By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
The group stages of the Champions League kicked off last night and they were fantastic. Provided you’re not a Manchester City fan or Joe Hart giving a post-match interview.
Wednesday’s matches have a lot to live up to, but there’s potential for some cracking games. Defending champions Chelsea host Italian champions Juventus, Celtic face Benfica in a battle of the aristocrats and Manchester United welcome Turkish champions, Galatasaray in a game that comes with more historical baggage than the Museum of Suitcases (don’t worry, I don’t think that’s actually a museum).
I’ll be here for the evening to give you live updates and snarky comments on events at Old Trafford, but I’ll also be doing my best to keep you up to date with events elsewhere.
Barcelona 3 Spartak Moscow 2
Bayern Munich 2 Valencia 1
Braga 0 CFR Cluj 2
Celtic 0 Benfica 0
Chelsea 2 Juventus 2
Man Utd 1 Galatasaray 0
Shakhtar Donetsk 2 FC Nordsjaelland 0
Lille 1 BATE Borisov 3
9.40pm: It’s full time all over Europe and Barca, Bayern, Shakhtar, Cluj and BATE Borisov all join United in tonight’s winners’ circle. Celtic and Chelsea drew their respective matches, triggering our hugely generous Money-Back Special in both games. As both games finished in a draw, we’re refunding losing First Goalscorer, Last Goalscorer, Correct Score and Scorecast singles on those two matches. That’s nice of us.
9.38pm: FULL TIME! United hang on. Well, hang on is a little harsh because they created plenty of great chances. Then again, so did Galatasaray so it was close enough.
9.35pm: Another chance for Chicharito. It’s a toughie, but his volley goes far higher than you’d expect to see from any United striker whose not called David Bellion.
9.33pm: Oh no! It’s reverse Fergie Time! United get five minutes of added time that they really don’t want. Chicharito goes close again, but Muslera makes a good block.
9.30pm: Another penalty appeal turned down for United. Ronnie Whelan is convinced, but the contact is slight and Valencia’s elaborate fall didn’t help his cause.
9.27pm: SUB! Danny Welbeck comes on looking to for some late diving action. Kagawa goes off. Chicharito misses a great chance to seal it for United. He skews that ball wide from about eight yards out.
9.25pm: Barca have taken the lead and Juve have equalised at the Bridge. Messi and Quagliarella with the goals.
9.23pm: YELLOW CARD AND SUB! Van Persie is booked and Fergie gives him the hook with Chicharito taking his place. Not sure if that was a direct result of the booking or coincidence.
9.21pm: SUBSTITUTIONS! Right on cue, Sir Alex call Scholesy ashore. He’s replaced by Darren Fletcher who is making is return after a prolonged spell out due to illness. Good to have him back. Gala make their last change with Melo coming off and Aydin going on.
9.20pm: Wow – nearly 80 minutes gone and Scholes is still going strong. He’s going to need about a week long ice bath.
9.16pm: And in the brief 20 seconds space in which nothing has happened, I can tell you Barcelona have equalised at the Camp Nou.
9.14pm: Evra makes one of those runs into the penalty area. Muslera gets a slight touch on his effort and it trickles out for a corner. Galatasaray break from that corner (via a good penalty appeal for a foul on Nani) and David de Gea makes a fine double save. Melo smashes a volley over from the resulting corner.
9.13pm: Twenty minutes to go and Galatasaray are looking comfortable. If it wasn’t for the scoreline, they’d be confident. United are 1/12 to close it out from here.
9.08pm: Eboue is getting treatment. On an injury, not for being a crap defender.
9.06pm: In other news, Barca are losing at home to Spartak Moscow. They’ll probably still win, but no-one was expecting it to be this difficult.
9.05pm: SUB Galatasaray make their second change as Colak comes on for Armabat.
9.04pm: YELLOW CARD! Booking for Vidic on account of an elbow to the head of a Galatasaray player in mid-aerial battle.
9.01pm: Now United go close with a header. Vidic gets on the end of a cross. His header catches a bit of Muslera’s glove, but
8.59pm: Inan goes very close with a header from about eight yards out. It looks to be goal-bound, but fades away towards the end and shave’s de Gea’s post. If only it could have shaved de Gea’s face.
8.55pm: SAVE! Nani takes it for some reason and he duly misses. Muslera pulls off a decent save, but it was a really poor penalty in truth. Nani’s decision to ‘robot-dance’ his way up to the ball certainly didn’t help.
8.54pm: PENALTY FOR UNITED. Rafael goes down. It looks fairly convincing, but I suspect replays will suggest minimal contact. It’s one of those one’s you wouldn’t have got back in the day when men were men and breaking someone’s ankle was considered a bit of a laugh.
8.53pm: Nani points out that ball is a bit flat, but he concedes a free-kick for handball to make his point. Strange sequence of play.
8.51pm: Gala go up the other end and Altintop hits a not especially threatening shot narrowly wide. It’s a warning for United – that warning being ‘if they had someone who could shoot, you’d be in trouble.’
8.49pm: Nice move for United and good defending from Galatasaray. Kagawa is thwarted ten yards out after some slick passing.
8.47pm: The half-time waffling is over. Everyone agrees that United can’t defend. Galatasaray are 13/8 to score</strong> although I would warn you for that scenario to happen, you are relying heavily on Johan Elmander. The second half begins.
8.42pm: Wow – Xavi has a 95 per cent pass completion rate so far in Barca’s game. And 95 per cent of football Twitter accounts have mentioned it in this half-time break. He’s good at passing – we get it.
8.32pm: HALF TIME United lead, but they’ve coughed up enough possession and chances to give Fergie something to worry about. I wouldn’t expect the hairdryer, but certainly a quick towel dry mightn’t be out of the question.
8.29pm: Galatasaray are finishing the half strongly. Michael Carrick makes a pretty poor tackle on the edge of the United box that doesn’t get near the ball and Ronnie Whelan is raving about it. I’m as confused as Ronnie’s Scouseirish accent.
8.27pm: Juve pull a goal back at the Bridge. Vidal with the goal and people are still raving about Oscar on Twitter so I have no further details.
8.24pm: WOODWORK (kind of) From the resulting free kick, Gala roll the ball to Altintop on the edge of the box. His low shot goes narrowly wide, catching a bit of the outside of the post on the way. Good effort and a reminder United aren’t home and hosed by any stretch of the imagination.
8.23pm: BOOKING! Yellow card for Patrice Evra who tries to test the bendability of an opponents leg.
8.22pm: Gary Lineker – master of really shite sarcasm:
Deflected goal for Chelsea and an absolute belter from Oscar. Get the feeling their name is written is on the trophy.—
Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) September 19, 2012
8.20pm: Chelsea have taken the lead against Juventus and then doubled the advantage straightaway. Oscar with both the goals! Not a bad way to mark your first start for your new club.
8.18pm: United have a decent penalty shout this time. Kagawa goes down and it looks really convincing on first viewing. The referee disagrees and the replays prove he was right as it was actually rather a good tackle.
8.16pm: Eboue gets forward, where most people would agree he does his best defending. Or at least his least worst defending. He wins his side a corner. He’s still minus one on the corner count however.
8.14pm: George Hamilton commentating on RTE2
The ageless Paul Scholes. 38 in November.
8.10pm: Eboue is really really, but the referee feels a bit sorry for him and doesn’t give a penalty for handball against him. It wouldn’t have been harsh, but like really uncomfortable looking love-bites, I’m seen them given.
8.08pm: Cross/shot/save thingamajig. Nothing comes of it on this ocassion, but it looks like United can create chances at will.
8.04pm: CORRECTION: Two needless corners.
8.03pm: Eboue proves not much as changed since his Arsenal days – he’s still crap and gives away a needless corner.
8pm: SUB! Well, 1/16 is looking more tempting now. Galatasaray have had to take off Bulut and they’ve replaced him with Johan Elmander. Yes, that Johan Elmander who played well for Bolton for the two months when he was trying to get a new contract at the Reebok stadium a few months back.
7.59pm: I’ve been told by the marketing department to retract my previous statement. 1/16 is a great price. Get on. Betting is great.
7.58pm: United are 1/16 to win this game now. After that little scare from Gala, I can’t imagine too many piggy banks being smashed open to get on that.
7.55pm: CROSSBAR! Amrabat hits the crossbar after a quick counter-attack from Galatasaray. No matter which goalie Fergie went with, he was a spectator as that curled shot looked to be sailing into the top right hand corner of the United net.
7.54pm: The Turkish team look dangerous on the counter attack, but already their defence is more wide open than a paternity test on the Jeremy Kyle Show.
7.52pm: GOAL! 1-0 UNITED! Michael Carrick finishes off a neat move for United despite Muslera’s sneaky attempts to trip him up. Carrick is a nice guy though and stays on his feet, sparing the goalkeeper a red card and conceding a penalty.
7.51pm: GREAT CHANCE! United carve out a great chance for Nani, but his attempt to look slick with a clipped finish over the keeper is foiled.
7.50pm: United are 1/4 to win this game and if they get for refereeing like that, it’s easy to see why. Live Betting on this match
7.47pm: The replays suggest it was a penalty, but Nemanja Vidic’s very convincing ‘pointing at the football’ bit seems to have been enough for the referee not to give it.
7.45pm: United kick off and almost immediately Galatasaray have a decent penalty shout. Then everyone remembers it’s Old Trafford and there’s no such thing as a decent penalty shout for the visitors at Old Trafford.
7.43pm: Everyone shakes hands and no-one makes a fuss. How disappointing.
7.41pm: The Sky Sports studio isn’t the only place for cautious optimism. Over on RTE, John Giles, Liam Brady and Richie Sadlier predict a win for Manchester United, but with a heavy dose of ‘it won’t be easy’.
7.36pm: Jose Mourinho was clearly delighted with Real Madrid’s late comeback last night and he’s been knee sliding his way around the universe today in celebration:
7.30pm: OOOHHH! There’s a top class ‘cautious optimism face-off’ on Sky Sports 2 at the moment. Graeme Souness, Jamie Redknapp and Ruud Gullit all take turns praising Chelsea. But then the tides turns immediately as Souness points out it’ll be a tough game and the other two eagerly agree.
7.25pm: Ok, I’ve got some big breaking news – there’s is a Museum of Suitcases! It’s in Japan and it looks about as interesting as Ashley Cole’s autobiography.
7.15pm: There’s a good bit of interesting team news from Old Trafford, but only ‘interesting’ by the rather low standards of team news. David de Gea returns between the sticks and there are five other changes from the team that thumped Wigan I’m not going to specifically mention.
De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Nani, Kagawa, van Persie
To be honest, I’m not sure what a first choice Galatasaray team looks like, but I’m shocked to see Georghe Hagi isn’t in the squad. The Turkish team may struggle without the Maradona of the Carpathians. Although on the plus side, at least they don’t have a Madonna of the Carpathians. Former Gunner, Emmanuel Eboue is likely to get a hot reception when he lines out for the Turkish champions, but in fairness, he got those at the Emirates from the Arsenal fans.
Muslera, Nounkeu, Balta, Kaya, Eboué, Altintop, Inan, Melo, Amrabat, Yilmaz, Bulut
7.05pm: They’ve got Champions League football at Celtic Park for the first time in four years and Neil Lennon has named the team he hopes will make it a winning return. Gary Hooper has been struggling with injury and he only gets a place on the bench. The visitors also have to do without their talismanic striker because Oscar Cardoza begins the match with a spot of bench-warming.
Forster, Matthews, Mulgrew, Wilson, Lustig, Commons, Brown, Wanyama, Izaguirre, Forrest, Miku
6.57pm: Over at Stamford Bridge, the champions have named a strong team. Oscar gets his first start for the Pensioners and he’ll play alongside an almost actual pensioner as Frank Lampard also starts. Torres leads the line and with Hazard behind him, that’s a more encouraging prospect than it once was.
Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Ramires, Oscar, Hazard, Torres
Juventus also look like a useful team, especially with Andrea Pirlo in midfield and … well, that’s about it.
Buffon, Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Marchiso, Pirlo; Vucinic, Asamoah, Vidal, Giovinco
6.50pm: Hello and welcome to tonight’s live blog. The team news from tonight’s games is starting to come through and once I figure out which Twitter accounts are real and which ones are parodies, I’ll bring the important stuff to you.