Champions League is back. Is anyone else excited? Oh, everyone is? Ok then. Let’s waste no more time and have a look what’s to come over the next couple of days in Europe’s biggest club competition.
In Group A, it’s an unbelievably massive fixture for David Moyes as he leads his Manchester United side against Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford. Usually, I’d say “ah, it’s business as usual” if Fergie was in charge. But it’s a new era and, to be honest, I don’t know it’s going to fare. United will have to keep the criminally under-rated Stefan Kießling quiet, that I do know.
The people of San Sebastian will be treated to a night of Champions League football as Real Sociedad take on Shakhtar Donetsk at Anoeta. It’s been ten whole years since the Basque side played in Europe. Shakhtar, on the other hand, are at this point veterans of the Champions League and will be looking to spoil the party.
Group B sees Turkish giants Galatasaray take on Real Madrid. Will Gareth Bale feature? Carlo Ancelotti may give the Welshman a run out following his debut where he scored for Madrid. Start as you mean to go on as they say. Gala aren’t pushovers though, with big names such as Sneijder and Drogba in the squad, not to mention that ferocious home support, it’ll be tough for CR7 & co.
Current champions Bayern Munich entertain CSKA Moscow. This is Pep Guardiola’s big return to the competition, having last won the cup in 2011, beating Man United at Wembley in the final. CSKA will prove to be good opponents as they are unbeaten in the Russian Premier League, which began in July.
Chelsea take on FC Basel at Stamford Bridge. The Swiss outfit will be fresh in the misery of English clubs as they look to build on eliminating Manchester United from two seasons ago. Chelsea however, along with new names such as Samuel Eto’o, Andre Schurrle and Willian won’t let anyone get the better of them on their own turf – not on José’s watch.
Group F contains four excellent teams and is, in my view anyway, one of the most intriguing groups. Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli will all battle it out. Anyone could end up in first – or last place. Arsenal travel to the south of France to face Marseille first as Rafa Benitez’s Napoli will take on Borussia Dortmund.
Finally, the media dubbed Group H as “the group of death”. For Celtic, that is certainly true. They travel to Italy to face AC Milan. And despite the return of the prodigal son Kaká from Real Madrid, I truly think Celtic have caught Milan at a good time. The time is now. Then again, the San Siro is an incredibly hard place to win for anyone.
Barcelona entertain Ajax – a club who the Catalans historically model themselves on. On paper, the Dutch side have no chance. But Barça’s new coach Tata Martino will be put to the test in his first ever European job. No pressure then.
What are your predictions? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)