Soccer Experts

Champions League Preview: Drogba Faces Former Club, Concern for United

Posted on February 24, 2014
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After an exciting first week of fixtures, the UEFA Champions League knockout stage serves up a second dose of first-leg matches. Here's a look at all of this week's action.

Olympiakos vs. Manchester United

Two sides with contrasting league forms will meet at Piraeus' Karaiskakis Stadium in what should be a stern test for David Moyes' side. Even with their recent unbeaten run, United's form pales in comparison to Olympiakos' mark of 24-0-2 in domestic play--that's no typo, either. The Greek club have dominated behind a stingy back line and the brilliant play of midfielder Michael Olaitan and forward Javier Saviola, who knows a thing or two about scoring goals on Europe's biggest stage.

As for United, Moyes will need his attacking duo of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney to step up away from home, especially with the absence of cup-tied Juan Mata. A strong showing from defensive midfielder Marouane Fellaini will also be key for the team's success--after returning from injury in United's 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace, the Belgian will hope to further strengthen his partnership with Michael Carrick.

Tuesday's match kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET and can be seen on Fox Sports 1.

Galatasaray vs. Chelsea

Galatasaray will need Didier Drogba to replicate the form he showed during his eight years with Chelsea if the Turkish champions are to have any hope of progressing against the Ivorian's former club. While the tie offers plenty of romance for Drogba, Roberto Mancini will be more concerned with his side's average form and the offensive struggles of both his talisman striker and midfielder Wesley Sneijder. The Blues, meanwhile, have dipped in recent matches but will certainly provide Galatasaray's toughest test of the campaign thus far. After scuffling starts to the season, it was Champions League group play that elevated the performances of both Samuel Eto'o and Fernando Torres--now, Mourinho will hope that his strike pairing can find a similar resurgence on the European stage.

Wednesday's match kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET and can be seen on Fox Sports 1.

Schalke vs. Real Madrid

Following Madrid's great weekend in La Liga, Carlo Ancelotti's side will fancy their chances against a Schalke team that sneaked into the knockout stage on the final matchday. While the lethal combination of Jefferson Farfan and Julian Draxler has bolstered the German side's attack, defense has been an issue in both domestic and European play. Such vulnerabilities will only be more evident against Madrid's pacy attack, which includes the returning Cristiano Ronaldo as well as a resurgent Gareth Bale. Los Blancos don't show any signs of losing their red-hot form, either--the league-leaders have gone 13-0-1 since the new year while conceding just three goals.

Wednesday's match kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET and can be seen on Fox Sports 2. 

Zenit St. Petersburg vs. Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund's current woes have been well-documented, losing several key players to injury and fighting to hang on to a spot in next year's Champions League. But come Tuesday, Jurgen Klopp's team will have the chance to respond in the biggest of ways against Zenit, who, as always, have been one of the Russian Premier League's top outfits. Still, the Russian side has wanted for star power--even with talisman Hulk commanding Premier League transfer rumors, the Brazilian striker has only scored seven league goals through 19 matches and has struggled in the European spotlight. Dortmund will hope their own attacking partnership of Robert Lewandoski and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang can take advantage of an average Zenit defense, but, given Saturday's 3-0 defeat to Hamburg, the German side's back line may be more of a concern.

Tuesday's match kicks off at 12:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on Fox Sports 1.

Wayne Rooney will play a pivotal role in Manchester United's visit to Olympiakos. (Football 365) Wayne Rooney will play a pivotal role in Manchester United's visit to Olympiakos. (Football 365)

Feature photo credit: Anapua FM

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