Holders Real Madrid will launch their Champions League defence in Glasgow when this season’s group stage will get under manner on Tuesday night.
Real have received 5 of the final 9 editions and, under the wily Carlo Ancelotti, are seemingly to be certainly one of the groups to beat once more.
Having overwhelmed Liverpool at the Parc des Princes final May, Ancelotti goes in the hunt for a fifth title as a supervisor.
Madrid face Scottish champions Celtic of their opening Group F fixture whereas on the similar night time Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City set out on their newest quest to elevate European membership soccer’s greatest prize for the first time.
With a have a look at a few of the speaking factors forward of the lengthy highway to Istanbul, Sky Sports displays on which team is feeling the most pressure to ship on Europe’s greatest stage…
How are the champions shaping up for defence?
Holders Real Madrid have made a robust begin in La Liga, profitable all 4 of their matches – beating Real Betis 2-1 of their most latest encounter.
“I’ve not seen any weaknesses in Madrid so far this season,” Spanish soccer skilled Semra Hunter instructed Sky Sports. “They look actually good and actually stable.
“They’ve taken four wins from four, the only team in La Liga to have picked up 12 points so far. On top of that, they’ve already picked up a piece of silverware at the start of the campaign so really, it’s five from five.
“They’re just really difficult to beat. Ancelotti always seems to have a Plan B and a Plan C up his sleeve when something isn’t working in a game.
“He is aware of how to change it, he is actually good at studying the in-game scenario. In the final couple of fixtures, his substitutions have been spot on by way of swaying matches of their favour.
“If there was a slight weakness – but it is only slight – is that in the past two games, Karim Benzema has looked slightly off it. But having said that, he still scored a brace the other day.
“So it is going to be very tough to discover a manner of getting via this Real Madrid facet. They’re scoring objectives and so they’re maintaining clear sheets as properly. It’s very tough for opponents to discover any cracks of their armour.
“It’s going to be a very tough game for Celtic, even though they’re going to be playing at home.”
How have Real tailored to life with out Casemiro?
Real’s run to the remaining final season was a story of resilience and adapting in the face of adversity.
They have been heading out at the last-16 stage when Benzema’s 15-minute hat-trick shocked PSG, there was the comeback win over Chelsea adopted by a weird stoppage-time restoration to knock out Manchester City in the semi-finals.
Casemiro was allowed to be part of Manchester United in the summer time, however his departure has been absorbed. Real have tailored once more.
“They’ve finished exceptionally properly and did their Business very early in the window,” Hunter continues. “They brought in Aurelien Tchouameni from Monaco, spending €80m on him.
“The thought was that progressively over the subsequent few years they might ease him into the place as they transitioned Casemiro out. But clearly, that hasn’t occurred.
“He’s had to hit the ground running and he’s been thrown into the deep end with Casemiro deciding to leave. He’s done a great job over the last few games. At first, he was a little bit nervous but he’s been shaking off the nerves, growing in confidence and making the role his own.”
Could this be the 12 months for Man City?
Madrid’s 14th European Cup introduced into ever sharper focus the ongoing await glory at Manchester City, who’re competing in the Champions League for a twelfth season – all coming in a row since 2011/12.
Only Real (26), Barcelona (19) and Bayern Munich (15) are on longer ongoing runs of consecutive appearances in the competitors, and they need to discover negotiating Group G simpler than it seems on the floor – not least as a result of they’ve immediately weakened certainly one of their opponents.
City’s hand has been strengthened considerably by the summer time addition of £51m striker Erling Haaland. The Norway worldwide has an impressive document in European membership competitions, having scored 27 objectives in 25 appearances for Molde, Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund
In his opening six video games in the Premier League, Haaland has plundered 10 objectives, together with back-to-back hat-tricks in opposition to Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest. History suggests the movement of objectives is unlikely to dry up as Pep Guardiola’s males put together to open their marketing campaign at Sevilla.
He scored 3 times on his Champions League debut for Salzburg in opposition to Genk in September 2019, and helped himself to a double in opposition to PSG in his first look in the competitors for Dortmund in the February of the following 12 months.
Champions League success has eluded City, however Haaland’s arrival will ramp up the pressure on Guardiola to take his facet to a second remaining this time round, and go one higher than they did in 2021 when Chelsea overcame them in Porto.
Will Sevilla present a robust take a look at for City?
“City can expect all kinds of weaknesses,” Hunter mentioned of Guardiola’s first opponents in Group G on Tuesday. “Unfortunately for Sevilla, they’ve had a terrible start to the campaign. It’s been their joint-worst start ever in the club’s history. Equal with one other time 40 years ago.
“They’ve solely picked up one level and so they’ve solely scored three objectives. They’ve conceded eight and the purpose that is essential is that final season, Sevilla boasted the finest defensive document.
“Hardly anyone could get a goal against them. It took them 14 matchdays to concede nine and they’ve already conceded eight in four. There’s all kinds of issues to be sorted out but they are a selling club. They’ve sold a lot of players and they’ve completely lost the heart of their defence in Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos.
“The two players who have come in -Tanguy Nianzou and Marcão – have both had some issues settling. Marcão has been injured.
“There have been a number of gaps and holes throughout the place that supervisor Julen Lopetegui has been making an attempt to fill. He’s rotated his squad and 6 new gamers got here in throughout the latest defeat to Barcelona.
“They started the game well, they were more dominant and were in control but once they conceded that first goal, they crumbled. Their attitude isn’t right, there’s a lot of things going wrong right now.
“They nonetheless haven’t got a correct goalscorer, which is a difficulty they carried over from final season. There’s a number of pressure on Lopetegui and if issues do not go their manner in the Champions League – which in opposition to Manchester City, it in all probability will not – he might have his final recreation in cost. I can see City profitable with relative ease.”
What of the other challengers among British clubs?
Tottenham‘s group may on preliminary viewing not look misplaced in Europe’s secondary competitors, however Marseille are a reviving power with a transparent sample that has taken them to second in Ligue 1 solely on purpose distinction to PSG after six video games.
It is the similar prime two as how the league completed final time period, however unbeaten Olympique look decided to go one higher this time round. Chile’s most capped participant and all-time prime scorer Alexis Sanchez joined as a free agent this summer time.
There can be loads of acquainted faces on present when Tottenham play host on Wednesday night time with Dimitri Payet, Cengiz Under, Matteo Guendouzi, Jordan Veretout, Sead Kolasinac, Eric Bailly, Nuno Tavares and ex-Spurs goalkeeper Pau Lopez amongst the former Premier League gamers set to characteristic.
Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt have certified for the group stage of the Champions League for the first time, though they did attain the European Cup remaining in 1960, once they have been overwhelmed 7-3 by Real Madrid at Hampden Park.
They look a weaker facet, nevertheless, having since misplaced star man Filip Kostic to Juventus and went down 6-1 at residence to champions Bayern Munich of their opening Bundesliga fixture final month.
If there is pressure at Spurs, it is going to be from Antonio Conte on himself to ship. The Italian has received simply 12 of his 54 matches in Europe’s elite membership competitors – and solely as soon as has a facet under his administration received a knockout fixture – his Juventus beat Celtic again in 2013.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ The Overlap final month, Jamie Carragher mentioned: “I’m a massive fan of Antonio Conte, and I think it’s brilliant to have him in the Premier League.
“One factor I’d say may cease Tottenham [from doing well] is in the event that they do okay in Europe, as a result of when you have a look at Conte’s document even when he was at Chelsea, when he had no Europe and he is obtained them [the players] for the full week coaching and the manner he trains, you realize all the powerful coaching, however I believe his document if there’s a number of video games coming in Europe there’s much more issue.”
His former membership Chelsea are a team in transition who might view this competitors not solely as a welcome escape from the Premier League, but in addition as one which Thomas Tuchel’s squad is higher suited to.
The slower tempo may Help Kalidou Koulibaly adapt at his new membership alongside Wesley Fofana. Too many Chelsea gamers seem to be off form at current however their group is a form one.
Visiting Dinamo Zagreb on matchday one ought to enable for confidence to construct forward of back-to-back video games in opposition to AC Milan – their hardest opponents – in October.
Rangers, edged out on penalties by Eintracht in final season’s Europa League remaining, are again in the group stage for the first time since 2010, and they’re accompanied by Old Firm rivals Celtic, a feat the pair final achieved in 2007.
Finishing in third place with the comfort of a Europa League knockout spherical play-off shouldn’t be the top of their ambitions.
In Group A, Napoli may show harmful opponents for Liverpool, who begin their marketing campaign with a visit to Italy.
For a 3rd time in the final 5 seasons, the two groups have been drawn in the similar Champions League group; the Reds received simply certainly one of the 4 conferences in 2018/19 and 2019/20.
Napoli’s 21-year-old Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is already making an influence in Serie A and Jurgen Klopp’s facet are with out an away Premier League win having misplaced at Manchester United in between attracts at Fulham and Everton.
Messi’s private quest can drive PSG to glory
Paris Saint-Germain, like City, have invested closely of their pursuit of the greatest prize of all, however regardless of their home dominance and remaining look in 2020 – falling to a slim defeat at the fingers of Bayern Munich – the craving stays unrequited.
If PSG prosper this season, Lionel Messi can have a significant private landmark in his sights. The 35-year-old has 125 Champions League objectives to his title to date, 15 fewer than Cristiano Ronaldo at the prime of the pile.
However, Ronaldo is not going to add to his tally with Manchester United having certified just for the Europa League, handing Messi an opportunity to shut the hole.
Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski and Real Madrid star Karim Benzema are subsequent in line on 86.
While Mauricio Pochettino would hardly ever substitute Messi, Kylian Mbappe or Neymar, his successor Christophe Galtier did not hesitate to put the Brazilian on the bench on Saturday in opposition to Nantes, three days earlier than their Champions League opener in opposition to Juventus.
Galtier had warned the team would come first, and he has been true to his phrase as PSG scored a document 24 objectives of their opening six league matches.
“I talked about it twice – once with each of them and once with the whole squad, to tell them that this is how it was going to be and that we had to have the right attitude and accept it,” mentioned Galtier, who is aware of failure to qualify from a gaggle containing Juventus, Benfica and Maccabi Haifa is unthinkable.
Barcelona spending heightens expectations
Barcelona haven’t received the competitors since 2015 and failed to progress past the group phases for the first time since 2000/01 final season.
Having slipped into the Europa League, the Catalans reached their nadir once they have been overwhelmed by eventual winners Frankfurt in the quarter-finals amid farcical scenes at the Camp Nou the place 30,000 visiting followers made it really feel extra like a house recreation for the Bundesliga outfit.
But Barcelona – who begin their marketing campaign with a house recreation in opposition to Czech facet Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday – have been boosted by an enormous summer time overhaul spearheaded by the arrival – and prompt influence – of Robert Lewandowski.
Hunter mentioned: “Lewandowski has scored five goals in four games so he’s settled in brilliantly. It’s been what every Barcelona fan was hoping to see. Xavi has been raving about him and everything that he brings to this team. It’s not just the goals – it’s everything else.
“It’s the expertise, it is the championship-mentality, the management and the pure high quality that he oozes and presents to everybody else. He raises everybody’s recreation.
“He’s been working really well alongside Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha, who have been providing goals and assists themselves.
“Lewandowski has a lot service additionally from Pedri, Gavi and Ansu Fati on the flank. You can see in Lewandowski’s physique language that he is so pleased as a result of he is aware of he is going to rating.”
Like Haaland, Lewandowski can look forward to an instant reunion with his former club – Barcelona head to face Bayern Munich on Tuesday, September 13. Sadio Mane has started life in Bavaria well, scoring five goals in seven appearances.
With Inter Milan completing Group C, expect plenty of fireworks to accompany the many sub-plots.
Matchday 1 fixtures and tables
Tuesday September 6
- Dinamo Zagreb
- AC Milan
Dinamo Zagreb vs Chelsea (5.45pm)
Salzburg vs AC Milan (8pm)
- RB Leipzig
- Real Madrid
RB Leipzig vs Shakhtar (8pm)
Celtic vs Real Madrid (8pm)
- Man City
- Borussia Dortmund
Sevilla vs Man City (8pm)
Dortmund vs Copenhagen (5.45pm)
- Maccabi Haifa
PSG vs Juventus (8pm)
Benfica vs Maccabi Haifa (8pm)
Wednesday September 7
Napoli vs Liverpool (8pm)
Ajax vs Rangers (5.45pm)
- Atletico Madrid
- Club Brugge
Atletico Madrid vs Porto (8pm)
Club Brugge vs Leverkusen (8pm)
- Viktoria Plzen
- Inter Milan
- Bayern Munich
Barcelona vs Plzen (8pm)
Inter Milan vs Bayern Munich (8pm)
- Sporting CP
Tottenham vs Marseille (8pm)
Frankfurt vs Sporting CP (5.45pm)