The Champions League group stage kicks off on Tuesday with Bayern Munich starting their defence of the trophy gained in Lisbon in August. AFP Sport picks out a number of the storylines to look at over the following few weeks:
– Messi v Ronaldo –
They’re the 2 best gamers of their era with 11 Ballons d’Or between them, and the 2 highest scorers in Champions League historical past. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are actually set to resume their particular person rivalry when Barcelona and Juventus conflict in Group G.
They haven’t confronted off because the Portuguese celebrity left Actual Madrid for Juventus in 2018.
Ronaldo is at the moment self-isolating after testing optimistic for Covid-19 and might want to cross a adverse check earlier than being allowed to function in opposition to Barca in Turin on October 28. The return on the Camp Nou is on December 8.
Either side ought to advance from a gaggle additionally containing Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros, however each Messi and Ronaldo are working out of time to win the Champions League once more. Messi, now 33, has featured in 4 victorious campaigns, whereas 35-year-old Ronaldo has gained it 5 instances.
– Will Man Utd get out of their group? –
Manchester United start their marketing campaign at Paris Saint-Germain in a repeat of their dramatic last-16 assembly in 2018-19, when the Crimson Devils progressed because of a controversial late penalty.
That was arguably the excessive level of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as Previous Trafford supervisor. It was his 14th win in 17 video games as caretaker, and shortly after he acquired the job completely. However United went out to Barcelona within the quarter-finals and didn’t qualify for final season’s Champions League.
Solskjer’s first full marketing campaign in cost noticed United end third to return to Europe’s high desk, however critical doubts stay about his managerial means and they’re in a tricky group, with final season’s semi-finalists RB Leipzig and the Turkish champions, Istanbul Basaksehir, in addition to PSG.
The knives will likely be out for the Norwegian in the event that they fail to make the knockout stage.
– Haaland to star once more? –
Erling Braut Haaland was the star of final season’s Champions League earlier than the competitors was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Norwegian was a sensation for Crimson Bull Salzburg within the group stage, scoring eight instances. After transferring to Borussia Dortmund within the winter he scored two extra within the defeat of PSG within the final 16, first leg, though Dortmund ended up dropping on mixture.
In complete Haaland scored 44 membership objectives final season, all earlier than turning 20 in July. He already has 11 this season for membership and nation and Dortmund will hope he may also help them out of a gaggle additionally containing Zenit Saint Petersburg, Lazio and Membership Brugge.
– Atalanta: Darkish horses no extra –
Atalanta’s run to the quarter-finals, the place they suffered an agonising defeat to PSG, would have been heartwarming even had it not coincided with their dwelling metropolis of Bergamo being devastated throughout the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s aspect certified for the final 16 regardless of dropping their first three group video games after which beat Valencia 8-4 on mixture of their debut Champions League marketing campaign. In addition they completed third in Serie A to return to Europe’s elite membership competitors.
However Atalanta are now not a shock bundle and are in all probability now favourites to advance from their group together with Liverpool, and forward of Ajax and the Danish champions, Midtjylland. Will they proceed to thrive regardless of now not being the darkish horses?
– The debutants –
Atalanta could now not be the brand new boys however 4 groups are showing within the group stage for the primary time.
Probably the most attention-grabbing first-timers are Rennes, who had a best-ever third-place end in France a yr on from profitable the French Cup. In Julien Stephan they’ve certainly one of Europe’s finest younger coaches, whereas midfielder Eduardo Camavinga is probably the most popular younger prospect in world soccer. They’re in a troublesome group, although, with Chelsea, Sevilla and one other newcomer in Russian aspect Krasnodar.
Midtjylland may have it powerful up in opposition to Liverpool, Atalanta and Ajax. In the meantime, after breaking apart the dominance of the Istanbul giants in Turkey, Basaksehir will hope to trigger issues for PSG, Manchester United and Leipzig.