The Champions League is finally here, all 32 Clubs set as the tournament kicks off tonight
The stage is all set for the participating Clubs in the Europe’s most prestigious award League competition, the UEFA Champions League as it is set to kick off tonight.
The missed crowds in the last season Champions League will be allowed in the stadiums and as expected the host stadiums will all be full to the capacity, The camera’s, background music, the chants, cheers and jeers as expected is something football fans cant wait for the time of-course money speaks. Camera operators are poised to have busy day in office tonight to capture every moment, in the opening ceremony of this big League competition.
Across the globe, for another season on Tuesday evening with several highly-anticipated games, including a heavyweight clash between Barcelona and Bayern Munich while Cristiano Ronaldo is set to play in a record-equaling 177th game in the competition when Manchester United tackle Swiss champions Young Boys.
It is that time of the year in the sporting world, when spirits are highly lifted and sure no one can wait.
We take a look into all 32 Club group stages as they officially begin this week as follows;
Group A: Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge
Group B: Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Porto, AC Milan
Group C: Sporting Lisbon, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, Besiktas
Group D: Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donestk, Sheriff Tiraspol
Group E: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Benfica, Dynamo Kiev
Group F: Villarreal, Manchester United, Atalanta, Young Boys
Group G: Lille, Sevilla, Salzburg, Wolfsburg
Group H: Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit St Petersburg, Malmo
In the group that brings together Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donestk, Sheriff Tiraspol. On Wednesday, Sheriff will kick-off Group D at home to Shakhtar. Their first ever Champions League away game in the main draw is at Santiago Bernabeu two weeks later.
Sheriff Tiraspol are on paper, the first Moldovan side to enter the group stages, but in reality play their games in the breakaway Transnistria on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border, a state unrecognized by the UN and which has a heavy Russian army presence, still carrying the Soviet hammer and sickle on its flag.
It is on one level a magical story. But on another, it is a strange and murky tale, not least because many fans and officials connected with the club would bridle if you called Sheriff ‘the first club from Moldova’ to reach this stage.
Real Madrid and Inter Milan are poised to carry the lead at this group stage given their familiarity and experience in this level.
A first group stage since 2015-16 for the Swedes, still remembered for being European Cup runners-up to Nottingham Forest back in 1979.
Coached by the former Denmark and Newcastle forward Jon Dahl Tomasson, this time around it will be all about not embarrassing themselves in a group along with Chelsea and Juventus, having lost 8-0 to Real Madrid and 5-0 to Paris Saint-Germain six years ago.
The 17-time Belgian champions had their European heyday in the late 1970s, losing UEFA Cup and then European Cup finals to Liverpool in 1976 and 1978.
More recently they’ve been weakened by the sale of forward Emmanuel Dennis to Watford and while veterans Bas Dost and Simon Mignolet plus exciting youngsters Noa Lang and Owen Otasowie, signed from Wolves, have promise, they’re in a tough group with Manchester City, PSG and Leipzig.
The Ukrainians are back again, and are back in a group from which Europa League qualification would have to be considered a huge success.
That’s what happened last time around when they finished third behind Juventus and Barcelona, ahead of the Hungarians Ferencvaros, but having been given Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Benfica this time – disappointingly not in Group B – then 76-year-old coach Mircea Lucescu has it all to do.
Young Boys are coming into this competition under a new manager David Wagner. It’s another crack at the Champions League for the side who’ve won the last four Swiss league titles.
Young Boys game kicks tonight against Man United, and will face other Clubs in the same group Villarreal, and Atalanta.
Dortmunds forward Erling Haaland, Takumi Minamino, Patson Daka, Dominik Szoboszlai, Hwang Hee-chan and now coach Jesse Marsch have all drifted away from Salzburg now, the latter trio rather predictably to RB Leipzig, and so it is all about the next batch of players to prove they’ve got what it takes to make the step up.
They’ll be happy with their kind group, but this year’s vintage might just need another year or two to even match the feats of the last one.
Zenit St Petersburg
A tricky group for the Russians, who come up against reigning champions Chelsea and a Juventus side determined to prove themselves in this competition post-Cristiano Ronaldo.
Sergei Semak’s side are full of well-known figures like Captain Dejan Lovren, forward Malcom and – still – giant Russian forward Artem Dzyuba, but whether they’ll have the legs to get through their group is extremely doubtful.
The Ukrainians only just squeezed through thanks to a fairly comical own goal in their playoff against Monaco, although beating the Ligue 1 side was a huge feather in the cap for new coach Roberto De Zerbi in what is his first job outside of Italy.
Despite that Italian influence, Shakhtar are their usual mix of home-based talents and journeymen Brazilians, and that surely won’t be enough to get past Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
The Turkish champions possess their usual array of erstwhile performers who were on the fringes of the Premier League in Rachid Ghezzal, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and Michy Batshuayi – who, yes, is still out on loan from Chelsea.
None of Sporting Lisbon, Borussia Dortmund or Ajax will be relishing their trip to Turkey, and while they’ll put up a fight you just fancy that they won’t have enough on the road to progress.
Back in the Champions League for the first time in seven years, Milan would have wanted a kinder group than this.
The seven-time European Cup/Champions League winners have got it incredibly tough against Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, two sides famed for their intensity who might just run Stefano Pioli’s side ragged if they’re on their game.
With Porto as the third side in probably the toughest group of the tournament, a difficult task to even reach the Europa League awaits.
Third in Portugal last season, and in all likelihood heading for third in their Champions League group this time around as Benfica are paired with both Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
The issues at Barca have made the possibility of progression a little more likely on paper though, and if any team is to take advantage of the post-Lionel Messi, then it will likely be Jorge Jesus’ men, who are top of their domestic table with five wins from five.
having reached the second round last season the Bundesliga side have lost their manager and have been drawn in a group with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain this time around.
New coach Jesse Marsch will hope they can punch above their weight, but three defeats in their opening four Bundesliga matches suggests otherwise.
It has been three games played, three goals scored, three conceded and all three possible outcomes for Atalanta in Serie A this season, but as they return to Europe they do so with the tag of the great entertainers.
The 2019-20 quarter-finalists managed a win over Liverpool last season, although did lose 5-0 to them at home, and there is the potential for similar amounts of fun when they take on Villarreal and Young Boys, while their all-action style has the potential to frighten Manchester United.
They saw off Juventus last season before a tussle with eventual winners Chelsea, but if Porto are just going to get out of the group here then they’re going to have to pull off something special.
Atletico Madrid and Liverpool are the clear favorites to advance, meaning that the Portuguese are likely to have to get the better of AC Milan both at home and away to stand a chance of going through.
A decent group for the 2018-19 semi-finalists, although they have changed markedly since that night in Amsterdam against Spurs.
The likes of Dusan Tadic and David Neres still remain though, and were key to the side that finished third in their group behind Liverpool and Atalanta last season.
They battle out alongside Sporting Lisbon, Borussia Dortmund and Besiktas in what looks to be an open group.
Last season’s champions in Portugal, losing only once, Sporting are arguably the weakest of the top seeds.
Ruben Amorim’s men will hope that being stout defensively will be enough to help them scrap their way through the group stage.
Not big scorers as a team, but keep an eye out for attacking midfielder Pedro Goncalves, formerly of Wolves, who struck 23 in 37 last term and has four goals already this campaign.
With four Bundesliga wins from four, during which they’ve only conceded one goal, the German side are bouncing into a group they’ll feel that they can get out of.
Now managed by Dutch legend Mark van Bommel, they are sure to fancy their chances up against Lille, Sevilla and Salzburg, with at least the Europa League expected and more hoped for.
Last season’s shock French title winners are in among the top seeds, but have endured a tumultuous summer losing key players in ‘keeper Mike Maignan and midfielder Boubakary Soumare as well as head coach Christophe Gaultier.
Jocelyn Gourvennec has taken the helm, and they remain dependant on veteran striker Burak Yilmaz in attack.
They are defending Europa league winners, and Unai Emery’s men deserve respect despite a winless start in La Liga.
Gerard Moreno will lead the attack once more having shone, and that top seeding means they’ll fancy their chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Ex-Arsenal boss Emery may feel he has a point to prove after his previous spells in the competition, most notably with PSG.
Two wins and a draw to begin their La Liga season is decent going for Sevilla, who went out to Borussia Dortmund in the last-16 last season.
Julen Lopetegui has added the experience of Denmark’s Thomas Delaney and the intriguing prospect of Rafa Mir. and Erik Lamella of Spurs.
After romping to the Serie A title under Antonio Conte, with the goals of Romelu Lukaku firing the Nerazzurri to glory and ending Juventus stranglehold on the Scudetto, it’s been a summer of change at San Siro.
Conte and Lukaku have both departed, replaced by Simone Inzaghi and Edin Dzeko respectively amid the club’s financial issues, but a smart, experienced side remains.
If you’ve got Haaland you’ve got a chance against anyone, and that is how Dortmund will be feeling going into what looks highly likely to be their final Champions League campaign with the big Norwegian in their ranks.
Anything but serene qualification will be a failure for Marco Rose’s side, who are then likely to find themselves with the tag of the team clubs will most want to avoid in the last-16.
It is usually around there that their defending lets them down though, and not even Haaland can save them.
Following hot on the heels of another side waving goodbye to a modern icon, Juve weren’t quite as sad to see the back of Cristiano Ronaldo as Barcelona were for Lionel Messi.
There were no tearful press conferences conducted by a player who failed to inspire Juve past the last eight of this competition, but the attempt to rebuild has started slowly.
Max Allegri is back and is in charge of a hugely talented bunch, and while they should have enough to join Chelsea in qualifying from the group, another last eight exit wouldn’t be a surprise.
The king is dead, long live the king.
Messi’s exit, not to mention the continued ageing of other stars such as Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, means Ronald Koeman’s men aren’t being taken seriously as contenders this time around.
To get there, they’ll likely rely on the brilliance of Dutch striker Memphis Depay who already looks right at home at Camp Nou – and pray that Frenkie de Jong and Pedri continue their progress as two of the best young footballers on the planet.
Last season’s La Liga champions, Diego Simeone’s men fell short in the last 16 last year when they came up against eventual winners Chelsea.
Luis Suarez is another year older but will again lead the attack, while more will be expected of Portuguese youngster Joao Felix and Angel Correa has been in outstanding form recently, with the attack topped off by the return of Antoine Griezmann.
They’ll face an intriguing battle with Liverpool in the group stages having knocked them out of the 2019-20 tournament.
They Lost key players this summer, like defensive stalwarts Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.
Zinedine Zidane is out, replaced by Carlo Ancelotti, who led the Spanish giants to their 2014 triumph, but he will have to summon every inch of his knowhow to take Madrid to the final four.
The midfield trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro are all another year older and the attack remains heavily reliant on Karim Benzema.
The Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo is in town and that has caused quite a lot of excitement down on Sir Matt Busby way.
Just as at Juve, questions will remain over Ronaldo’s suitability to the modern game, and the need to press and be an active part of the proceedings when the going gets tough, but you also cannot see a situation where he doesn’t get a couple more moments in the Champions League sun.
It is his stage, and with the additions of Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho come a pretty impressive supporting cast.
After a summer in which we all got obsessed with the transfer market, have we been sleeping on Liverpool?
They certainly slept on us, adding only Centre back Ibrahima Konate in a senior capacity, but to doubt the Reds’ squad is to forget that this is a group full of experience and knowhow at the top level, as well as one that has basically chosen to pretend that last season didn’t happen due to their raft of injury issues.
Jurgen Klopp is a two-time Champions League finalist, and will fancy his chances of outwitting the majority of bosses he comes up again in the competition.
The holders weren’t among the favourites when Frank Lampard was leading them through last season’s group stages but they came on strong under Thomas Tuchel.
Deserved winners of last season’s trophy after seeing off Atletico Madrid, Porto, Real Madrid and Man City.
Young stars such as Reece James, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz are a year older and wiser, while Romelu Lukaku gives them an attacking focal point who guarantees goals and, at 28, is very much in his prime.
The 2020 winners fell short last term when being dumped out by PSG in the quarter-finals and there’s a new man steering the ship, with Julian Nagelsmann having replaced Hansi Flick.
David Alaba, outstanding in their 2020 triumph, has departed for Real Madrid, with Dayot Upamecano following Nagelsmann from RB Leipzig and taking his place at the heart of defense.
Further forwards the side remains more settled and Robert Lewandowski will be looking to make up for last term, when his injury proved costly in the last eight.
They seemed set to end their long-wait for a first Champions League and Pep Guardiola’s decade-long wait for his third crown last season, but fell short in the final against Chelsea.
Then they were hampered by not being able to call upon a ruthless, fully-fit No.9 – Sergio Aguero was halfway out the exit door at that point and having failed to land Harry Kane, that looks set to be their Achilles heel once more.
New signee Jack Grealish will be looking to experience the League for the first time of his career.
Paris Saint Germain
With the great signings of defensive stalwart Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Gini Wijnaldum and football genius Lionel Messi it is no brainer that Pochettino’s side are expectant to carry the day at this season’s Champions League.
Kylian Mbappe and Neymar on the both side of the wing with Lionel Messi as the Center forward will reap more success for the Ligue 1 giants than any other team just unless otherwise, Pochettino complicates things.