UEFA Champions League Group F preview: Bayern, Valencia set for battle
Last season's runners-up Bayern Munich host Valencia on Wednesday in a relatively favourable Champions League Group F.
The Bundesliga giants fell agonisingly short at the last hurdle to Chelsea in their own stadium last term but have the chance to atone for their penalty shootout heartbreak against Mauricio Pellegrino's side.
Bayern were dealt a group including French side Lille and Belarusian outfit BATE Borisov, who also face off on Wednesday, and are raging favourites to top the pile.
Bundesliga record signing Javi Martinez produced a fine cameo on debut in a 3-1 win over Mainz on Saturday while fellow recruit Mario Mandzukic continued in the absence of the injured Mario Gomez, slotting in the opener.
Valencia have had to reshuffle their pack following the off-season departure of Barcelona new boy Jordi Alba, but managed to bolster with the money brought in.
The likes of Fernando Gago, Andres Guardado, Joao Pareira, Sergio Canales, Aly Cissokho and Nelson Valdez on loan have offset Alba's departure and Valencia will be looking to go one better after troubling group opponents Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen last season.
The Spanish outfit are strong favourites to finish second, with Lille another likely contender for the knockout stages.
The Ligue 1 side have gone through a similar transition, losing key playmaker Eden Hazard to Chelsea in the off-season.
The Belgium's move followed a long line of key departures with Yohann Cabaye, Moussa Sow and Gervinho securing big-money moves abroad.
Lille struggled last season with only one win in six group games and have started their domestic campaign poorly.
An inability to juggle European and domestic commitments would appear to lie at the heart of Lille's difficulties and given they only qualified through knocking out Copenhagen in extra-time of the qualifying round, it is hard to see them getting out of the group here.
Wednesday's opponents BATE Borisov are easily the least storied of the four clubs and will be hoping to finish third to qualify for the Europa League.
After a lengthy qualifying process just to make it to the group stages for the second consecutive season, BATE have been dealt another tough group of opponents having faced both Barcelona and AC Milan last year.
BATE did not make it out of the group stage last year and were on the receiving end of nine goals over two matches against Barcelona.
They held AC Milan at home but eventually succumbed to the sheer strength of opposition and finished with only two draws from six matches.