Football Article

Champions League Kicks Off with Exciting Openers

Champions League Kicks Off with Exciting Openers Photo: TT

Football fans across the world can finally rejoice as the much awaited UEFA Champions League is back.

The tournament, which starts on Tuesday, September 12th, will feature a sensational mix of teams that are set to make this event a must watch one.

From the record-breaking signing of Neymar Jr. by Paris Saint-Germain to Manchester United’s hopeful redemption under Jose Mourinho, the buildup to the Champions League was backed by such exciting events in the football world.

Defending Champions Real Madrid Looking Confident

Real Madrid are the two-time defending champions, who became the only club in the history of the league to successfully defend their title. Under the leadership for Zinedine Zidane, the Los Blancos have thrived exceptionally. In fact, they have been doing great to such an extent that they didn’t feel the need to sign any big players this season.

With the likes of Marco Asensio, Isco and Cristiano Ronaldo in such a terrific form, the only other club capable of giving them a run for their money right now is PSG, owing to their newly reformed squad.

It will be interesting to see how far these sides will go, but for the time being, let us look at the matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League 2017-18.

Mourinho’s Manchester go up against Basel

In Group A, Manchester United will begin their bid for a third Champions League title against the Swiss champions FC Basel, at the Old Trafford. Last time the Red Devils won the tournament was back in 2007-08 under Sir Alex Ferguson.

While it is fair to say that the lads in red have lost their flair for the last decade, Mourinho has been doing a stellar job in taking the club to its former glory. Having won the UEFA Europa League last season and being at the top of the Premier League table right now, he’ll be confident going up against the Swiss side at home.

FC Basel haven’t won a game in their last three fixtures and it’s unlikely that they will register their first win in the recent weeks against the mighty Manchester United.

Can PSG win the title?

Moving down to Group B, you have the daunting Paris Saint-Germain, who will start their campaign in Glasgow against the Scottish Champions Celtic. Brendan Rodgers would like to avoid a repeat of the 7-0 spanking they got by Barcelona at the start of the previous season.

PSG, who are likely to feature the combined powerhouse of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Edinson Cavani, will need to keep in mind the 3-3 draw that the Celtics managed to pull against Manchester City last season. The Hoops will be facing a far more superior side, but they need to stand their ground at home and must not succumb to intimidation.

This will either be a high scoring affair or, it may end up being a draw. The odds are stacked in the former case.

The Match of the Week!

Coming to Group D, the Barcelona - Juventus match at Camp Nou is set to be the biggest match of this week in the Champions League. The Catalans still remember their humiliating defeat at the hands of Bianconeri in the quarter-final last season and they’ll be eager to avenge that loss.

At the same time, the hosts won 3-1 against the Italian side when they met for the final in 2015. However, the quality of the Barcelona side has dropped down considerably since then. The dispute in the management of the club hasn’t made things any easy for them and their disastrous planning in the transfer season made them the laughing stock of football world.

Their sole star signing, the energetic forward Ousmane Dembele, is expected to fill Neymar’s shoes. His last assist in the 5-0 rout against Espanyol gave a glimpse of what he is capable of and the fans will expect him to continue in the same vein.

As for the visitors, they will be traveling to Spain without their first team regulars. This being their first Champions League game since the 4-1 loss to Madrid in the final last season, they will be keen on starting with a victory. But with the absence of Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio, and Sami Khedira, it’ll be quite tricky for them to win against the Blaugrana side.

To make things more difficult for them, Lionel Messi’s recent hat-trick has certainly pegged him as the man to watch out for in the match on Tuesday. We can expect this to be an entertaining one, with both teams likely to score.

Other Games of the Week

The opening night of Group G is set to be a promising affair with the Bundesliga runners-up RB Leipzig making their Champions League debut against the semifinalists from last season and present champions of France, Monaco. The Bulls, who won finished at the second place in the league last season, in what was astonishingly their first time in the German top flight, have got a tough task ahead of them at home.

Monaco, who knocked out the likes of Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund last year, have been on a high goal scoring run off lately. Except for their unfortunate 4-0 rout against Nice last weekend, the team has been playing good football with Ramadel Falcao and Thomas Lemar taking the side forward.

This is a new territory for the German side and to see them carry out the same performance here, as they did in their Bundesliga debut, will be a sight to relish.

Lastly, in Group H, we have the blockbuster match between Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund. The Spurs will be playing their Champions League home games at Wembley, similar to last season. However, having won just one home match back then, they definitely cannot afford a repeat of that spell again. With Real Madrid in the same group, both the sides know the importance of obtaining a positive result here.

Even though Spurs are the Premier League runners-up, their poor record against Dortmund will need some hard work to rectify. They last met in 2015-16 Europa League, when the BVB won 5-1 on aggregate. Both the sides have started their respective league campaigns on a decent run, but this match will be their true test.

Rajeev mcallister
Sports Pundit staff writer

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