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City look to escape CL trouble

20 October 2014, 08:03

Manchester, England — This was supposed to be the season Manchester City finally made a sustained push in the Champions League.

It's not working out that way for the English champions.

City is the most high-profile team in early trouble in Europe's elite club competition after picking up just one point from its first two group games.

It means City manager Manuel Pellegrini is already treating Tuesday's trip to CSKA Moscow, the first of a double-header against the Russian side, like "a final."

There are no such problems for Champions League heavyweights Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, who all have a maximum six points heading into the third round of group matches.

The standout fixture in Matchday 3 is Liverpool vs. Madrid on Wednesday — a match between clubs who have won Europe's biggest prize a combined 15 times.

Here are some things to know about the upcoming Champions League games:

City's struggles

Since an influx of Abu Dhabi cash in 2008, Man City has won every trophy going in English football, including the Premier League title twice. Success in Europe is proving much harder to come by.

In three seasons in the Champions League, City has twice failed to get out of its group and was eliminated in the first round of the knockout stage the other time.

So far this campaign, City has lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich and was disappointing in a 1-1 home draw with Roma that left the English champions facing an uphill struggle in Group E.

"We have two games against CSKA Moscow (and) we need win to win both of them," Pellegrini said. "The best way is to treat every game as a final, try to win it and then win the next final."

The match will be played in front of no fans as punishment for CSKA for racist incidents by its supporters. City midfielder Yaya Toure was a target of racist abuse by CSKA fans last season.

Evergreen Totti

Roma hosts Bayern in the other match in City's group, with its striker and captain Francesco Totti enjoying a new lease of life as he helps the team challenge on two fronts this season.

Totti became the oldest scorer in the Champions League's 22-year history in the last round of fixtures, when he netted the equaliser against City three days after his 38th birthday.

The forward is also closing in on Silvio Piola's all-time Serie A top scoring record of 274 goals. He scored penalties in each of his last two games to take his tally to 237.

Roma was without several of its star players in a 3-0 victory over Chievo Verona on Saturday, with Juan Iturbe and Gervinho expected to return against 2013 champion Bayern.

Scoring records

Lionel Messi has the chance to become the all-time leading scorer in both the Champions League and the Spanish league this week.

Cristiano Ronaldo might, though, beat him to the milestone in Europe.

Records are falling fast for the world's top two players, and both will again take aim at Raul Gonzalez's all-time mark of 71 goals in the Champions League.

Ronaldo has scored 69 goals in the competition— not counting one the Real Madrid forward scored in a qualifying round. Messi has 68 goals, and will get the first shot at Raul's record on Tuesday when Barcelona hosts Ajax in Group F.

Ronaldo will have to wait one more day for Madrid's visit to Liverpool in Group B, in which he has scored in both his games so far.

Ronaldo is having a superb start to the season. The Ballon d'Or holder established the best scoring start to a Spanish league season on Saturday when he scored his 14th and 15th goals through the first eight rounds.

Messi can overshadow that feat next weekend when Barcelona visits Madrid in La Liga. The Argentina forward needs one goal to match Telmo Zarra's all-time leading tally of 251 goals that has stood since 1955.

PSG injuries

Paris Saint-Germain's 3-2 win over Barcelona on Matchday 2 gave the French champions some breathing space atop Group F.

They might need it, given their injury problems.

Ahead of the trip to play Apoel Nicosia in Cyprus on Tuesday, PSG coach Laurent Blanc could be without his entire back four of Thiago Silva (hamstring), David Luiz (thigh), Marquinhos (thigh) and Lucas Digne (knee), while key midfielder Blaise Matuidi has a hip injury. Winger Ezequiel Lavezzi (hamstring) is also out.

Blanc's biggest dilemma, however, is over Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Sweden star has missed seven straight games — five in the league for PSG and two with Sweden — as he tries to shake of a nagging heel injury.

With Edinson Cavani suspended for PSG's crucial league game against title rival Bordeaux next weekend, Blanc may be better off resting Ibrahimovic against Apoel — even if he is fit to play — rather than rushing him back.

Dortmund in crisis

The Champions League can't come quickly enough for Borussia Dortmund, which plays Galatasaray on Wednesday in Turkey.

After four defeats in five Bundesliga games without a win, 2013 finalist Dortmund is looking to European competition for relief.

"You can call it a crisis. What else?" said Dortmund sport director Michael Zorc after Saturday's 2-1 loss at Cologne, the third in a row.

Dortmund has two wins from two Group D games in the Champions League, however, with no goals conceded against Arsenal or Anderlecht. It contrasts starkly with the side's domestic form, which has seen goals conceded in every game.

- AP


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