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English champion Manchester City faces challenge to advance in Champions League

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ROME — English champion Manchester City faces several challenges Wednesday when it strives to reach the knockout phase of the Champions League.

Seeking to avoid a group stage exit for the second time in three seasons, City's injury- and suspension-hit team needs at least a point against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico and some assistance from already-qualified Bayern Munich in the other Group E match.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini's squad could be without arguably its best four players.

Star midfielder Yaya Toure is suspended, top scorer Sergio Aguero is out with a serious knee injury, sustained on Saturday, and playmaker David Silva and captain Vincent Kompany are major injury doubts.

Bayern has already won the group with 12 points while the other three clubs have five points each.

Roma can advance with a win, while CSKA needs a first-ever victory in Germany, plus a draw, or a City win, in the other match.

If City loses, it will finish last and fail to qualify for the Europa League.

Here are some more things to know about Wednesday's matches:


VETERAN EXPERTISE

Roma is still feeling the psychological impact of its 7-1 home thrashing by Bayern, but has maintained second place in Serie A, relying on veterans like 38-year-old captain Francesco Totti and 33-year-old right back Maicon.

Maicon had an unimpressive stay at City in 2012-13, when he was slowed by injury, but has returned to form with the Giallorossi this season and last — and was one of the bright spots for Brazil at the World Cup.

"I would love to have his charisma and acceleration," said Roma winger Alessandro Florenzi, who filled in at fullback when Maicon was rested during a draw against Sassuolo at the weekend. "He's a player who creates fear for the opponent even if he's at 50 percent. And he settles the club down."

Maicon has been the one of the few bright spots in a Roma defense that was torn apart in the thrashing by Bayern in October.

Roma forwards Gervinho and Miralem Pjanic are expected to play despite minor injuries.


PHOTO: Roma's Daniele De Rossi reacts after missing a scoring chance during a Serie A soccer match between Roma and Sassuolo at Rome's Olympic stadium, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Roma's Daniele De Rossi reacts after missing a scoring chance during a Serie A soccer match between Roma and Sassuolo at Rome's Olympic stadium, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

ABSENT AGUERO

Manager Manuel Pellegrini has admitted Sergio Aguero's absence in Italy is a monumental blow.

The Argentina international scored a hat trick to propel City to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory against Bayern Munich two weeks ago.

"Sergio was in a very good moment and he is a decisive player for our team," Pellegrini said after Saturday's 1-0 win against Everton.

"It is impossible in this moment to know how long Sergio will be out. It is very difficult when you have a problem with your ligament to recover in three days. I always say this team is not just about Aguero."


CHRISTMAS PARTY

Bayern is already qualified and sure to win the group, but the team want to give their fans something extra ahead of Christmas.

"There will be a lot of people in the stadium and we want to make them happy," said midfielder Sebastian Rode. "That's our job."

Rode also promised Bayern would not take the match lightly.

"The fans want to see a proper match," he said.

Rode joined Bayern this summer from Eintracht Frankfurt. He was not given much hope of making an impact in the star-studded squad, but has been something of a revelation. Rode was responsible for turning around the match in the 1-0 win over Leverkusen last weekend.

"The coach has made it clear he values me from the very first day and the best evidence of that is the increasing amount of playing time I'm getting," he said. "I know I did everything right by joining Bayern and I've already learned a huge amount from my teammates and the coach, but I want more."


FAMILIAR OPPONENTS

This will be the fourth meeting in little more than a year between Bayern and CSKA.

Bayern won 3-0 and 3-1 in last season's group stage and won 1-0 in Moscow in September, courtesy of a first-half penalty from Thomas Mueller.

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