Ibrahimovic back at Ajax with Milan

Swedish striker returns to old stomping ground in European Champions League while Barca hope to welcome back Messi.

Ibrahimovic celebrates a Champions League goal for Ajax against Lyon in September 2002 [GALLO/GETTY]

Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns to former club Ajax in AC Milan’s colours on when the second round of the European Champions League group stage gets underway.

Former Inter Milan forward Ibrahimovic, who made his name in the Netherlands in the early part of the last decade, scored twice for Milan on his home debut in the 2-0 win over Auxerre last time out and will be gunning for more glory on Tuesday.

Real Madrid travel to Auxerre in the other Group G game with Arsenal also having a tricky away match at Partizan Belgrade in Group H.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba misses a meeting with former side Olympique Marseille through suspension while Group F rivals Spartak Moscow entertain Zilina in an early kickoff.

Last season’s runners-up Bayern Munich hope to put injuries and poor domestic form behind them when they visit FC Basel in Group E.

Messi return?

Lionel Messi could return for Barcelona in Wednesday’s match at Rubin Kazan with the Spanish champions determined not to repeat last year’s costly mistake of taking the Russian side too lightly.

ECL fixtures

Tuesday September 28

Group E
 Basel v Bayern Munich
 Roma v CFR Cluj
Group F
 Chelsea v Marseille
 Spartak Moscow v Zilina
Group G
 Auxerre v Real Madrid
 Ajax v AC Milan
Group H
 Partizan Belgrade v Arsenal
 Braga v Shakhtar Donetsk

Wednesday September 29

Group A
 Tottenham v FC Twente
 Inter Milan v Werder Bremen
Group B
 Hapoel Tel Aviv v Lyon
 Schalke 04 v Benfica
Group C
 Valencia v Man Utd
 Rangers v Bursaspor
Group D
 Rubin Kazan v Barcelona
 Panathinaikos v Copenhagen

Rubin drew 0-0 at home and then stunned Pep Guardiola’s outfit 2-1 at the Nou Camp in the group stage last season.

“Last year they taught us a thing or two. You have to win the three points on the field of play,” Barca sports director Andoni Zubizarreta told the club’s website before the Group D match.

Barca are lifted by news that Messi has been included in the squad after an ankle injury.

Messi’s return will also be welcomed by Rubin coach Kurban Berdyev, who had been disappointed earlier in the week that he would not be playing.

“You always want to test yourself against the best,” he told local media.

“I would really like to see him play. I’m sure thousands of Rubin fans would say the same thing.”

Valencia should not get carried away with their strong start to the season and must be fully focused when they host Manchester United on Wednesday, goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez said on Monday.

The financially-troubled Spanish club were forced to sell prize assets David Villa and David Silva in the close season and the consensus was that they would be unable to match their third-place finish in La Liga last term.

However, new strikers Roberto Soldado and Aritz Aduriz have settled well and pacy attacking midfielders Juan Mata and Pablo Hernandez have been in sparkling form to help Unai Emery’s side to the top of the domestic standings after five matches.

Valencia kicked off their Champions League campaign with an impressive Group C win over Bursaspor, thumping the Turkish champions 4-0 away as United stuttered to a 0-0 home draw with Scottish side Rangers.

“Being top of the (Spanish) league is always nice but at this level it’s irrelevant,” Sanchez said on Valencia’s website.

“We are on a very good run, all members of the squad feel very useful and the big beneficiary is the group but we still haven’t won anything.”

Source: Reuters


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