Tuesday 02 October 2012
The UEFA Champions League resumes this week starting with Manchester United and Chelsea both on their travels on Tuesday evening.
United travel to Transylvania to face Romanian champions CFR Cluj without a number of key midfielders. Michael Carrick will miss out because of a virus, while Ryan Giggs is also feeling unwell and did not board the flight to Romania. Paul Scholes will not play either having completed the 90 minutes of United’s defeat by Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday evening.
In the face of such problems as well as missing the injured Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, Sir Alex Ferguson may field Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie from the start for the first time against a Cluj team who beat Braga 2-0 away in their opening fixture in Group H.
"Probably the strongest part of the club will be in the striker department," the United manager said, adding that he was concerned by the club's slow start to the season and in matches, especially after losing to Tottenham Hotspur in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday, their second league defeat of the season.
"If you go back, our norm was to start the season and build up to the second half, and then we changed when Chelsea won the title two years in a row," said Ferguson. "We changed our approach to pre-season training. It [the slow start to the season] is not planned, but I think it will be the last of it."
"If you are not at your best you get punished, which happened to us last season"
After beating Galatasaray 1-0 at home in the first matchday, Rooney is looking for United to continue their good start to avoid a repeat of their failure to emerge from the group stage last season.
"If you are not at your best you get punished, which is what happened to us last season,” Rooney said. "We have to make sure that won't happen again this year so this is a big game for us.
"Hopefully, we will get a win which will put us in a good position to go through so early on in the group."
Chelsea travel to Denmark to take on Nordsjaelland but must do so without Daniel Sturridge after the England forward was unable to recover from a hamstring injury.
Roberto Di Matteo said that the Barclays Premier League victory over Arsenal at the weekend showed that the new attacking style of play that he has imposed upon the team this season is having a positive impact.
"We are slowly trying to play in a different way from last season and the results gives the team the belief that even away to Arsenal that the way we want to do it is possible," the Chelsea manager said.
Di Matteo also wants the club not to replicate the poor away record in the competition last season. The Blues lifted the European Cup, despite winning just one of their seven matches on the road.
"The win away to Arsenal gives the belief the way we want to do it is possible"
Roberto Di Matteo
They blew winning positions in the first four of those, including all three group games, although that was before Di Matteo took charge and rescued their campaign.
"There is room for improvement, to finish the game off," the Italian said. "The organisation has been good, the players are working hard defensively and that is key to us.
"We have started with a solid base and we try to score goals. We are the favourites on paper, but when you go on the pitch it is a tough game."
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is not underestimating the challenge from the Danish champions who were the fourth seed in the group.
"It's a huge game in the history of Nordsjaelland, so they'll be motivated and up for the task of their first Champions League home game,” Cech said. "They will want to show they can play football and are rightly in the group stage.
FC Nordsjaelland v Chelsea (7.45pm)
Juventus v Shakhtar Donetsk (7.45pm)
CFR Cluj v Manchester United (7.45pm)
Galatasaray v Braga (7.45pm)