The Champions League is back, and with it comes the chance for fans to display their allegiance and dedication to their favorite teams. And, of course, the chance to watch, with a sense of excitement, nervousness and fear as their team goes up against the best in Europe. The first round has thrown up four fixtures between traditional European heavyweights, with a couple of last season rematches that are sure to intrigue fans.
SSC Napoli Vs Liverpool FC
With just a little more guile and composure on the part of Arkadiusz Milik in stoppage time of the tie at Anfield last season, and we would not be calling Liverpool the reigning European Champions.
Of the rematches from last season, this one probably seems the most likely for Liverpool to win. They currently sit top of the English Premier League, having won all of their games so far, including a comprehensive win against Arsenal.
Napoli meanwhile, have had two whirlwind games, winning one 4-3 against Fiorentina and then subsequently losing to Juventus by the same score after a heartbreaking stoppage time own goal by Kalidou Koulibaly. The scary part for Napoli is that Liverpool still have not played at their very best yet this season and should they decide to do so in Naples, it could be a long night for Carlo Ancelotti and his men.
Borussia Dortmund Vs Barcelona
The last time Barcelona played a UCL tie at such a raucous venue, it was at Anfield and they lost 4-0. Playing at the Signal Iduna Park against an in-form Borussia Dortmund will prove to be just as intense and exhilarating, though Barcelona will hope for a remarkably different result than the one at Merseyside.
Barcelona are struggling without currently injured Leo Messi but additions of quality talent such as Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie De Jong should still be enough to overcome the Germans. However, Dortmund and Jadon Sancho in particular, will look to exploit the spaces left empty by the ever-marauding Jordi Alba and Paco Alcacer will be hungry to score against the club that deemed him surplus to requirements. With seemingly rejuvenated Inter Milan placed in this Group of Death also, both of these teams would be extremely eager to get off to the perfect start.
Paris Saint Germain Vs Real Madrid
Despite the pedigree of these teams, there is the possibility that the tie might be overshadowed by individuals on both teams. Had things gone differently during the summer, we might have seen Neymar Jr. line up for Real Madrid against the club he so desperately wanted to leave. However, as things stand, PSG are banking on their enigmatic Brazilian to be the difference against Madrid.
Similarly, Los Blancos did everything they could to sell Gareth Bale, yet he remains and ironically is the most effective, in-form player at the club. Neymar or not, PSG’s ruthless, workmanlike team under Thomas Tuchel should not be beat by Madrid, who have not had the best start to the season and since Ronaldo left, have struggled to create an identity for themselves. However, PSG would do well to remember that they are against a team that was won three Champions Leagues in the past four years and always turn up the heat in Europe.
Atlético Madrid vs Juventus:
Young against old. Prince against king. This tie could be decided by the two Portuguese internationals, Joao Felix and Cristiano Ronaldo. When these sides met last season, a scintillating Ronaldo hattrick knocked Atletico Madrid out of the UCL. A lot has happened since at Atleti with stalwarts Godin, Juanfran, Felipe Luis and star Griezmann leaving and the arrival of 11 new signings.
Their new crop of players led by the silky Joao Felix have gelled very well so far, starting the season off with three consecutive victories before falling unexpectedly to Real Sociedad on Saturday. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Juventus either, with The Old Lady still adapting to new manager Maurico Sarri’s system. With defensive stalwart Giorgio Chiellini out injured, Juventus are there for the taking.
The UCL is finally back and it has presented us with entertaining, captivating fixtures. For those who are ardent followers of this competition, there will be plenty more where the first week came from. There is a long way to go in the season, but these preliminary games could very well give a strong indicator as to who will be the strongest to usurp Liverpool as European Champions.