Domestic football in the major leagues will largely be on hiatus this week as the top teams in Europe fight for critical points in the Champions League tonight and tomorrow. Here are five things to look out for.
Ronaldo’s Old Trafford return
It will be an emotional evening for Cristiano Ronaldo tonight, as he returns to the club where he first made his mark as a truly world-class player. Ronaldo spent six highly successful years at Manchester United before he moved to Real Madrid, where he stayed for nine years until he left to join Juventus this summer.
The fans at Old Trafford still adore the Portuguese superstar and he will likely receive as warm a welcome as he did when he last played there, with Real in 2013.
Lopetegui on the brink
A year that carried so much promise for Julen Lopetegui has transformed into a complete nightmare. He was sacked as Spain manager two days before La Roja’s first World Cup match in Russia after he reached a deal to become the new Real Madrid manager after the end of the tournament.
His time at the Bernabeu has been nothing short of a disaster, as he has led them to their worst start to a season in 17 years. Next up for Los Blancos in La Liga is the biggest match of their year; the El Clasico against rivals Barcelona. Anything other than victory against Viktoria Plzeň tonight and it is unlikely that Lopetegui will be in charge for the Barça clash.
Baptism of fire for Henry
Barely one week into his new job as manager of Monaco, Thierry Henry will have to put his skills to the test in the Champions League. Monaco take on Belgian side Club Brugge tomorrow night as they look for their first win since their Ligue 1 opening day victory over Nantes back in August.
Henry’s fledgling managerial career kicked off with a 2-1 defeat to Strasbourg over the weekend and he will be hoping to put that behind him with a critical win in Brugge.
Liverpool to take charge of Group C
In a group of three genuine heavyweight teams, it is vital for each of them to take maximum points against the perceived inferior fourth. This will undoubtedly play on the minds of Liverpool players as they take on Crvena Zvezda at Anfield tomorrow night.
Three points in the match will see them gain advantage in some form, as PSG and Napoli face off in the other group match. A draw in Paris for those two sides would give the Reds an opportunity to go top of the group.
Unique opportunity for Inter
The last time Inter Milan played Barcelona in the Champions League, José Mourinho was their manager and they ended up winning the trophy that season. That was 2010, before their fortunes began to seriously deteriorate. The Italian giants have returned to the elite European competition for the first time in six years this season and will relish playing Barcelona, not least in what looks like a very opportune time.
Under the guidance of Luciano Spalletti, Inter have won their last seven matches in all competitions. Barça, on the other hand, appear to be struggling for form, with three draws and one defeat in their last six matches. To make matters worse, the Catalans will be without talisman Lionel Messi, who sustained a fracture in his arm against Sevilla over the weekend.