Real Madrid begin their assault on what
would be an unprecedented 10th European Cup success when they meet Bayer
Leverkusen in their opening Champions League Group B match later on
Most of the Real team have great personal memories of the last time they
met in the competition -- their 2-1 win over the Germans in the 2002
final in Glasgow sealed by Zinedine Zidane's outstanding winning volley
just before halftime.
Leverkusen will be hoping to an end a seven-match losing streak in the
Champions League, while Real start as the strong favourites having
beaten the German side four times and drawn once in their five European
Manchester United kick off a record ninth successive Champions League
campaign when they visit Olympique Lyon for the first competitive clash
between the clubs.
United have a good record in France, losing just once in eight matches
over the years, but Lyon have not lost so far this season in the French
league and are also unbeaten at home in their last five European matches.
Monaco, last season's beaten finalists, face Liverpool bidding to become
the first French team to win at Anfield.
However, they have a great recent record against English sides after
eliminating Newcastle United, Manchester United and Chelsea in
two-legged encounters in the UEFA Cup and Champions League since
Both sides had to qualify for the competition proper but Monaco did so
in style beating Nova Goric 9-0 on aggregate while Liverpool lost 1-0 at
home to Graz AK to scrape through 2-1 on aggregate.
Old rivals Ajax Amsterdam and Juventus, who met in the 1973 and 1996
European Cup finals, face each other for the first time since April 1997
when Juve won the second leg of their semi-final tie 4-1 to complete a
6-2 aggregate victory.
Wednesday's other games are between Deportivo Coruna and Olympiakos; AS
Roma and Dynamo Kiev, Fenerbahce and Sparta Prague and a first Champions
League match in Israel, featuring Maccabi Tel Aviv and four-time
European champions Bayern Munich.
That latter is a poignant meeting as it comes on the eve of the Jewish
New Year and is going ahead despite an appeal to UEFA and the civil
courts to switch the date on religious grounds.
"I can't understand why it wasn't moved," said a sympathetic Bayern
president Franz Beckenbauer, "we wouldn't want to play on Christmas Eve."