Seeking to hit top gear

Seeking to hit top gear

Football Champions League: Manchester clubs hope to get campaign on track

While it is no surprise that the likes of Viktoria Plzen, BATE Borisov and Otelul Galati have failed to register wins as the third round of matches loom, City and United's poor starts in the competition have raised eyebrows.

After drawing away to Benfica and at home to FC Basel, United know they must return with three points from Tuesday's visit to Romanian champions Otelul, who have lost their opening two games in Group C.

If not, last year's runners-up will find themselves having to play catch up with the leading pair, who have four points apiece and meet in Switzerland the same evening.

"Our Euro campaign has certainly not gone the way we'd hoped," United manager Alex Ferguson, whose side threw away a two-goal lead at home to FC Basel and trailed 3-2 with one minute left, told English media on Sunday.

Galati, who have to play home matches in Bucharest because their own stadium is not up to Champions League standards, are coached by Romania's most-capped international Dorinel Munteanu.

Basel will be playing under interim coach Heiko Vogel after Thorsten Fink decided to swap the chance of Champions League success for a Bundesliga survival battle at Hamburg SV.

The Swiss side boast the competition's top scorer in Alexander Frei with three goals in two games, and welcome winger Xherdan Shaqiri back after a two-match suspension.
Premier League leaders Manchester City are in an even more complicated situation in Group A, where they are five points behind rampant leaders Bayern Munich and three behind Napoli.

Roberto Mancini's team host Villarreal, who have lost their opening two games, and while they will have an eye on next weekend's derby against United they have little room for error.

Real Madrid host Olympi-que Lyon in Champions League Group D on Tuesday with striker Gonzalo Higuain in the form of his life and providing coach Jose Mourinho with a welcome selection headache.

The Argentina striker netted his third hat-trick in two weeks in Saturday's 4-1 La Liga win at home to Real Betis and is making a strong case for a regular starting spot ahead of former Lyon forward Karim Benzema.

Lyon, second in the group on four points behind Real who have six, geared up nicely for the clash at the Bernabeu by beating Nancy 3-1 in Ligue 1 on Saturday. Brazil winger Michel Bastos netted a double as Lyon welcomed back centre back Cris and France playmaker Yoann Gourcuff from long-term injury layoffs.

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