Chance to shine for Manchester City
Manchester City open their Champions League campaign against last season's beaten finalists Juventus on Tuesday hoping that this will be the year they finally make a mark on the competition.
After successive group-phase exits, City have fallen to Barcelona in the last 16 in the last two seasons, but they spent big during the close season and are currently flying high at the top of the Premier League.
Once again the draw was not entirely kind to Manuel Pellegrini's troops, who will also face Borussia Moenchengladbach and Europa League winners Sevilla, but midfielder Fernandinho says they will draw inspiration from their impressive domestic form.
"It is a tough group," said the Brazil international. "We have tough games against good teams, but I think if we keep playing like we are playing in the Premier League, we have a great chance to finish top of the group."
City would be eyeing their Group D opener with more confidence were it not for the potential absence of last season's top scorer Sergio Aguero, who took a blow to the knee during Saturday's 1-0 win at Crystal Palace.
The Argentina striker limped off in the 24th minute at Selhurst Park after a foul by Scott Dann and is due to undergo tests to assess his fitness.
"It was an important kick on his knee," said Pellegrini, whose side are four points clear at the league summit after five straight wins.
"We'll see if he can recover between now and Tuesday."
Attacking midfielders David Silva and Raheem Sterling are both in contention to return, having sat out the game at Palace with ankle and hamstring problems respectively.
But 18-year-old Nigerian forward Kelechi Iheanacho, the match-winner in south London, will not feature, having not been included in City's squad for the Champions League.
- 'Negative period' -
There was no shame in City losing out last season to Barcelona, who beat them 3-1 on aggregate before overcoming Juventus by the same scoreline in the final at Berlin's Olympiastadion.
But it demonstrated the gulf separating City from the European elite, which moved the Etihad Stadium hierarchy to splash out on Sterling, Nicolas Otamendi, Fabian Delph and £54 million ($83.3 million, 73.5 million euros) record signing Kevin De Bruyne, who made an encouraging debut at Palace.
Juventus also experienced close-season upheaval, with Paulo Dybala, Sami Khedira, Mario Mandzukic, Simone Zaza, Alex Sandro and Hernanes among a raft of players brought in to bolster a squad that lost a trio of talismans in Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal.
In stark contrast to City, however, the new signings have not yet clicked and Saturday's 1-1 draw with Chievo meant that Juve have gone three games without winning at the start of a season for the first time since 1968.
Massimiliano Allegri handed full debuts to left-back Alex Sandro and Hernanes, who caught the eye at number 10, while Juan Cuadrado, a loan signing from Chelsea, impressed as a substitute and won the penalty that enabled Dybala to net an 83rd-minute equaliser.
The Argentine's goal spared Juve the humiliation of a third straight defeat, after consecutive losses to Udinese and Roma, but it was not enough to prevent Allegri hauling his players in for a rainy training session on Sunday morning.
"It's obviously a negative period and we have big improvements to make," Allegri told the club's in-house television channel, JTV.
"We need to keep on working. The season is long. We're not thinking about league titles or the Champions League. We're taking things a game at a time."
Former Inter Milan player Hernanes, who may be asked to fill in for the injured Claudio Marchisio in a deeper midfield role, added: "We gave it everything to try and win, but it wasn't enough.
"Now our focus is on the Champions League and the game against Manchester. We'll try to be more clinical against the English."