The Championnnnnnnssssss. That’s right, the UEFA Champions League is finally back this week, completing the checklist of soccer season officially returning. Of course since they changed the qualification rules a few years ago, allowing some of the smaller, less skilled teams an easier path to make the tournament, the Group Stage has become a little bit boring. Still, there are usually one or two good matches each day.
PSV Eindhoven (NED) vs. Manchester United (ENG) (Tuesday: Fox Sports 1)
The Dutch champions welcome in the English giants who return to European competition after missing out last week. United haven’t been without their fair share of storylines this season, whether it be David de Gea’s contract or senior players Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick telling Louis van Gaal that his training methods are ruining the club.
Nevertheless, United come into the match riding high after a 3-1 win over Liverpool. Wayne Rooney has been ruled out for his second straight game, but that just means we may get the full debut of £36 million
future star Anthony Martial as United roll in this one 3-0.
Real Madrid (ESP) vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) (Tuesday: FSN)
Shakhtar Donetsk are usually a fun team to follow in the Champions League as they tend to be a difficult out, which results in some upsets and crazy matches. That’s going to be a bit harder this year as they find themselves in a group with Real Madrid and PSG, and they’ll be tested right away when they take on Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo comes into this match fresh off of scoring five goals over the weekend, suggesting that he’s maybe a wee bit upset over losing out on the Ballon d’Or to Leo Messi again. Ronaldo won’t score five on Tuesday, but two isn’t out of the question as Madrid cruises 4-0.
Manchester City (ENG) vs. Juventus (ITA) (Tuesday Fox Sports 2)
This is by far and away the best match of Matchday 1 so naturally it won’t be on TV, unless you’re one of the few people who actually have Fox Sports 2. Juventus’ season hasn’t exactly gotten off to a great start (two losses and a draw). Manchester City on the other hand has been in cruise control so far, winning all four games they’ve played without conceding a goal. They should pick up the win in this one right? Not so fast.
There are two major factors to be considered in this fixture: history and injuries. Historically, no matter how they’re doing domestically, Juventus have been a team that can turn it on in Europe. Manchester City are the exact opposite, no matter how well they’re playing in England they’ve always been practically inept in the Champions League, requiring a near miracle to even make it out of the group stage last year.
To make matters worse, City will be without Sergio Aguero, who left Saturday’s match with a knee injury, and will likely be without Raheem Sterling and David Silva as well. That leaves City ripe for the picking in this one.
If you haven’t heard of Juventus striker Paulo Dybala write it down, he is a future star and you’ll have heard about him after this one as Juventus grabs a 2-0 win in upset pick of the week.
AS Roma (ITA) vs. Barcelona (ESP) (Wednesday: Fox Sports 1)
A few weeks ago, Barcelona astonishingly lost the Spanish Super Cup by a 5-1 aggregate score to Athletic Bilbao and everyone and their mother started writing “what’s wrong with Barcelona” columns. What actually happened was Barcelona just couldn’t care less about the Spanish Super Cup.
Once La Liga started it was business as usual for the Catalans (three wins in three matches). Remember, Barcelona have players like Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Rakitic and Iniesta, Roma do not. Roma will hang tough but Barcelona wins 2-1.
Chelsea (ENG) vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv (ISR) (Wednesday: FSN)
A lot of times teams domestic form doesn’t always translate to their European form (see the first half of Borussia Dortmund’s 2014 season). That’s not going to be the case with Chelsea this season because Chelsea looks dead and they have no depth. But all that’s OK because Jose Mourinho has figured out what’s wrong and knows how to fix it!
— Howler Magazine (@whatahowler) September 15, 2015
That’s right, no more banter between the Chelsea players in the dressing room. No more fun for the Chelsea players and the winning will surely return. But in all seriousness, as poor as Chelsea have been this season, they just have way too much talent that I can’t possibly see them not winning this game… but barely, 1-0.
Arsenal will get past Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 (Wednesday: Fox Sports 2). Pray for Malmo who will be the most overmatched team this round, they’ll fall to PSG 4-0 (Tueday: ESPN2). In the final televised game, Bayern Munich travel to Greece and take care of business against Olympiacos 2-0 (Wednesday: ESPN2).
The Champions League is back. Life is great, enjoy it.