one of their last 27 home Champions League matches.
AJAX (NED) v PARIS SAINT GERMAIN (FRA)
Dutch champions Ajax, who won the last of their four European titles two decades ago, face a potentially tricky test at home against last season's quarter-finalists Paris Saint-Germain.
The Amsterdam outfit will also have to contend with their former Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, now an international star 13 years after he joined Ajax, as they bid to survive the group stage for the first time since 2006.
But French champions PSG, who play their first ever tie in the Netherlands, have won just one of their last seven away games, being held Saturday in Ligue 1 action.
The Qatari-backed Parisians reached the quarter-finals for the second successive season in 2013/14, before losing to Chelsea on away goals.
Laurent Blanc's side also have defensive worries with skipper Thiago Silva still sidelined while David Luiz picked up a knee injury playing for Brazil and Serge Aurier recovering after losing consciousness during a clash of heads playing for the Ivory Coast.
CHELSEA (ENG) v SCHALKE 04 (GER)
In-form Premier League leaders Chelsea, with maximum points on the domestic front after four games, will be looking to repeat last season's display against Schalke 04 whom they beat 3-0 home and away.
Bolstered by new signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea are favourites to advance past the group stages as they bid for second title after 2012. The Londoners reached the semi-finals last year and can be boosted by the fact they have never lost against a Bundesliga side at home.
Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho is also bidding to become the first coach to win the European title with three different clubs after Porto (2004) and Inter Milan (2010).
Schalke were eliminated in last season's round of 16 by winners Real Madrid, losing 3-1 away and 9-2 on aggregate, and are struggling in the Bundesliga with just one point from three games.
MARIBOR (SLO) v SPORTING LISBON (POR)
Resurgent Sporting Lisbon return to the Champions League group stage after a six-year absence with Nani among a new-look side bolstered by 11 new signings who open against Slovenian champions NK Maribor, themselves back in Europe after 15 years.
Maribor's squad can take inspiration from coach Ante Simundza, who played an important role in the club's last European qualification as a player in the 1999-2000 season, scoring the winning goal in the group opener to defeat Dynamo Kyiv.
Sporting's new coach Marco Silva will be hoping to overturn the statistics of the Portuguese league runners-up having lost their last two opening day fixtures.
The Portuguese are looking to wipe out memories of the heaviest home (5-0) and away (7-1) defeats in European competition in the last-16 to Bayern Munich in 2009, and reverse the tide of not winning any of their last ten away matches in European competition.
ATHLETIC BILBAO (ESP) v SHAKHTAR DONETSK (UKR)
Athletic return to the Champions League group stage for just the second time and the first in 16 years after their 4-2 aggregate victory over Napoli in qualifying last month and are hopeful of making it out of a group which also includes Porto and BATE Borisov.
The Basque side have struggled in La Liga this season with just three points from three games, while Shakhtar have notched up six consecutive victories in their league despite playing their home games in the western Ukranian city of Lyviv because of unrest in the Ukraine.
Mircea Lucesu's side can feel at home in northern Spain having got their Champions League campaign last season of to a 2-0 win at Athletic's rivals Real Sociedad.
PORTO (POR) v BATE BORISOV (BLR)
Portuguese side Porto will be looking to put their struggles at home last season behind them when host Belarus outfit BATE Borisov, who are in the group stage for the third time in four seasons.
Porto, winners in 1987 and 2004, will be playing their 200th elite European fixture.