Europe’s top tier competition is back for another season as the Champions League group stages are once again upon us. 32 teams will look to earn the right to call themselves the best club in Europe, can Real Madrid be the first team to defend the trophy in the Champions League era or will we once again see another side lift the trophy.
We will find out the answer to that question in May when the final takes place at The Millennium Stadium but before then there is still a lot of football to be played as the road to Wales starts on Tuesday. The competition may not really start in earnest until after Christmas but there is still plenty of top action to look forward to.
Let’s now have a look at the key stories going into this opening Champions League game week.
Barcelona play host to Celtic
If Celtic were delighted with their 5-1 mauling of arch rivals Rangers on Saturday Lunchtime they would have been over the moon with the news that Barcelona lost to Alaves on Saturday night at The Nou Camp. It’s a result that will certainly give Brendan Rodgers’ side hope of pulling off another historic victory against the Catalan giants.
The Green and White Hoops will certainly need to be at their best to make sure that there isn’t a repeat of the demolition job that Barcelona carried out last time these two sides met at The Nou Camp. Back in December 2013 Barcelona ran out 6-1 winners in what was an embarrassing night for Neil Lennon and his Celtic side.
Celtic’s may be bullish going into this game after the events of Saturday but Barcelona could be somewhat of a wounded animal after their embarrassment at the hands of Alaves. They will be looking to take out their frustrations on someone and Celtic could very well be in the firing line.
One thing for sure is that when these two sides meet it is never a dull encounter.
Manchester City once again meet Borussia Moenchengladbach
After a perfect four from four in the Premier League and getting one over his arch rival Jose Mourinuho, Pep Guardiola will now look to begin his assault on the Champions League and look to deliver a first ever trophy at this level for the blue half of Manchester.
City’s campaign starts with a home tie against Borussia Moenchengladbach and the German side will be a familiar face. These two sides met in the Champions League at the same stage last season with City running out winners on both occasions.
Last season City went as far as the Semi Finals before meekly going out to eventual winners Real Madrid. The hope now will be that Guardiola can take this side one step further and go on to win the final in Cardiff next May. The former Barcelona and Bayern manager can recall Sergio Aguero to the side after domestic suspension.
City have eased past all before them so far and you would be hard pressed to see any different when Andre Schubert’s side come to town
PSG play host to Arsenal
Arguably the biggest clash of the opening Champions League gameweek is French heavweights PSG playing host to Arsenal. Laurent Blanc’s failure to deliver a trophy at this level ultimately cost him his job at the end of last season and now it’s time for three time Europa League winner Unai Emery to try his luck.
The post Zlatan era in Paris hasn’t quite got off to the best of starts as PSG find themselves in 4th place after four matches. Friday night saw them throw away two points at home against Saint-Etienne thanks to a late equaliser, it seems as Unai Emery is still adjusting to life in the French Capital.
Arsenal were slightly fortuitous to be awarded a last minute penalty at home to Southampton which subsequently gave them all three points. It’s now back to back wins in the league for The Gunners and all of a sudden it’s not quite the crisis at The Emirates that everyone was painting it to be.
Arsenal always tend to make light work of the group stages before failing away in the Round of 16, a win in Paris would get themselves off to a perfect start but they need to make sure they do the hard work after Christmas if they are to make any real progress
Spurs are on their way to Wembley
Tottenham play their first Champions League tie in 6 seasons on Wednesday as they play host to French league leaders Monaco. Only they will be hosting the occasion at a different home as they play in front of a sell out Wembley crowd.
With building work going on at White Hart Lane, the North London base was deemed unsuitable for European nights this season so after much wrangling the club finally managed to get the keys to Wembley for their Champions League exploits.
And they go into the game full of confidence after beating Stoke 4-0 on Saturday. It was the performance that showed that Mauricio Pochettino’s side have dusted off the cobwebs and now look like the Tottenham that secured 3rd place last season.
They go up against a Monaco side who are unbeaten in their first for Ligue 1 matches and sit top of the table, these two sides met in the Europa League group stages last season and now will be a test as to which side makes the step up the best. It’s set to be exciting night at Wembley on Wednesday
Leicester start their Champions League adventure
After the fairytale of last season and winning the Premier League, Leicester City get their reward on Wednesday as they take on Club Brugge in their first ever Champions League encounter. Claudio Ranieri’s side haven’t had the best of starts in the league and they will hope to once again be a surprise package but this time on the European stage.
Saturday saw them comprehensively beaten by Liverpool at Anfield as Jurgen Klopp’s side ran out 4-1 winners and the question now for Ranieri is whether or not he changes his approach for these European nights or whether or not he continues with his all out counter attack approach.
The rational decision would probably be to drop an extra man into the middle of the park but neutrals would probably want to see Leicester approach the game in the same manner in which the approached the whole of last season. It may seem them crash and burn but at least it will be an interesting spectacle.
The curiosity of Leicester in the Champions League will certainly grab a lot of people’s attention on Wednesday night, we’ll now have to wait and see if they can get off to a flying start by coming away from Belgium with all three points.