UEFA Champion League begins


Two players go for a header in the Champions League soccer match last Tuesday.  Photo by Martin Meissner/AP

Two players go for a header in the Champions League soccer match last Tuesday. Photo by Martin Meissner/AP

The greatest competition in the world of soccer returns for Matchday 1 as the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League begins, and the road to Istanbul commences. 

Paris-Saint Germain will again attempt to prove that it is one of Europe’s elite clubs as they welcome “los blancos” to the Parc Des Princes on Wednesday night. However, both PSG and Real Madrid will be without crucial players due tiouspension and injury. Neymar will be out due to suspension, followed by Sergio Ramos and Nacho Fernández. Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani have not been able to reach full-fitness for this crucial bout, while Luka Modrić, Isco, Federico Valverde, Marcos Asesnsio and Marcelo will not be participating. However, the Parisians can look forward to Mauro Icardi and Keylor Navas’s debuts in the Champions League for their new colors. On the same note, Ferland Mendy and Éder Militão are expected to make their debuts in the competition for the Whites on Tuesday night. A resurgent James Rodríguez and skillful Eden Hazard will lead Madrid into Paris and once again look to prove that history is much more potent and powerful than money. 

Atletico Madrid met Juventus for a rematch of their thrilling bout in the Champions League Round of 16 last season. Young prodigy João Félix is set to debut in the competition against Portuguese teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. Both teams are looking to bounce back after disappointing results over the weekend, with “los colchonerso” losing to Real Sociedad and Juventus dropping critical points away to Fiorentina. Jan Oblak — Atletico’s star goalkeeper — is listed as doubtful after sustaining a gruesome head injury during league play. Antontio Adán will take his place. Moreover, Álvaro Morata will be out of action with a nagging knee injury sustained earlier in the season. For Juventus, Matthijs de Ligt, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot are all expected to make their Champions League debuts for “the old lady.” Ronaldo will look to silence a rowdy Wanda Metropolitno and take a positive step towards Champions League glory in Italy. 

Manchester City travels to Ukraine to face the coal miners of Donetsk, needing a win to regain momentum after a shocking defeat to newly promoted Norwich City in the Premier League. Although Pep Guardiola is certain this will only motivate the squad, he now has to figure out how to improve a back line that looked abysmal over the weekend. With Aymeric Laporte out for six months, Nicholás Otamendi and John Stones — City’s center back partnership — need to step up. They are expected to be joined by Oleksandr Zinchenko and João Cancelo, which would be the Portuguese international’s debut for City in the competition. Although De Bruyne, Sterling and Agüero lead the front lines, Luís Castro has tactically sound players in Júnior Moraes and Marlos who can truly make it difficult for City in the final third.  

Bavaria braces for the worst as Niko Kovač continues to struggle with the mighty giants of Munich, dropping points to RB Leipzig in a disappointing 1-1 draw over the weekend. Now, they must focus on Red-Star Belgrade and Champions League glory; Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernández are expected to be the fullback partnership for Munich, as Nicholas Süle and Jérôme Boatang assume the center back tandem. However, defense is not of concern for the Bavarians, as they have struggled to generate much of anything in the final third. Individual brilliance from either Robert Lewandowski, Kingsley Coman or Serge Gnabry has shown to be — at points — their only hope. Bayern will look to end their lack of interplay and assert their dominance in attack at the Allianz Arena Wednesday night. 

Champions League runners-up Tottenham face a tough challenge in Olympiacos who have won five of their last five in convincing fashion. Greek’s biggest club will have to prepare to face the likes of 

Lucas Moura, Son-Heung Min and Harry Kane upfront, seeking to get past the tactically sound French international Tanguy Ndombele. Coming off a thigh injury, the Frenchman will debut for Spurs in the Champions League, looking to make an immediate impact. Giovani Lo Celso will continue to stay sidelined after sustaining an injury while on international duty. The club from North London looks to begin their European journey with a victory, hoping to once again return to the Champions League final. 

In other noteworthy matchups and storylines, new summer signing Falcao looks to continue his goal-scoring form for the Turkish giants as Galatasaray travel to Belgium on Wednesday night to face Club Brugge. Bayer Leverkusen — led by Leon Bailey and Kai Havertz — look to demonstrate their prestige as they battle Lokomotiv Moscow at the BayArena. Finally, Atalanta travels to the heart of Croatia’s biggest footballing club, Dinamo Zagreb, looking to obtain points in a group that has no clear runner-up as of yet. 

Sebastian Garay-Ortega is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached at sebastian.garay-ortega@uconn.edu

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