The Champions League is back with some cracking games to start | UCL Matchday 1 Preview
The non-stop football action has well and truly started with the Champions League back in all it’s midweek, early morning glory. The group stage gets underway tomorrow morning and it’s tossed up some simply scintillating ties to start us off.
Napoli vs Liverpool | Stadio San Paolo, Naples | Wednesday 5am
Liverpool fans will still be singing ‘Campeones Campeones’ after being crowned just three months ago. On top of that, their team couldn’t have started the season much better having won their first five Premier League games.
Jurgen Klopp will be very wary through with memories of the 1-0 loss in Naples that so nearly knocked them out in last years group stage. That result instead saw Napoli knocked out on goal difference and they’ll be hungry for revenge.
The Italian side are in decent form themselves having started their domestic season with two wins from three games. Their one defeat came in a heart-breaking 4-3 injury time loss to defending Serie A champions Juventus.
This game will see two of the hottest attacking sides in Europe going toe-to-toe and shot-for-shot with both sides averaging three goals a game so far this season.
Borussia Dortmund vs FC Barcelona | BVB Stadion Dortmund | Wednesday 5am
Despite both these sides being regulars in the Champions League, this will in fact be the first time they’ve met in the tournament.
Barcelona have had a wobbly start to the season relying on new recruits Antoine Greizman and Frankie de Jong who have done well to give their side more league goals than any other in La Liga, but the issue lies in their defence. With Samuel Umtiti missing, Barca have conceded the third highest number of goals in La Liga and are yet to keep a clean sheet. This will especially be a problem against a team like Dortmund who are the top scorers in the Bundesliga so far.
Barcelona are set to be handed a huge boost with the return of Luis Suarez and Leo Messi. Both have officially been declared fit and named in Barca’s squad with Ernesto Valverde hinting that Suarez may start. A decision on Leo Messi, who is yet to feature this season, won’t be made until closer to kick-off.
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PSG vs Real Madrid | Parc des Princes, Paris | Thursday 5am
This was a game that should have seen some of world football’s biggest stars come up against each other. But both teams will be without a serious contingent of said stars through a mixture of injuries and suspensions.
PSG will be without their entire first choice front-line. Edison Cavani and Kylian Mbappe are both injured whilst Neymar is carrying over a three-game ban after his post-match reaction following PSG’s defeat to Manchester United in the round of 16 last season.
Madrid have their own issues though with captain Sergio Ramos and Nacho both suspended whilst new man Eden Hazard and James Rodriguez have both only just returned from injuries.
It’s likely to be an interesting affair between two sides who will both feel they are serious contenders for the crown but the stage is set for Gareth Bale to step up and show Madrid fans exactly why they shouldn’t be so eager to get rid of him.
Atletico Madrid vs Juventus | Estadio Metropolitano, Madrid | Thursday 5am
These two met in the Round of 16 last season and it was all about Juve’s main man Christiano Ronaldo – scoring a hattrick in the second leg to overturn Atletico’s 2-0 first leg lead.
Ronaldo always enjoyed scoring against Atletico for Real Madrid and he’s enjoyed scoring against them for Juve as well so look out for more of his heroics.
Atletico currently sit second in La Liga but have looked less than convincing in any of their games so far. Meanwhile, Juve’s draw with Fiorentina over the weekend saw them displaced from the top spot in Serie A for the first time in 552 days.
What else to look out for
Ajax were the surprise package of last season’s Champions League becoming the first team in history to make the semi-finals after having come through three qualifying rounds. They’ll have to do it this time without their two best players from last season with Mathias De Ligt and Frankie de Jong both moving on in the off-season. They start their campaign against french side Lille OSC (Wednesday 5am).
Tottenham got all the way through to last season’s final despite making an absolute meal of getting through the group stage, taking just a single point from their first three games. They’ll be eager to make sure that doesn’t happen again as they travel to Greece for their opening game against Olympiacos (Thursday 2:55am).
Chelsea have finally hit their straps in the Premier League but their transfer ban has had a noticeable impact on their squad depth which could make things tricky as Spanish side Valencia visit Stamford Bridge. Tammy Abraham is in brilliant goal scoring form but Frank Lampard will be wary not to overwork the young striker early in the season (Wednesday 5am).