MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 22: Diego Milito of Inter Milan celebrates after scoring the second goal during the UEFA Champions League Final match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Inter Milan at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 22, 2010 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

UEFA Champions League Tuesday: Barcelona Cruises, Inter Milan and Manchester United Stumble

Group stage has started in UEFA Champions League, with the last three champions - Inter Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United - in action.

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Barcelona Impresses, Inter Milan and Manchester United Disappoint To Open UEFA Champions League Group Play

Spain shined bright on Tuesday, the first day of Champions League group play, as the Primera Division’s two representatives posted four goal wins to move to the top of groups C and D. Group A saw two 2-2 draws while the favorites of Group B cruised to home victories.

Almost predictably, the star of the day was Lionel Messi, who responded two minutes after Panathinaikos’s opening goal, tying the match at the Nou Camp on his way to a two goal, two assist day. Barcelona would go on to a 5-1 victory, getting goals from David Villa (the only one in which Messi was not involved), Pedro and Dani Alves.

Barça sits at the top of Group D, even on points with Copenhagen. The Danish champions got a late header from Dame N’Doye to beat Russia’s Rubin Kazan, 1-0 in Copenhagen.

Barcelona’s landslide matched the margin posted by Valencia in the day’s most impressive result, Los Che winning 4-0 at Turkish champions Bursaspor. Unai Emery’s team got goals from Tino Costa, Artiz Aduriz, Pablo Hernández and Roberto Soldado, moving to the head of Group C after Manchester United was held to a surprise 0-0 draw at Old Trafford by Rangers.

In Group B, Benfica and Lyon got straight-forward home wins to move to the top of the group. Benfica got goals from Luisão and Oscar Cardozo at the Estadio da Luz, downing Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-0. Lyon’s early goal from Michel Bastos held-up as Schalke finished a man down, defender Benedickt Höwedes being sent-off.

In Group A, the defending champions disappointed in the Netherlands, with Inter Milan’s goals from Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o not enough to get full points from FC Twente. The Eredivisie champions got a first half, direct kick goal from Theo Janssen, who “assisted” on Diego Milito’s own goal ten minute later.

And in Group A’s other match, Tottenham Hotspur dominated the first half thanks to a Peitr Pasanen own goal and a Peter Crouch header, yet a 43rd minute Hugo Alemida goal allowed Werder Bremen to go into intermission down only one. An early second half tally from Marko Marin equalized, with the 2-2 scoreline holding-up.


Dani Alves' Stoppage Time Goal Completes Barcelona Route, 5-1 Over Panathinaikos

Either hercules is very good or Barcelona had an off day on Saturday, when the recently promoted Spanish side beat the league’s defending champions, 2-0. Today, Barcelona got back on track against the Greek champions, Panathinaikos, finishing their route with a goal from Daniel Alves.

The Brazilian right back’s stoppage time tally made it 5-1, the Brazilian heading home a ball from Lionel Messi.

Messi finishes the day with two goals, two assists.


Pedro Goal Gives Barcelona 4-1 Lead On Panathinaikos

Barcelona has turned their match with Panathinaikos into a route. After giving up the first goal to Sidney Govou, the defending Spanish champions have scored four in a row, the last coming in the 78th minute, through Pedro Rodriguez.

The Spanish international had an easy finish after Lionel Messi, who has two goals from his own, rolled a ball under goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas , giving Pedro an empty-net finish.


Late Dame N'Doye Goal Puts Copenhagen In Front Of Rubin Kazan, 1-0

A match that looked destined to finish scoreless has seen Copenhagen take a late lead on Russian champions Rubin Kazan, 1-0 in Denmark.

Dame N’Doye has headed the hosts in front just minutes before full-time, putting the Danes on course for a mild surprise on the first day of group play.

Copenhagen and Rubin are in group D with Barcelona and Panathinaikos, with Barça leading the Greek champions 3-1 at Camp Nou.


Manchester United's Antonio Valencia Stretched-Off With Injury At Old Trafford

Manchester United right wing Antonio Valencia has been stretched-off at Old Trafford, receiving oxygen after suffering an apparent ankle injury in the second half of the club’s match with Rangers.

Ryan Giggs came on in the 63rd minute, replacing the Ecuadorian as the teams remain scoreless into the final minutes.


Substitute Roberto Soldado Extends Valencia's Lead, 4-0 Over Bursaspor

it has turned into an embarrassing Champions League debit for Bursaspor, the Turkish champions now down four goals to visiting Valencia.

Three minutes after being subbed-on, Roberto Soldado finished a counter attack, giving the visiting Che a 4-0 lead.

Valencia will sit atop Group C after today’s matches, with Manchester United and Rangers still drawn scoreless at Old Trafford.


Oscar Cardozo Gives Benfica 2-0 Lead Over Hapoel Tel Aviv

Last year’s co-leading scorer in Portugal has given SL Benfica a 2-0 lead over Hapoel Tel Aviv, with Oscar Cardozo reaping the benefits of right back Maxi Pereira’s work.

The Uruguayan put a hard shot on goal, and when Vincent Enyeama could not hold the shot, Cardozo doubled Benfica’s lead.

Benfica looks to move top of Group B, with group-mates Lyon holding 1-0 lead over Schalke.


Pablo Hernandez Continues Valencia's Impressive Display In Turkey, Putting Los Che Up 3-0 On Bursaspor

As Manchester United stumbles at Old Trafford (currently drawn 0-0 with Rangers), Valencia continues their impressive showing in Turkey, staking a Pablo Hernández goal to a 3-0 lead over the Turkish champions, begging the question of whether a group thought to be easy for United will prove to be more of a challenge.

The Spanish lead leaders put their match away when Hernández scored in the 68th minute, keeping Valencia on-track to continue a perfect start to their season.


Lionel Messi Penalty Kick Saved, Score Still 3-1 In Barcelona

Barcelona was awarded a free kick early in their second half at the Nou Camp, giving Lionel Messi a chance for an early hat-trick and the Blaugrana a chance for a 4-1 lead. Greek international Alexandros Tzorvas, however, has saved the shot, keeping Panathinaikos down two at Barcelona.

Barcelona and Pana are in Group D, where Copenhagen and Rubin Kazan are tied 0-0 in Denmark.


Brilliant Marko Marin Pulls Werder Bremen Even With Tottenham, 2-2

Marko Marin took a ball 35 yards out, close distance to the edge of the box and let a shot go, his bouncing ball beating Carlo Cudicini near post to bring the hosts even with Spurs, 2-2.

The goal happened three minutes into the second half, with a ball heaved from Werder’s backline coming true after Marin created his own goal.


Hugo Almeida, Werder Bremen Pull One Back Before Halftime, Trail Tottenham 2-1

Tottenham dominated the first half in Bremen, but a late goal from Hugo Almeida has pulled Werder back into the match, sending the teams to halftime with a 2-1 Spurs lead.

Werder’s goal came as Wesley swung a ball into the box for the Portuguese striker, the veteran running onto the ball, heading down and past Carlo Cudicini for the goal.

Peter Crouch and an own goal from Petri Pasanen have give Tottenhem their two tallies.


Second Lionel Messi Goal Gives Barcelona 3-1 Halftime Lead Over Panathinaikos

Lionel Messi’s second goal of the half has finished turning-around a scary start for Barcelona, giving the hosts a 3-1 lead going into halftime against Panathinaikos.

The Argentine’s second goal comes from a typical Barcelona movement, with quick passes exchanged between him, Sergio Busquets and Pedro leading to the goal.

Barcelona has scored three straight after Sidney Govou opened the scoring in the 20th minute.


Artiz Aduriz Doubles Valencia's Lead At Bursaspor

Another new Valencia player, striker Artiz Aduriz, doubled the lead Los Che got through Tino Costa, giving the Spanish club an impressive 2-0 win at halftime at Bursaspor.

Costa was at the heart of Valencia’s second goal. After scoring from distance to get Valencia on the scoresheet, Costa put a direct kick off the woodwork, setting up Aduriz for an easy finish, making it 2-0.


Samuel Eto'o Pulls Internazionale Even With Twente, 2-2

Samuel Eto’o, combined with Goran Pandev, has pulled Inter Milan even, burying a right-footed drive past Nikolay Mihaylov, evening the match with Twente, 2-2.

Eto’o’s goal comes moments after fellow attacker Diego Milito had given Twente the lead, heading Theo Janssen’s corner kick into his own net.

Inter opened today’s scoring through Wesley Sneijder, while a Janssen direct kick made it 1-1.


Barcelona In Front Of Panathinaikos After David Villa Header Makes It 2-1

Xavi Hernandez’s corner kick was played-on by Sergio Busquest, giving David Villa the opportunity for his for European goal for the Blaugrana. The former Valencia man’s tally puts the Spanish champions up 2-1, turning around Panathinaikos’s early lead.


Own Goal From Diego Milito Put Twente Up, 2-1 On Inter Milan

Diego Milito has headed home Theo Janssen’s corner, though with those players dressing for different sides, that means Inter Milan is down 2-1 to Dutch champions Twente.

Milito scores the second won goal of the day, with Petri Pasanen put his Werder Bremen team down 1-0 to Tottenham.


Lionel Messi, Barcelona Respond To Early Panathinaikos Goal

Barcelona and Greek champions Panathinaikos are drawn at one half-way through the first half at Camp Nou, with Lionel Messi’s 22nd minute goal equalizing an early, surprise tally from Sidney Govou.

The former Lyon attacker blasted a lay-off from Djibril Cisse, giving Pana a 1-0 lead at 20 minutes. Two minutes later, Xavi Hernandez split the Panathinaikos defense, put Messi alone on Alexandros Tzorvas, allowing the Argentine to chip Barcelona even.


Long Tino Costa Drive Gives Valencia 1-0 Lead At Bursaspor

Making his first appearance in Europe, Tino Costa has made a memorable debut, scoring from an estimated 35 yards out to give Valencia a 1-0 lead at Bursaspor.

The 25-year-old Argentine moved to the Mestalla this summer from Montpelier. Today’s tally was his first for his new team.


Luisao Gives Benfica 1-0 Lead Over Visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv

Central defender Luisao, Benfica’s captain, has given the home team the lead at the Estadio da Luz, heading home a Carlos Martin ball from the right flank to beat Vincent Enyeama, giving Benfica a 1-0 lead.

Hapoel Tel Aviv was one of the day’s bigger underdogs and could only manage 21 scoreless minutes before capitulating.


Michel Bastos Gives Lyon Early, 1-0 Lead On Schalke

Brazilian Michel Bastos was an injury doubt ahead of Lyon’s match against visiting Schalke, but Claude Puel’s decision to include the attacker has paid-off in the 21st minute. Bastos took advantage of a weak clearance from Christoph Moritz to barely get a shot past Manuel Neuer and over the goal line for the opening score.


Internazionale, Twente Exchange Early Goals

After a strong start from Twente, Inter got on the scoresheet early through Wesley Sneijder, but the home team quickly responded in the 20th minute – seven minutes later – when Theo Janssen curled in a direct kick to equalize.

For Internazionale, this is the first match of their title defense, having won this competition last year.


Peter Crouch Puts Tottenham Up 2-1 On Werder Bremen After 17 Minutes

Five minutes after an own goal put Werder Bremen down early, Tottenham Hotspur striker Peter Crouch headed Spurs' second goal home, scoring from the middle of the penalty area off a ball from the left, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead.

Spurs fell behind early in their road, play-off match at Young Boys of Bern but have turned the tables against Werder, who are missing both of their regular center backs, Per Mertseacker and Naldo.


Tottenham Given Day's First Goal, Leads Werder 1-0 In Bremen

A Gareth Bale cross from the left of Werder Bremen's penalty area was put into the Werder net by defender Petri Pasanen, giving visiting Spurs an early 1-0 lead on their hosts.

Bale scuffed a left-footed attempt across the six, with a lunging Pasanen ebating Tim Wiese for the own goal.

The day's seven other matches remain scoreless.


UEFA Champions League Tuesday Preview, Predictions: Last Three Champions Kick-Off Group Play

UEFA’s two continental tournaments return this week, with group stage starting for both the Champions and Europa Leagues. First up is Champions League, with Groups A through D playing Tuesday. Amongst the teams headlining those groups are the last three champions: Internazionale (Group A), Barcelona (Group D), and Manchester United (Group C).

The Champions

Inter Milan starts their title defense in the Netherlands, with new coach Rafa Benitez facing Dutch champions Twente and new coach Michel Preud’homme. Having scored nine goals against one allowed in five matches, Twente’s off to a strong start in the Netherlands, while Inter rebounded from opening match disappointment to record the first win of the Benitez era this weekend. They’ll hope to carry that momentum into Tuesday’s match, where they are expected to be without Thiago Motta, Dejan Stankovic and Maicon.

Barcelona is coming off a shock loss to Hércules on Saturday, a match that saw all of Xavi Hernández, Dani Alves, Carlos Puyol and Pedro held-out of the starting lineup. They will face Panathinaikos at the Nou Camp, with the Greek champions in the middle of a mixed start to their Super League season. A Djibril Cissé penalty kick earned Pana a 1-0, Saturday win at Aris, two weeks after opening their season with a draw to Xanthi. Having only lost once at home in Champions League last season, Barcelona is expected to bounce back against Panathinaikos.

Manchester United will be looking for a bounce back of their own after Saturday’s collapse at Everton. They'll host Scottish champions Rangers in what is expected to be a lop-sided affair. Wayne Rooney, held-out of this weekend’s match, is expected to return, as is Rio Ferdinand, who has been out since before the World Cup with a knee injury suffered in South Africa.

More Uneven Matches

Along with the match at Old Trafford, games at the Stade Gerland and the Estadio da Luz are expected to be straight-forward affairs.

Semifinalists last year, Lyon is off to a slow Ligue 1 start, sitting 16th in France after five matches, having won only once. Lyon will be without the likes of Aly Cissohko, Cris, César Delgado and Ederson and are still working to incorporate the Yoann Gourcuff and Jimmy Briand. Even with their slow start, they are miles ahead of Schalke, who have lost all three of their Bundesliga matches and sit 17th in their 18-team league. In the middle of a stylistic change that sees them shifting from a one striker, defensive style to a three attacker, open approach, Schalke is not ready to win in Lyon.

Hapoel Tel Aviv is in a similar situation, traveling to Lisbon to face Benfica. Israeli teams have not fared well in this competition, with last year’s entry (Maccabi Haifa) failing to record a point in group play. Hapoel will have Nigerian World Cup star Vincent Enyeama in goal to try and slow down Oscar Cardozo, Javier Saviola, and Pablo Aimar, but with the possible exception of goal, they should be out-classed at every position. The Portuguese champions should have little trouble with the Israelis.

Road Challenges

Rubin Kazan jumped onto many radars with last year’s win at the Nou Camp, but they have since lost arguably their three best players: Alejandro Dominguez, Alexander Bukharov and Sergei Semak. The only reinforcement they’ve brought in is former Wolfsburg, Newcastle and Inter Milan attacker Obafemi Martins, part of the reason Rubin find themselves six points back of Zenit in Russian. Still, they should be favored, if only slightly, over Copenhagen on Tuesday, even with the match taking place in Denmark.

Valencia, even on points atop Spain’s Primera, travel to Bursaspor, a club coming off their first Turkish title. Bursa is perfect through four matches in league, with 20-year-old attacker Sercan Yildrim continuing to raise his profile, having scored twice already. It will be a difficult assignment for Valenica, last year’s third place finisher in Spain, with midfielder Ever Banega out. One point for Los Che would be a good result.

And finally, what many consider the match of the day sees the full Champions League debut for Tottenham Hotspur, who will be without Jermain Defoe, Michael Dawson and Huerelho Gomes. Luka Modric is also a doubt, though Thomas Schaaf and Werder Bremen also have injury concerns. Coming off a 0-0 drawn at Bayern Munich, Werder will be without both central defenders - Per Mertesacker and Naldo. They will also be without Claudio PIzarro, one of their most important attackers. All these absences led Schaaf to play uncharacteristically conservative in Munich, and if a similar approach prevails on Tuesday, we could be in for a dull draw.


Group Home Road Pick
A Twente Internazionale 1-1
A Werder Bremen Tottenham Hotspur 2-1, Werder
B Olympique Lyon Schalke 04 2-0, Lyon
B Benfica Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-0, Benfica
C Manchester United Rangers 2-0, United
C Bursaspor Valencia 2-2
D Barcelona Panathinaikos 3-0, Barcelona
D Copenhagen Rubin Kazan 1-1
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