The UEFA Champions League gets underway tonight. The groups are exciting, with some heavyweight teams pitted against each other. Indeed, the fixtures are tricky and unpredictable. Yet, this is precisely what the competition is about: an assembly of the biggest teams, players and coaches in the World.
Real Madrid are the defending champions thanks to a goal from the UEFA player of the year, Karim Benzema. Even then, their journey to the final had defied logic, a joke for most of it. This season, not much has changed. Carlo Ancelotti, the competition’s most successful manager, is still at the helm. Casemiro has moved to Manchester United, yet they have reinforced adequately with the signing of Aurelien Tchouameni.
Liverpool will give it a go once again after failing to defeat Los Blancos in last season’s final. Darwin Nunez has joined from Benfica as a more conventional forward.
Manchester City, PSG, and Bayern Munich are the usual favourites to usurp Real Madrid. They have made telling changes to their squads.
Barcelona has made a statement in the transfer market, bringing in six players, including Robert Lewandowski. The irony, of course, is that they really should not be able to, given their financial situation. However, Joan Laporta has had to pull four levers to make all of it happen. Now, the Catalonian side has a healthy squad, and they will be competing intensely.
Inter Milan, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid are dark horses to win the competition. They will ride their luck for as long as possible.
We are set for some excellent encounters this season.
Preview of Gameweek 1
Tonight’s action will feature teams from Group E – H as clubs from Group A – D will begin their journey on Wednesday.
Dinamo Zagreb will tackle the 2020/21 Champions, Chelsea, at home in Group E. The Croatian side needed three qualifying rounds to earn a spot. Chelsea has not been stellar this season in the Premier League. And yet, Thomas Tuchel will hope that the signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can help solve his side’s scoring problems.
In the other Group match, RB Salzburg faces off against the second most successful side in the competition, AC Milan.
In Group F, 14-time Champions, Real Madrid will travel to Scotland to face Celtic. Ancelotti’s men have been perfect this season, winning four out of four in La Liga. The Spanish giants will fancy their chances.
Leipzig welcomes Shakhtar Donetsk to Germany in the other game of the group.
Struggling Sevilla will do battle against Manchester City in Group G. Julien Lopetegui’s men have been winless this season and will most likely stumble against one of the tournament’s best sides. And now, they have only gone and added Erling Haaland, who is already playing out of his skin for his new team.
Borussia Dortmund will hope to do better than last season’s disappointing third-place finish, beginning with a clash against Copenhagen.
The biggest match tonight will see Ligue 1 champions, PSG host Juventus in Group H. Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe will hope to achieve fluidity against Massimiliano Allegri’s men, who have been indifferent so far in Serie A.
Benfica and Maccabi Haifa will have a crack at it in the other game of the group.
Ajax was exciting in the group stages last season, defeating every comer. However, they have lost their coach and player Erik Ten Hag and Antony to Manchester United. The Dutch side will entertain Rangers, who were brilliant in the qualifying rounds in Group A.
The final game from the group will witness a resurgent Napoli against Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s men have not had a brilliant start to the season, mostly due to injury issues.
In Group B, Atletico Madrid hosts Primeira side Porto as Club Brugge and Bayer Leverkusen go head-to-head in Belgium.
In what has been dubbed “the group of death” by many, Group C will witness Inter Milan face Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga team has lost their prized asset, Lewandowski. However, Sadio Mane has joined the team and will hope to make his mark.
Barcelona will take on Viktoria Plzen at Camp Nou in the other group game.
Europa League champions, Eintracht Frankfurt, take on Sporting as Tottenham clashes with Marseille from Group D. Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son will fancy their chances against the Czech team.
Predictions For Gameweek 1
Dinamo Zagreb vs Chelsea (2)
Borussia Dortmund vs Copenhagen (over 1.5 goals)
Benfica vs Maccabi Haifa (1)
Sevilla vs Manchester City (2)
RB Salzburg vs Milan (over 2.5 goals)
Celtic vs Real Madrid (2)
RB Leipzig vs Shakhtar Donetsk (goal/goal)
PSG vs Juventus (over 2.5 goals)
Ajax vs Rangers (over 1.5 goals)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Sporting (over 2.5 goals)
Inter Milan vs Bayern (goal/goal)
Barcelona vs Viktoria Plzen (2)
Napoli vs Liverpool (over 2.5 goals)
Atletico Madrid vs Porto (under 3.5 goals)
Tottenham vs Marseille (over 1.5 goals)
Club Brugge vs Bayer Leverkusen (goal/goal)