Chelsea will attempt to kick their Champions League campaign into gear at the second attempt on Tuesday when they visit Steaua Bucharest for their second Group E fixture.
The London club were stunned 2-1 by FC Basel in their first group outing and can ill afford further setbacks with a double-header against Schalke to come.
Chelsea last season became the first defending champions to be eliminated in the group phase and manager Jose Mourinho has described Tuesday’s match as “the game that we cannot lose”.
Chelsea do not have fond memories of their last visit to Bucharest, however, having lost 1-0 to Steaua in the away leg of a Europa League last 16 tie in March before winning the second leg 3-1.
Steaua won a league and cup double last season, but Laurentiu Reghecampf’s side have not appeared in the Champions League group stage since 2008 and have not won a game in the competition since September 2006.
Arsenal's German footballers Per Mertesacker (L) and Mesut Ozil (2nd L) are pictured during a team training session for the forthcoming UEFA Champions League Group F football match against SSC Napoli at Arsenal's London Colney training ground in north London. AFP PHOTO/GLYN KIRK
However, the 1986 European champions boast an admirable home record against English clubs, having lost only one of eight previous encounters.
Wary of ‘spanking’
GLASGOW: Celtic manager Neil Lennon is worried about a “spanking” by a Barcelona side intent on revenge when the two sides face each other in their Group H clash on Tuesday.
The Scottish champions sprung a huge shock at Celtic Park last November when goals from Victor Wanyama and teenage striker Tony Watt secured a famous 2-1 triumph over the four-time European champions.
Lennon knows the Catalan giants, who will be without the injured Lionel Messi, will be set on avenging that loss and has identified ‘keeper Fraser Forster, who was a stand-out in Celtic’s win, as being pivotal if they are to avoid a heavy loss. “Us getting a spanking goes through my mind, 100 per cent,” the Celtic boss said.
Far from heady past
BERNE: Ajax Amsterdam and AC Milan, who have twice met in the final of Europe’s top club competition and won the title 11 times between them, clash again on Tuesday in a match which is far from the heady days of their past.
Four-times champions Ajax used to be one of Europe’s top clubs but have been knocked out in the group stage on their last three appearances and have not reached the round of 16 since 2005-06. Milan, who won the last of their seven European titles in 2007, have been struggling to rebuild since offloading a number of top players one year ago.
Defusing the ‘bombs’
london: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has told his players to watch out for Napoli’s quickfire counter-attacks when the two high-flying sides meet at the Emirates on Tuesday.
Napoli are unbeaten in all competitions under Rafael Benitez and Wenger has identified the Italian side’s breakaways as their big strength: “When they win the ball they come out very quickly with (Jose) Callejon, (Marek) Hamsik, Insigne and (Gonzalo) Higuain, (who) come out like bombs all the time they win the ball.”