United, Chelsea aim to stamp authority in Champions League
PARIS – Agence France-Presse
Jose Mourinho's Manchester United will be looking to maintain its robust start to its Champions League campaign when the team heads to Benfica on Oct. 18 while Antonio Conte's Chelsea entertains Roma.
Barcelona and Lionel Messi, meanwhile, play their first home match at the Camp Nou since the Catalonia independence referendum that plunged Spain into chaos, when Olympiakos visits.
Manchester United can take a giant stride towards a first appearance in the knockout stages since the 2013/14 season with a win at pointless Benfica -- a repeat of the 1968 final.
The Portuguese champion suffered a humiliating 5-0 defeat at Basel last time out – the club’s heaviest in the competition -- following an opening home loss to CSKA Moscow.
United played out a dire 0-0 draw at bitter rival Liverpool on Oct. 14, falling two points behind Manchester City in the Premier League after failing to score for the first time this term.
In London, Conte's Chelsea can cement its status at the top of the pool with a third straight win, although Roma would replace the Blues at the summit if it can pull off an upset at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea suffered a shock 2-1 loss at bottom side Crystal Palace on Oct. 14 -- its second on the trot -- to drop nine points behind league leader City.
Roma succumbed to a Lorenzo Insigne strike in a 1-0 reverse at home to Serie A high-flyer Napoli and has only won on one of 15 prior visits to England.
Spain striker Alvaro Morata could return from injury for Chelsea, but influential midfielder N'Golo Kante remains sidelined.
Elsewhere, politics has played a bigger role in Catalonia than football since the region held a referendum that infuriated the Spanish state.
On the pitch, Ernesto Valverde is reunited with the club he guided to three Greek titles in two different stints from 2008-09 and 2010-12 as Barcelona hunts a third consecutive group win. Barça's perfect start to the La Liga season was ended by Oct. 14’s 1-1 draw at Atletico, but the Catalan giant remains four points clear in La Liga -- fuelled in large part by Lionel Messi's 11 goals.
The club is also unbeaten in 22 home Champions League matches dating back to 2013, while Olympiakos has made a worryingly sluggish start in Greece on the back of a seventh championship in a row. It was beaten by Sporting Lisbon and Juventus in its first two games.
In Munich, Jupp Heynckes, who embarked on his fourth spell as Bayern Munich coach with a 5-0 rout of Freiburg on Oct. 14 after replacing the sacked Carlo Ancelotti, will lead his team against Celtic.
The 72-year-old led Bayern to the treble in 2013 before retiring and was brought in to steady the ship after Bayern was thumped 3-0 by Paris Saint-Germain in its last European outing.
Celtic recorded a first group stage win away from home in 17 attempts with an impressive 3-0 victory at Anderlecht last month.
Bayern has never lost against Scottish opposition in Munich, defeating Celtic 2-1 in during the 2003/04 competition in their only previous meeting in Germany.