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United meet Deportivo tomorrow

London: The Champions League rolls into action for the last time before its two-month winter hibernation this week with Manchester United’s latest run-in with Deportivo Coruna on Wednesday probably the pick of the eight fixtures.

The two teams have quickly become fierce rivals having met four times last season in a series of games full of incident and drama.

The Spaniards took the early advantage with two wins in the first group stage but United performed when it mattered most, winning home and away in the quarter finals.

United began the second phase of this year’s competition with a 3-1 win at Basel but Deportivo were held to a 2-2 home draw by Juventus after leading 2-0.

United, European champions in 1999, are enjoying a terrific run of form despite still missing the likes of David Beckham, Roy Keane, Nicky Butt and Rio Ferdinand.

In the last eight days they have beaten title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal to get right back into the Premier League mix and manager Alex Ferguson would love to able to enjoy his Christmas with maximum points under his belt after the first two Group D games.

Deportivo are currently sixth in the Spanish League, but like the three other Spanish sides in the Champions League, they have reserved their best performances for Europe.

The other Group D game sees Juventus take on Basel in Turin on the back of their first Serie A defeat of the season — 0-2 at Brescia.

Mouth-watering fare

Group B also features a mouth-watering England versus Spain clash as Arsenal take on Valencia at Highbury on Tuesday in a battle between the two countries’ reigning champions which is also a repeat of a 2000 quarter final won by the Spaniards.

A superb Thierry Henry hattrick gave Arsenal an impressive 3-1 win at AS Roma two weeks ago, while Valencia needed an injury-time equaliser by Miguel Angel Angulo for a 1-1 draw at Ajax Amsterdam, despite dominating the match.

Milan are the form team of the moment, top of Serie A and still on a high from beating Real Madrid 1-0 in their opening Group C game.

On Wednesday they travel to Borussia Dortmund, 2-1 winners over Lokomotiv Moscow in their opening second phase game, while Real host the Russians.

The defending champions have not won in Europe since the second game of the first phase — five matches — but will expect to end that run at The Bernabeu.

Things began to look up on Sunday with a 5-1 away thrashing of Real Mallorca, helped by two goals for Ronaldo.

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