UEFA Champions League 2011: Valencia, Marseille Face Tough Road Tests

The 2011-12 UEFA Champions League proper starts up on Tuesday with eight matches, all kicking off at the same time.

Sixteen teams are in action in eight different games in the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, all at the exact same time. Things will get a little broken up for everyone in weeks where Zenit St. Petersburg plays at home, but they're away to APOEL Nicosia. I doubt they're too broken up about the trip to Cyprus. That's one of the five matches that we'll be following along with here, along with Genk vs. Valencia, Olympiacos vs. Marseille, Porto vs. Shakhtar Donetsk and Viktoria Plzen vs. BATE Borisov. The other three matches have their own dedicated space.

Follow along with the three biggest matches of the day

Barcelona vs. AC Milan

Borussia Dortmund vs. Arsenal

Chelsea vs. Bayer Leverkusen

And now, the rest! All eight matches kick off at 2:45 pm ET, 7:45 pm BST, 8:45 pm CET.

Racing Genk vs. Valencia

Los Che are off to a fantastic start in La Liga, winning both of their first two games. They're coping with the loss of Juan Mata to Chelsea, but they've softened the blow by bringing in exciting young talent Sergio Canales from Real Madrid. Striker Roberto Soldado, who has started the season in excellent form, is the man to watch. Genk will probably still be without starlet Kevin De Bruyne, but they have enough other talent to mount a challenge.

APOEL Nicosia vs. Zenit St. Petersburg

APOEL are perhaps better than their fourth tier status, but they'll run into some problems with Zenit St. Petersburg. Unless  Anzhi can get a completely new side to gel in a matter of weeks, Luciano Spalletti's team will be favorites or thereabouts to win the Russian Premier League title in the second stage this Spring. Striker Alexander Kerzhakov and playmaker Danny are in fantastic form at the moment.

Olympiacos vs. Marseille

Olympiacos have plenty of firepower, and should give Marseille quite a few problems at home. Kevin Mirallas and Rafik Djebbour can score in buckets, though the later is recovering from a slight injury. Veteran midfielders Pablo Orbaiz and Jean Makoun make up a very tough and intelligent team in the center, while Francois Modesto and Olaf Mellberg are experienced, but possibly past their prime at the back. Meanwhile, Marseille are off to an embarrassing start in Ligue 1 and Didier Deschamps probably needs to get good results in this match and this weekend against Lyon to keep his job into October.

Porto vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

FC Porto may have lost striker Radamel Falcao and manager Andre Villas-Boas in the offseason, but they're still an incredibly talented team who play a fantastic style of football. Hulk is still on the team while Fredy Guarin and Joao Moutinho still create in midfield, but there are question marks about whether or not Kleber is the man to fill Falcao's shoes. Meanwhile, Shakhtar defeated Roma last season to make the Champions League quarterfinals while winning the Ukranian Premier League. They're on top of that league again and they've returned all of their stars. Somewhat quietly, these two - along with groupmates Zenit - are three of the most underrated teams in European football.

Viktoria Plzen vs. BATE Borisov

With all due respect to Plzen and BATE, who proved in the qualifying rounds that they are high quality sides that could challenge some big teams, they are in a group with FC Barcelona and AC Milan. Tough break, guys. This is simply a fight for a Europa League place.

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