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5 things to look out for in tonight’s Champions League games

The two Manchester clubs, holders Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and PSG all kick off their European campaigns with new managers at the helm tonight.

David Moyes during a press conference this week.
David Moyes during a press conference this week.
Image: Martin Rickett/PA Wire/Press Association Images

1. Into the unknown for Moyes

ONE OF THE main reservations Manchester United fans had when David Moyes was first being touted as Alex Ferguson’s replacement was the Scot’s lack of experience in Europe.

Back in 2005, Everton managed to secure a fourth-place finish in the Premier League and were awarded with a nightmare third round qualifier against Villarreal, then managed by Manuel Pellegrini.

Containing the likes Juan Roman Riquelme, Marcos Senna and Diego Forlan, ‘The Yellow Submarine’ earned a 2-1 win at Goodison Park before securing victory by the same scoreline in the return leg after a late Duncan Ferguson goal was controversially ruled out.

Eight years on, Moyes faces into what his predecessor has branded one of the toughest groups the club has ever been handed – starting with the visit of Sami Hyypia’s Bayer Leverkusen to Old Trafford tonight.

Early elimination from the competition is not an option and an improvement on last season’s campaign, when they went out to Real Madrid at the Round of 16, is the minimum requirement.

2. Pep’s got a lot to live up to

Having won 13 trophies during an incredible four-year spell in charge of one of the greatest clubs side of all time, Pep Guardiola has been tasked with ensuring that current holders Bayern Munich become the first side in Champions League history to retain the trophy.

The Spaniard has had a decent start to life in the Bundesliga, with four wins and a draw from his first five games, and Bayern have already in Europe – beating Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea on penalties in the Super Cup.

Unsurprisingly, Guardiola is attempting to cool expectations ahead of a meeting with CSKA Moscow this evening.

“It’s still too early to say that,” he replied when asked whether the Bavarians could win back-to-back European Cups. “We want to first make it out of the group and qualify for the knockout stages. Now is too early (to predict).”

3. Man City look to get the monkey off their back

Elsewhere in Group D, Manchester City travel to the Czech Republic intent on giving themselves the best possible chance of progressing to the knockout stages by taking three points from Viktoria Plzen.

Under Roberto Mancini, City twice failed to make an impact in what were, admittedly, tough groups. The Italian has been sent on his merry way and in his place arrives seasoned campaigner Manuel Pellegrini.

As well as taking Villarreal on a run to the semi-finals in 2006 (where they lost out to Arsenal 1-0 on aggregate), Pellegrini was in charge of last season’s surprise package Malaga as the unfancied La Liga outfit went out at the quarter-final stage to eventual finalists Borussia Dortmund only after conceding two late goals.

His start to life in England hasn’t been ideal but domestic shortcomings may be overlooked by City’s Arab owners if he can bring them glory in Europe.

4. A week of debuts for Bale

World record signing Gareth Bale looked nervous and well short on fitness as he made his Real Madrid bow on Saturday but a goal in their 2-2 draw at El Madrigal has helped gloss over those facts.

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Manager Carlo Ancelotti must again decide whether to start the Welsh international or introduce him from the bench but, either way, he looks set for his European debut with the club in the hostile surroundings of Galatsaray’s Turk Telekom Arena.

After shelling out £85m for Bale, Madrid fans will be looking for their new man to combine with current talisman Cristiano Ronaldo and finally seal an elusive 10th European Cup.

5. PSG aiming high

The huge outlay on world stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva paid off for Paris Saint Germain, who won a first French title in 19 years and reached the last eight of the Champions League.

Carlo Ancelotti has since left for the Spanish capital and former Bordeaux with France manager Laurent Blanc taking the reigns. The big money signings have also continued to roll in and the inclusion of Edison Cavani gives PSG an attack that most clubs would be jealous of.

They should top Group C and will fancy their chances against Olympiacos, Benfica and Anderlecht despite a mediocre start in Ligue 1.

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Ben Blake

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