The Champions League returned last night and it was great to see some of Europe’s top heavyweights battle it out in the opening group game. In this article, we preview groups A-D.
Champions League Preview
Group A – Champions League Holders Looking for Strong Start
Bayern Munich v Atletico Madrid
The defending champions are in arguably the must-see match of the week against Atletico Madrid. As usual, Diego Simeone’s men will be hard to beat but Bayern head into this game as heavy favourites. In terms of style, the two teams are polar opposites which will make for an interesting matchup.
Expect to see Luis Suarez and Joao Felix link up well and cause the Bayern back-line some problems. The same can be said about arguably the best duo in world football at the moment in Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller. Both forwards scored a brace each last weekend against Arminia Biefield in the league.
Prediction: 2-0 Bayern
Lokomotiv Moscow v RB Salzburg
These two teams are the underdogs in a tough group. If they want any chance to somehow escape this group, then this is the type of game they must win. Salzburg surprised many last season, performing well in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, despite getting eliminated.
Lokomotiv are coming off a four-match win streak in the Russian Premier League and will look to continue that form. However, Jesse Marsch’s side might have too much quality with the likes of Zambian striker Patson Daka and Hungarian winger Dominik Szoboszlai.
Prediction: 3-1 Salzburg
Inter Milan v Borussia Monchengladbach
This is Inters third year in a row in the Champions League and in the last two years they’ve failed to reach the knockout stages. They’re in another tough group this year but they have the quality and the depth to go to the next round.
Marco Rose’s Monchengladbach have been a mixed bag so far this season after what was an impressive campaign in the previous season. They’re slight underdogs but it wouldn’t be surprising for them to snatch all three points in this clash. Inter just came off of a disappointing 2-1 loss to rivals AC Milan and will look to bounce back and start their Champions League campaign off right.
Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk
Real Madrid a fresh off the back of a 1-0 defeat to promoted minnows, Cadiz. Not only was the loss extremely disappointing, but Cadiz played much better than the current La Liga champions for large stretches of the game. To put insult to injury, Madrid will likely be without their Captain, Sergio Ramos, after he suffered a knock in the last game.
Los Blancos should still have the quality to overcome Shakhtar, but the Ukrainian side will look to exploit Madrid’s weaknesses especially on the right-hand side with the absence of Dani Carvajal. El Clasico is also coming up next weekend for Madrid, so it’ll be interesting to see if Zinedine Zidane rests some key players for this clash in preparation for a key La Liga fixture that will have a big effect on the season.
Prediction: 2-1 Real Madrid
Manchester City v Porto
Manchester City have just welcomed back Sergio Aguero from injury. However, Kevin De Bruyne is still out with a muscle injury as of now. City’s quality is still unmatched with a plethora of players they can plug into those positions.
Porto are coming off of a 2-2 draw with Sporting and a disappointing 3-2 defeat to Maritimo before the international break. City shouldn’t have too many problems but, as we’ve seen in past Champions League campaigns, City’s complacency against teams they should beat, which could make for an interesting game.
Prediction: 3-0 City
Marseille v Olympiacos
Andre Villas-Boas has made Marseille a tough team to beat. However, their attack has failed to generate many chances. This could be a static game where the match is decided between the two midfields. Both teams will need a win as it will likely be a chaotic tussle between Porto, Marseille, and Olympiacos for the second-place position.
Ajax v Liverpool
This isn’t the same Ajax team that made the Champions League semi-finals two years ago, however, the Dutch giants are still producing talent and are led by one of the brightest coaches in Europe, Erik Ten Hag.
For Ajax, this is the best possible time to face Liverpool. The reds are without Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk after his injury at the weekend. Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip could also miss the match, but that’s not confirmed. Adrian in goal could be the biggest concern for Liverpool as he’s made some costly mistakes when put under pressure. The front three will be up for it but an upset could be on the books.
Midtjylland v Atalanta
Atalanta are one of the most fluid attacking sides in Europe which will be the biggest cause of concern for the Danish side. Despite coming off a disappointing first loss of the season in their 4-1 defeat to Napoli last weekend, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men will be foaming at the mouth to redeem themselves in this matchup. Atalanta started slowly in last year’s Champions League, they can’t afford to repeat those same mistakes this time around.
Prediction: 4-1 Atalanta