Zenit St. Petersburg's new signing Hulk (R) challenges Terek Groznyi's Jose Mauricio during their Russian Premier League soccer match at the Petrovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg, September 14, 2012. Big-spending Zenit St Petersburg have splashed a record 80 million euros on Brazil striker Hulk and Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel, signing each to a five-year contract, the Russian champions said on September 3. (Photo : REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk (RUSSIA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER))
The first day of the Champions League gets underway this afternoon with four of the eight groups in action. Let's take a look at Group C.
AC Milan vs. Anderlecht 2:45 PM ET
Milan is the favorite in this match due to a superiority in talent, but they must not take the Belgians for granted. Anderlecht has defeated the Italians in 2 of their last five encounters and Milan has been dreadful at home this season with 0 wins and 2 losses. Both of those losses came to Sampdoria and Atalanta and they are currently in 10th place in the standings.
However, Milan will be happy to know that they will get Riccardo Montolivo soon after early season injuries to him, Robinho, and Alexandre Pato. Anderlecht can be relaxed knowing that Milan has all the pressure to win and must do it on home field. As a result, the Belgians should be playing a more conservative defensive game that could frustrate Milan and work to Anderlecht's favor.
Edge: Anderlecht because of the pressure Milan has to deal with. The injuries also deplete the talent level on the Italian side.
Prediciton: Milan pulls out a strong 2-1 win and gets the monkey off their back.
Malaga vs. Zenit St. Petersburg 2:45 PM ET
Malaga will play their first ever group match at the UCL and will look to build off a solid start to the 2012-13 season. They have a deep squad that includes the likes of Joaquin, Javier Saviola, and the up and coming Isco that havfe propelled them to second place of La Liga. However there opponents are Zenit St. Petersburg who have the addition of Hulk to help lead their offensive. The Brazilian striker will be the biggest issue for Malaga to deal with and he must be neutralized if the Spaniards hope to get out of the match alive. However, Zenit has not been at top form as they have only picked up four points in their first four games and are coming off a home lose on Friday.
Edge: The Spaniards are on home turf and have less pressure than Zenit. However, Zenit has more experience and is a deeper club. They have been through the rigors of a UCL and got out of the group last year. They are the favorites here.
Prediction: We need one upset. Malaga channels the crowd and pulls out a 1-0 upset.