The Champions League is back! It will serve up some mouth-watering encounters this week, and here are the Things to look out for on Matchday One. Bet on the Champions League here.
Tough start for reigning champions Liverpool at Napoli
Liverpool begin the defence of their Champions League title at the vociferous Stadio San Paolo against Serie A giants Napoli. Carlo Ancelotti’s team clashed with the Reds in last season’s Champions League group stage with the two sides exchanging 1-0 home wins. With Group E also consisting of Red Bull Salzburg and Genk, this match looks like a battle for the top spot. An outstanding late save from Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker on Matchday Six last season prevented the Partenopei from progressing to the round of 16 at the expense of the English side. Jurgen Klopp’s side have lost their last two matches in Italy but have been beaten in only three of their last nine away games against Italian clubs. Can Napoli repeat last season’s result?
Clash of titans: PSG v Real Madrid
Group A opens with a heavyweight showdown as Paris Saint-Germain welcome record Champions League winners Real Madrid to the Parc des Princes. Both teams have been regulars in the tournament’s knockout stage in recent seasons. However, both suffered last-16 disappointment last season and will want to start on the front foot this time. Four of the previous eight matches between these two have ended in a Real Madrid win, including each of the last three. Paris Saint-Germain have won two of those eight matches. Who will take the bragging rights this time?
Cristiano Ronaldo to torment Atletico Madrid again?
Cristiano Ronaldo has been Atletico’s tormenter in chief in the last few seasons. During his time at Real Madrid, the Portuguese star was an unstoppable force against their city rivals. Ronaldo scored 22 goals against Los Rojiblancos for Real, one of those in the 2014 UEFA Champions League final triumph, while he also hit the winning penalty as Atleti were defeated in the final again two years later. Despite reaping remarkable success against Diego Simeone’s team, the fierce rivalry has gone to another level even with the 34-year-old now plying his trade in Italy. The pair met in last season’s Champions League. After his team went 2-0 down in the first leg, the Portuguese singlehandedly eliminated Atletico from the tournament with a hat trick in the second leg. Will he score when they meet again on Wednesday?
Atalanta travel to Croatia for their first Champions League match to face a Dinamo Zagreb, a team who are making their seventh group appearance. Atalanta are the only club to be making their group stage debut this season. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side finished third in Serie A last season beating sides like Inter Milan, AC Milan and AS Roma. Atalanta punched above their weight last season, but this season will bring many challenges and their ability will be tested. How will they fare in their first Champions League appearance?
Dortmund’s poor home form
Borussia Dortmund host Barcelona in their first Champions League game of the season. The Germans are in Group F, alongside Inter Milan and Slavia Prague. Dortmund’s home form in the tournament is worrying. In their last eight matches at home they’ve won just twice and lost four. That poor record might be extended if they fail to get past Barcelona and, given they’re in the group of death, this is a must-win game. Lucien Favre’s men will have to show up against Barca to get a good chance of finishing in the top two.