English face German challenge
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.
BAYERN MUNICH v MAN CITY
Five-time winners Bayern, who made a third consecutive European semifinal 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 quarterfinals, before losing to eventual champions Real Madrid 5-0 on aggregate in the semifinals.
ROMA v CSKA MOSCOW
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.
BARCELONA v APOEL NICOSIA
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 quarterfinalists in 2011/12 .
Last season the Catalans failed to reach at least the semifinals for the first time since 2007 being stopped in the quarterfinals by eventual runners-up Atletico Madrid.
AJAX v PSG
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 quarterfinalists 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.
CHELSEA v SCHALKE 04
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.
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).
MARIBOR v SPORTING LISBON
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.
ATHL BILBAO v SHAKHTAR DONETSK
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.
PORTO v BATE BORISOV
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.