06 Sep The Champions League returns with a bang this week
The Chaaaaaaaampiooooons! You all know the tune, we’ve collectively listened to it throughout the previous one, two or three decades depending on how old you are, and this week we will be treated to those sweet melodic chords once more as Europe’s elite knockout competition returns to our screens. Bliss.
The groups have been divvied up and now the continent’s superclubs are already to do battle in the hope of booking their spot in the last-16 at the start of next year, with the likes of Liverpool looking to right their wrongdoings from May’s heart-wrenching final defeat to Real Madrid, and Man City once again determined to finally shake off Yaya Toure’s curse and win the one trophy that has so far (and somehow) continued to evade them under Pep Guardiola’s stewardship.
City are in action first, pitting their wits against Sevilla on Tuesday evening to kick things off in Group G. The English side will be firm favourites to start their European adventure with a win, though Sevilla are no mugs and have proven pedigree in knockout football having won the Europa League a record six times, whilst always proving stiff opposition to those who visit in the footballing world’s most prestigious club-level tournament.
Elsewhere, Chelsea travel to Dinamo Zagreb in Group E and Thomas Tuchel will be hoping (or more so praying) for a convincing performance accompanied by a resounding win after what has been a slow and underwhelming start for this side in the Premier League.
The sixth-placed Blues lost 2-1 against Southampton last week and only managed to scrape past West Ham at the weekend thanks to a hugely dubious VAR decision that fell in their favour. Big change is needed if the west London side are to maintain pressure on the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham in the top-flight title-race, and the importance of a win here in Europe can not be understated for Tuchel and his team.
Wednesday night sees both Liverpool and Tottenham in action against Napoli and Marseille respectively. Of course Liverpool are playing Napoli – do they ever not? Much like Chelsea, the Reds are yet to hit their usual heady heights this term, managing only two wins from six in the Premier League following a goalless draw with rivals Everton on Saturday, so would benefit from an assured performance in Naples or risk losing traction in the two main competitions they find themselves in so early on in the campaign.
Spurs wave goodbye to a two-year absence from Champions League football with the visit of Marseille on Wednesday, and Antonio Conte will perhaps feel confident in his side’s chances of kickstarting things with a victory given how well they have started their domestic campaign.
The French visitors will also be full of confidence, however, having also started their season extremely strongly and sit second in Ligue 1, behind PSG on goal difference alone following five wins and a draw from their opening six league fixtures. On paper, it certainly has the potential to be a swashbuckling game of football. Bring it on…
Champions League fixtures in full – GW1
Dinamo Zagreb vs Chelsea (17:45)
Borussia Dortmund vs FC Copenhagen (17:45)
FC Red Bull Salzburg vs AC Milan (20:00)
Celtic vs Real Madrid (20:00)
RB Leipzig vs Shakhtar Donetsk (20:00)
Sevilla vs Manchester City (20:00)
Benfica vs Maccabi Haifa (20:00)
Paris Saint Germain vs Juventus (20:00)
Ajax vs Rangers (17:45)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Sporting Lisbon (17:45)
Napoli vs Liverpool (20:00)
Atlético Madrid vs FC Porto (20:00)
Club Bruges vs Bayer 04 Leverkusen (20:00)
Barcelona vs Viktoria Plzen (20:00)
Inter Milan vs Bayern Munich (20:00)
Tottenham Hotspur vs Marseille (20:00)