The wait is finally over! Europe’s premier competition, the UEFA Champions League resumes for the 2021/22 season tonight.
Chelsea comes into the competition as defending champions courtesy of a solitary goal from Kai Havertz against Manchester City last season. Indeed, Thomas Tuchel has put his team in good stead to retain the title with the signing of Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan.
This season’s tournament will be keenly fought for, especially with the quality of signings made by some of the giants. PSG, Manchester United and Manchester City are some of the teams who stand out in this regard.
AC Milan is back in the top-tier after eight seasons. Malmo (Sweden), Young Boys (Switzerland) and Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) are some teams who would hope to push their luck this season. Meanwhile, Sheriff Tiraspol will make its debut in the competition this season after defeating Dinamo Zagreb in the qualifiers. They are the first team from Moldova to feature in the UCL.
The away goals rule has been scrapped for the new season. This decision looks sure to heighten the drama for the new term.
Preview of Gameweek 1
Tonight’s action will feature teams from groups E-H as clubs from groups A-D have a go at it on Wednesday.
Group A will see last season’s finalists, Manchester City take on Bundesliga outfit, RB Leipzig. The Premier League Champions have bolstered their squad with the £100m signing of Jack Grealish. Pep Guardiola will hope to ease through the group stages like he did last season.
The other group game will feature Ligue 1 giants PSG who travel to Belgium to face Club Brugge. Every eye will be on the visitors’ attacking trio of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.
Liverpool hosts the second most successful UEFA Champions League club Milan. The Serie A side finished second last season and will look to make a statement since the 2013/14 season when they last featured.
La Liga champions, Atletico Madrid will entertain Portuguese powerhouse, Porto in the group’s other game.
After falling out to Manchester City in the quarterfinals last season, Borussia Dortmund will begin its campaign with a trip to Turkey to face Besiktas in Group C. Last season’s top scorer, Erling Haaland will hope to continue from where he stopped.
Sporting will play host to Ajax in the other fixture.
Group D will witness 13-time champions Real Madrid take on Inter Milan at the San Siro. Karim Benzema is in red-hot form in the league with five goals this season. The French forward scored a hat-trick last weekend and will hope to replicate similarly.
Newcomers, Sheriff will entertain Shakhtar Donetsk in the group’s other fixture.
Group E will see a repeat of the 2019/20 quarterfinal match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich. That tie saw the Bundesliga Champions annihilate their opponents 8-2. It remains to be seen how the Catalan club copes without its Argentinian superstar. Robert Lewandowski will fancy his chances once again.
Dynamo Kyiv will square off against Benfica in the group’s other Gameweek 1 fixture.
Manchester United will be guests of Young Boys in Group F. With the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford, the money will be on the English team to win comfortably. Europa League champions, Villarreal will hope to make a mark this season beginning with a home game against Atalanta.
Sevilla will face off against Salzburg in Group G as Lille meets Wolfsburg in the other fixture.
Chelsea will begin its title defence against Zenit St Petersburg at Stamford Bridge in Group H just as Malmo takes on an out-of-sorts Juventus side.
Predictions For Gameweek 1
Sevilla vs RB Salzburg (over 1.5 goals)
Young Boys vs Manchester United (2)
Lille vs Wolfsburg (2X)
Villarreal vs Atalanta (goal/goal)
Chelsea vs Zenit (1)
Malmo vs Juventus (2)
Barcelona vs Bayern Munich (over 2.5 goals)
Dynamo Kyiv vs Benfica (2X)
Besiktas vs Borussia Dortmund (2X)
Sheriff vs Shakhtar Donetsk (over 1.5 goals)
Inter Milan vs Real Madrid (goal/goal)
Atletico Madrid vs Porto (1X)
Club Brugge vs PSG (2)
Liverpool vs AC Milan (over 2.5 goals)
Manchester City vs Leipzig (1)
Sporting vs Ajax (over 1.5 goals)