BRENDAN WIMBERLY - Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Sacha Kljestan, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Parkhurst will all begin the Champions League group stage on the road this week.
AC Milan - RSC Anderlecht
Sacha Kljestan and Anderlecht face a tall task as they begin their first Champions League Group Stage campaign since 2006 when they face seven time European champions AC Milan at the legendary San Siro on Tuesday.
While Kljestan's spot in new coach John van den Brom's starting lineup has been inconsistent in league play this year, Kljestan has started three of Anderlecht's four Champions League matchups so far.
Anderlecht got to the group stage by virtue of their 3-2 aggregate victory over Cypriot club AEL Limassol in the playoffs after trouncing Lithuanian club FK Ekranas 11-0 in the third qualifying round. Milan got a pass up to this point due to winning Serie A last season.
Milan are without their star Brazilian attacking tandem as Alexandre Pato and Robinho are both nursing leg injuries, however midfielder Riccardo Montolivo is available after overcoming a thigh injury of his own.
Anderlecht are missing two key contributors as last year's Belgian Player of the season Matias Suarez is out long term after having off season knee surgery, while Milan Jovanovic is serving a one game suspension.
Olympiacos FC - FC Schalke 04
Schalke will kick off their Champions League campaign in Piraeus on Tuesday as Jermaine Jones and his teammates will do battle with Olympiacos.
If recent history serves as any suggestion, Schalke could be in for a rough night as the last three times Olmypiacos have welcomed German opposition into Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, they have sent them home emptied handed with a combined scoreline of 12-4.
Jone has been a force in Schalke's midfield to start the season, starting all three games in the Bundesliga and managing to score a goal against Augsburg on September 1. Schalke have won two of their first three games, picking up an away tie against Hannover in their first match.
Olympiacos have come out flying this season in Greece. The perennial powers have won their first three matches and look primed to make a run for another title, no surprise as they have won 13 of the last 15.
While Schalke have no serious injury concerns to report, Olympiacos are stricken with the long term absence of Avraam Papadopoulous who was forced to undergo knee surgery after picking up an injury while in action for Greece during last Summer's Euro's.
FC Shakhtar Donetsk - FC Nordsjælland
Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjælland head to Ukraine to start the Champions League group stage on Wednesday. Parkhurst will look to build off of his impressive start to the Danish Superliga season in Europe's premier club competition.
Parkhurst has been at the top of his game lately, having scored in three of his team's last five games. The Providence born full back received the start in the United States recent defeat to Jamaica in Kingston, before being replaced by healthy incumbent Steve Cherundolo in the rematch four days later.
Nordsjælland currently trail København by six points at the top of the Superliga. After winning three in a row, Parkhurst and company tied Brondby before losing to København in their last game.
Shakhtar have jumped out well ahead of the pack in Ukraine this season. Winning their first nine games, the Ukranian powerhouse has scored 32 goals while only allowing a meager 4 thus far.
While Shakhtar frequently participate in the Champions League due to their domestic dominance, Nordsjælland are making their first appearance in the competition. No player on the Danish champion's roster has any Champion's league experience to their name prior to Wednesday's showdown.
Neither team are reporting any injuries and given it's both clubs first game in the Champions League this season, there are no suspensions to worry about.