We might be nine months away from the Champions League Final in St Petersburg, but that doesn’t mean we have to wait for important match-ups to keep an eye on.
Round one of this year’s competition will have four games in particular that grab the attention of fans and pundits alike.
Young Boys vs Manchester United
Young Boys might have won the Swiss League by 31 points but they really shouldn’t pose a serious challenge for United. What you should be looking at is how well Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been able to knit together his team of talent.
The club has spent over $200m in the recent transfer window as well as welcomed back the greatest player in Champions League history, Cristiano Ronaldo. Exciting stuff for sure but if Ole doesn’t deliver success now then fans and management alike will be wondering if they should be looking for someone else to guide the team.
Barcelona vs Bayern Munich
This Group E clash will see two of the big names of Champions League history come head to head. Both are likely to dominate this group and progress comfortably to the next round. Bayern, however, will be well aware that with their current dominance of the Bundesliga (they won last season’s league by 13 points and 39 goals more than the second place side), success in the Champions League is what the fans will be focused on.
For Barcelona this could be a challenging season. They’ve lost Messi and Antoine Griezmann, and third place in La Liga last season was not good enough for the fans or management. Can Barca still strike fear into the hearts of opponents in the Champions League in 2021 or are they a fading light?
Liverpool vs AC Milan
Group B is going to be good to watch unfold as all four sides are full of talent and there will be no easy games. Liverpool weren’t able to build on their success from 2019-20 and the side that had dominated the Premier League then ended up 17 points off the pace last season and went out in this competition in the quarters. Their fans will be hoping that their injury woes are over and that they find that 2019 form very quickly.
Strangely, this will be Milan’s first Champions League match for seven years and with new signings such as Fikayo Tomori and Olivier Giroud, the Italians will see this trip to Anfield as a great chance to start the competition with an important away win.
These two clubs have been involved in some historic Champions League nights and even though it’s round one, this should be a great game to watch.
Inter Milan vs Real Madrid
It’s a similar situation in Group D where this first round match will see two of the biggest names in European football clash. Just like Barca and Bayern, Inter and Real will dominate this group but each has question marks hanging over their names.
Real are not the masters they used to be and have been through a challenging period. In the recent transfer window they lost Raphael Varane which, combined with Sergio Ramos leaving on a free, means the departure of both central defenders. They also weren’t able to secure the big ticket signing of Kylian Mbappe despite years of hunting and planning. Performing well in the competition they’ve dominated over the years is crucial for their reputation and a loss in game one is not going to go down well in Madrid.
For Inter a good start is crucial. Having won Serie A last season they have good momentum but they have lost coach Antonio Conte as well as Romelu Lukaku and Hakimi. Demonstrating that they’ve still got the potential to succeed outside of Italy at the top level is the next step for the club and a slip up in game one at home is not a good start.