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Champions League preview

The Champions League group stage builds momentum now as the English teams involved look to cement their places in the last 16 of the competition this week.

Both Manchester clubs are in action tonight (Tuesday) with London representatives Chelsea and Arsenal taking centre stage 24 hours later.

Tuesday's games

Manchester City look to pick up their first Champions League win over group strugglers Villarreal, who have yet to pick up a point, at Eastlands. Sergio Aguero has been cleared to play after a groin injury kept him from Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Aston Villa.

Aguero looks set to replace the suspended Mario Balotelli as the Carlos Teves saga rages on. Balotelli will sit out the last of his three game ban for a straight red, when he committed a chest high challenge on Dynamo Kiev defender Goran Popov in last year's Europa League defeat. 

Surprisingly Manchester United are also looking for their first win in their Group C clash with Romanian minnows SC Otelul Galati, although it may be of some comfort to United fans that the last time this happened to them during their treble winning season in 1998-99.

United are looking for an improvement at the back after conceding three goals to FC Basel in their previous fixture, with Nemanja Vidic returning from a spell on the sidelines with a calf injury.

Wayne Rooney looks set to start after looking vibrant when used as a second half substitute against Liverpool at the weekend. Rio Ferdinand has not been risked and has stayed in England ahead of the Manchester derby.

The Red Devils are clear favourites to win this encounter but Otelul Galati’s manager, Dorinel Munteanu, will hope to recreate some of his good fortune against English opponents. During his playing career he was on the victorious side for Romania against England, scoring in the 3-2 win in Euro 2000 to take Romania through to the quarter-finals at England’s expense.

Wednesday's games

Chelsea will look to hold on to the top spot of Group E as they take on Genk at Stamford Bridge, where Fernando Torres will return to play his first game since the draw with Valencia after seeing red for a two-footed challenge on Swansea’s Mark Gower.

Andre Villas-Boas looks to keep the £50million man fresh for upcoming games against Arsenal and Everton.

Chelsea look odds-on favourites for their clash against the Belgians. They remain unbeaten at Stamford Bridge in their last 24 group games in the Champions League.

Villas-Boas will be keen to weave the magic he did at Porto to secure the Europa League title last season, beating Genk 7-2 (on aggregate) in the play-off rounds in the process. 

The scorer of both Genk’s goals, Jelle Vossen, looks set to start and help Genk on their way to their first win in the group stages this year.

Arsenal will set about the hard task of dismantling the solid defence of Marseille, who have yet to concede a goal in the group stages.

Kieran Gibbs is doubtful with a stomach injury picked up during Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Sunderland on Sunday.

Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey is also a doubt in the crunch game at the Velodrome Stadium, where Arsenal need a win to pile the pressure on the rest of the group.

Arsenal lie two points behind Marseille, with Borussia Dortmund hot on their heels looking to pounce on any Arsenal mistakes to scrape through the group. 

By Scot Buckland

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