Preview: UEFA Champions League Matchday 1
Written by: Waseem Zaidi
The new campaign kicks-off with some tasty fixtures none more so than PSG's visit to last season's finalists Liverpool.
A brand new season of the UEFA Champions League has arrived. The competition sees the best clubs out of all European nations that are part of the UEFA members associations, go against each other for the tag of “European Champions”. Each season, the cream of the crop, in terms of players and clubs go hammer and tongs to win the bragging rights.
Real Madrid will enter the competition as defending champions having won the title for three consecutive season. A group-wise preview of the first matchday suggests that there is a lot to look forward to considering the upcoming fixtures and possible highlights.
UEFA Europa League 2017/18 winners, Atletico Madrid, will begin their campaign when they visit a Monaco side that thrives on attacking football and are strong contenders to qualify for the knockout rounds. Borussia Dortmund are the other favourites to qualify and will begin their run against Club Brugge under their new manager Lucien Favre.
Widely considered as the ‘group of death’, Group B will be every fan's focus. Spanish La Liga champions FC Barcelona will go head-to-head against Dutch Eredivisie winners PSV Eindhoven. In the other mouth-watering clash, Inter Milan will play host to Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. In a group where any team can outplay the other, it’s safe to say that the ‘group of death’ will certainly live up to its reputation.
In one of the biggest fixtures from Matchday 1, Ligue 1 champions PSG will play last year's runners-up Liverpool. Stars like Neymar and Kylian Mbappé on one side and Alisson Becker and Mohamed Salah on the other, will take the field for their respective clubs in a high-profile fixture. In the other fixture from this group, Red Star Belgrade will play host to Napoli from Serie A.
UEFA Champions League Groups
Schalke 04 and FC Porto are the favourites to qualify into the knockout rounds and will play one another in a crucial tie that could be vital in deciding the group toppers in the later stages. The group of the ‘underdogs’ will also feature the Turkish club, Galatasaray playing host to Russian champions Lokomotiv Moscow. Any of the aforementioned clubs can be a surprise element and go long in the tournament.
On paper, Bayern Munich are the outright favourites to top this group and will begin their conquest under new manager Niko Kovac, with a trip to Lisbon where they'll be up against Benfica. The Portuguese club will challenge for the other qualifying spot with Dutch side AFC Ajax, who themselves play host to Greek club AEK Athens.
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Premier League champions Manchester City will launch their bid for an first elusive Champions League title when they meet Olympique Lyonnais who, contrary to the English champions, have had a rocky start to their domestic campaign. Shakhtar Donetsk and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim play each other and complete a group that will see an all-out fight for the second qualifying spot alongside Pep Guardiola's men.
Defending champions Real Madrid play host to AS Roma in one of the most anticipated fixtures from Matchday 1. All eyes will be on the Spanish side and how they fare post-Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit and new manager Julen Lopetegui's appointment. CSKA Moscow will make a trip to the Czech Republic and play current domestic champions Viktoria Plzen. Only a miracle could change what looks like the already sealed fate of this group, from where Real Madrid and Roma are backed to qualify into the next stage.
Juventus are not only the favourites to qualify from this group, but are also strong contenders to lift the title this term. Their case is strongly supported by the acquisition of Ronaldo, within their extremely talented squad. A trip to Valencia will commence their continental campaign. Manchester United are the other favourites to qualify into the next round from the group. For their opening fixture, Jose Mourinho’s men will travel to Switzerland to face BSC Young Boys.
That concludes our round-up of the opening day fixtures from the 2018/19 season of the UEFA Champions League. Given the fixtures, it’s bound to be an explosive opening to the tournament.
Published: Mon Sep 17, 2018 06:49 PM IST