As a Liverpool supporter, the Champions League has always been my favourite competition, I feel the most up and down after a CL win or loss, I have the most memories and it is probably because of the success we have had in the competition. For club owners, getting into the CL is the most lucrative achievement and the prestige attached makes it the pinnacle of club football, some would say the pinnacle of all of football in the modern game, but that's a debate for another day.
This season returns early in the English domestic season just after an international break and it's crept up on me. With the shortened version of last season's tournament due to Covid, it felt a bit like a summer tournament and I have to be honest and say I have not felt the same excitement. Usually an away fixture vs legendary Ajax in Amsterdam gets the juices flowing and I would be arranging where to watch the match with the best atmosphere. A trip to Amsterdam would probably have been in mind but none of that is possible right now so perhaps that's why I have not been anticipating this round of CL matches like precious years. The players will not be feeling the same as me, this is the tournament they relocate for, the tournament which can help them make their breakthrough, the tournament they can showcase their talent to the world. Once that music comes on (you know which one), they know what time it is.
Lets dive into each match and predict what's in store.
Dynamo Kiev v Juventus Group G 17:55
The Ukranian runners up host the 36 time Serie A winner in an early kick off. The Bianconeri will be without Ronaldo due to testing positive for Covid but some players rested on the weekends draw with Crotone will return. Pirlo rotated on the weekend so we can see a stronger Juventus line up and I expect a narrow win for them.
Zenit St Petersburg v Club Brugge 17:55
The other early kick off sees the Russian champions take on Club Brugge who currently sit top of the Belgium League after winning the league for the past two seasons. Zenit were seeded in Pot 1 and although they are probably the weakest in the pot, they should have enough to see off pot 4 Brugge. The Russians are regulars in the CL and tend to do well at home, keeping games tight. Brugge are missing up to 4 players due to positive Covid tests.
Chelsea v Sevilla Group E 20:00A very interesting encounter in GW1 which sees the past two winners of the Europa League face off in their opening group match. For all the money Chelsea have spent this summer in attack, they are still struggling defensively having only kept one clean sheet in the opening five matches and conceding in injury time on the weekend to draw 3-3 with Southampton, their second 3-3 of the season. Lampard's team will take a while to gel as there are a lot of new faces and they will likely improve in all aspects, Werner's excellent display on the weekend is a clear sign of that. They host Sevilla, who were beaten on the weekend after resting players and look to bounce back with the 34 year old talisman Jesus Navas producing plenty of chances and Lucas Ocampos a regular on the scoresheet. Last season their good form against english teams was excellent (Wolves and Man Utd) en route to win the Cup. This should be a tight affair with both teams wanting to avoid defeat in the toughest game of the group but with the amount of goals in Chelsea fixtures, this could go either way.
Lazio v Dortmund Group F 20:00The stronger two teams in Group F face off in the Italian capital tonight in a tight affair. Lazio were very strong in the league last season but didn't make it out of their Europa League group surprisingly. Dortmund were entertaining as usual, finishing runners up in the league behind Bayern and runners up in the group stages to Barca. Lazio have not started this campaign too well and both teams are not the best at the back but can score so we should be in for a cracker. I expect a high scoring Dortmund win.
Barcelona v Ferencvaros Group G 20:00
New boss Koeman will want to get off to a winning start to the campaign vs Hungarian champions. Barca are unbeaten in the past 6 seasons CL group stages and their run should continue tonight. They have started the league fairly well but Saturday's 1-0 defeat will be a reminder of the problems for the Catalans. For Ferencvaros, it is their second appearance in the CL, 25 years after their initial qualification and they will be up for this in the legendary Camp Nou but Rebrovs men will find it tough to leave even with a point.
Paris St-G v Man Utd Group H 20:00
A match fit for a knockout game with 2 of Europe's biggest spenders going head-to-head for the first time since Man Utd knocked them out in the round of 16 eighteen months ago courtesy of a questionable VAR decision. At the time it was a 50/50 between football fans whether it was a penalty as that sort of handball was not usually given but since then most followers of the game will say it was a clear pen. VAR has changed the game we all love, some things are great like the offside clarification, some are still frustrating like accidental handballs and phases of play still confuse even the most knowledgeable of followers. The match itself will have numerous players missing, PSG will be without Icardi, Paredes and Kehrer, while Marquinhos and Draxler look like they may return from injury. Man Utd have Maguire, Cavani and Greenwood missing with no place for Bailly, Jones or Rojo in the squad. PSG will be looking to go one better this year after beaten finalists last season while Man Utd will be looking for another famous victory in Paris, the previous one probably still Ole's biggest achievement in the hot seat. With players missing from wither side its a tough one to call but the quality of Neymar and Mbappe should be too much for a Utd team without Maguire. RB Leipzig v Basaksehir Group H 20:00
Leipzig may have lost Werner in the summer but they have started the season very well domestically. They are sitting top of the table and will want to get 3 points tonight to start the campaign well and have a chance of progressing in this tight group. They are competing at the top of the game now having reached the Semi Finals last season, they will want o continue their rapid rise in football and pick up a major trophy under Nagelsmann. This is the first try in the CL for the 2019/20 Turkish Super league champions, 1st time champions too, and they could not have been drawn a harder group. Their players will be delighted to show off their skills at Old Trafford, Parc Des Princes and even the Red Bull Arena but getting a win in this group alone would be special. They would have loved and benefitted from playing in front of their loyal and passionate supports but it is not to be this time round and that may take some of their edge away at home.
Rennes v FK Krasnodar Group E 20:00
No disrespect to either club but not many will be tuning on for this one with both clubs reaching the group stages for the first time for but those who do will probably be looking to see what Eduardo Camavinga brings to the game. The 17 year old has already featured and scored for the French senior team. Real Madrid and a list of European clubs are all interested in the wonder kid, getting a glimpse of his skills tonight may well be a treat. Krasnodar will be looking at the games vs Rennes as their main chance of points so I expect a hard fought game but Rennes will probably come out on top.