With all the European leagues underway and the players finally getting settled into their clubs, it’s time for the continent’s premier competition to get going. The Champions League returns this week with Group’s A through D getting started Tuesday afternoon. The Champions League is set to deliver as they’re getting things started with some monster matches right away.
(All games kick off at 2:45 p.m. EDT)
Paris Saint-Germaine (FRA) vs. Arsenal (ENG) (Fox Sports 2)
Group A gets us started by diving right into the deep end as they pit their two heavyweights against each other on matchday 1. After taking one point in their first two matches, Arsenal have won two in a row. But things aren’t all rosy for Arsene Wenger’s side, the game against Watford was much closer than the scoreline indicated this past weekend they needed a 95th minute bailout penalty to win at home against Southampton.
The Gunners now travel to Paris to face a PSG side who have actually gone winless in two matches. Does that mean anything? Well it just means that they’ll have to wait until around January before their declared champions of Ligue 1. Striker Edison Cavani and winger Angel di Maria were both rested at the weekend, combine that with PSG playing at home, and they should have enough to top Arsenal. PSG win 2-1
FC Barcelona (ESP) vs. Celtic (SCO) (Fox Sports 1)
Unless Fox is taking a new strategy this year, it’s very rare to see anyone, even Barcelona or Real Madrid, get the priority channel treatment over an English team. It’s simply a numbers game. The fact that Barcelona are playing Celtic certainly factors into that decision but I think Fox are overestimating how many Celtic fans there are. Sure, the Bhoys are a really fun team to watch, but that’s when they’re playing at home.
This week, not only is Celtic away but they’re away to Barcelona where they stand no chance. All the good will that this team procured with their win in the Old Firm this weekend will go right out the window after running into Messi and co, who will cruise through this one. Barcelona win 4-0
Manchester City (ENG) vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (GER) (FSN)
We just saw how good Manchester City was in the Manchester Derby this past weekend. Therefore you would think City, playing at home, will just walk right over an inferior Borussia Monchenglabach side right? Wrong.
By the end of the Manchester Derby on Saturday, City’s players were gassed. They clung to their one goal lead by the narrowest of margins over the last 10 minutes. For a lot of the players it looked like they simply had nothing left to give. Therefore it’s very reasonable to expect a bit of a rotated squad.
It’s hard to imagine Saturday’s star, Kevin de Bruyne, being at 100 percent for this match, but they will be boosted by the return of Sergio Aguero. Nevertheless, City will have their work cut out for them, and Gladbach is in a great position to do just enough to get a result. 1-1 draw
Bayern Munich (GER) vs. FC Rostov (RUS) (ESPN2)
Despite being one of the Pot 4 minnows in the group stage, Rostov are getting a lot of love heading into the group stage. Many people have referred to them as the Leicester City of Russia after they jumped from 14th to 2nd in the Russian Premier League. Many fancy them to be the small team that makes a lot of noise in the group stage.
If they are going to make a run, it’s not going to start on matchday 1 when they have to travel to Germany and face Bayern Munich. Bayern are too talented are led by Carlo Ancellotti, who fancies himself a Champions League master. The Bavarians will be ready to play and are not going to let an upstart team from Russia come into their house and beat them. Bayern win 3-0
Rest of the games
After opening up their La Liga schedule with back to back draws, Atletico Madrid could face a tricky encounter when they travel to Holland to take on PSV. They got back on track with their first win of the season over the weekend, and there is more than good enough to lead them a 1-0 win.
For some reason Napoli aren’t getting nearly enough love despite finishing as runners-up in Serie A last year and getting off to another good start this season. They face a tough trip to the Ukraine to take on Dynamo Kiev. Both teams come into this on great form but they’ll ultimately cancel each other out with a 2-2 draw.
While Arsenal and PSG are the two clear favorites in Group A, don’t count out FC Basel who always seem to be there right at the end. They open up with a home match against Ludogorets. The two teams last encountered each other in the group stage in 2014, where Basel won their home match 4-0. Expect more of the same this time, with the Swiss side coming away with a 3-0 win, and ready to pounce should PSG or Arsenal slip up.
Speaking of teams that are always right there at the end of the group stage, Portuguese side Benfica are back up to their old tricks, which is scoring a lot of goals. Not only does Benfica score a lot, but they don’t lose at home. The three points will be theirs for the taking in a 2-0 win over Turkish club Besiktas.