UEFA Champions League: Preview
Europe’s elite football competition returns tonight, with no less than eight fixtures to kick off this season’s UEFA Champions League campaign.
We run through each of tonight’s fixtures taking place on European football’s top table.
Chelsea v Sevilla
Chelsea kick off their Champions League campaign with ambitions of making it beyond the round of 16 for the first time since 2015. Frank Lampard’s side made it through a tricky group containing Valencia, Lille and Ajax last season, but were ultimately outclassed in the first knockout round by eventual winners Bayern Munich.
Tonight, their continental endeavours begin with a tough assignment at home to Europa League champions Sevilla – the first competitive meeting between the sides. Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla have made an indifferent start in La Liga this season, but the Andalusians always seem to thrive in Europe.
Chelsea’s new-look squad faces no new injury concerns, with goalkeeper Edouard Mendy their only doubt. Marcos Alonso is suspended after picking up a red card in the club’s previous Champions League game, however. Sevilla will be without Jules Kounde and Oussama Idrissi.
Key Stat: Chelsea have won just one of their last nine games against Spanish sides in the Champions League.
Rennes v FK Krasnodar
Rennes will want to underline their status as dark horses in this Group E with a win over Krasnodar this evening.
The French side are making their UEFA Champions League group stage debut this evening, and will be full of confidence having gone the first seven games of Ligue 1 without tasting defeat. Rennes have scored more goals than every other side than PSG in France’s top flight so far this season.
Krasnodar could well spring a surprise though. The Russians had to take the long road to qualification for this season’ UEFA Champions League, beating PAOK in the playoffs having finished third in the Russian Premier League last season.
Injuries could well hamper The Bulls tonight though, with six players out injured – a factor in their downturn in form domestically. Rennes will be missing James Lea Siliki and Faitout Maouassa, whilst goalkeeper Alfred Gomis is also doubtful.
Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United
One of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s finest nights as Manchester United manager was when his Red Devils ran out 3-1 winners in Paris during last season’s UEFA Champions League. How the Norwegian coach could do with another dose of that right now…
Manchester United will be without captain Harry Maguire, Mason Greenwood and former PSG forward Edison Cavani for tonight’s trip to the French capital. Eric Bailly and Jesse Lingard also remain unavailable.
Last season’s finalists PSG had a slow start to their Ligue 1 campaign, but have now found their stride with five consecutive wins and ten goals in their last two games.
Thomas Tuchel has his own injury concerns with Marco Verratti, Leandro Paredes, Mauro Icardi, Thilo Kehrer and Juan Bernat all missing.
RB Leipzig v Istanbul Basaksehir
Julian Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig have made an excellent start to the Bundesliga season, currently sitting top of the table with three wins and a draw. Tonight, they take on Champions League group stage debutants Istanbul Basaksehir.
Basaksehir won their first ever Super Lig title last season, but the defence of their trophy has got off to a disastrous start. Okan Buruk’s side moved off the bottom of the table with a 2-0 win at Trabzonspor at the weekend, their first win of the season.
RB Leipzig will be missing Konrad Laimer and Fabrice Hartmann, whilst it looks unlikely that Ibrahima Konate will feature.
Istanbul Basaksehir will be without Muhammed Sengezer, and Nacer Chadli, Azubuike Okechukwu and Hasan Ali Kaldirim could join him on the sidelines.
Barcelona v Ferencvaros
Ronald Koeman suffered his first defeat as Barcelona manager on Saturday, with a surprise 1-0 loss to Getafe. Tonight, the Dutchman will be hoping to see his side come back strongly at Camp Nou with Hungarian champions Ferencvaros arriving in the Catalonian capital.
Sergei Rebrov has worked wonders as manager of Ferencvaros, but his side face a tall order tonight, with Barcelona unbeaten in the Champions League group stages for the past eleven seasons.
The Ukrainian coach does have a fully-fit squad though, and with Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Jordi Alba, Samuel Umtiti and Miralem Pjanic all set to miss out for the hosts, the former Dynamo Kiev, Spurs and West Ham striker will have his side full of belief.
Dynamo Kiev v Juventus
Whilst we’re mentioning Dynamo Kiev, we should point out that their UEFA Champions League campaign begins at home to Juventus this evening.
The Ukrainians are currently top of their league, without defeat so far this season, and they’ll be glad to see Juventus make the long trip without their talismanic forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
Juve failed to beat newly-promoted Crotone in Serie A at the weekend, without their fabled number seven. A 1-1 draw was enough to earn a first point of the season for Crotone, which probably outlines the struggles that Andrea Pirlo’s side is having without Ronaldo.
On a positive note, Paulo Dybala could return for the Italian champions, having recovered from a bout of gastroenteritis. Mircea Lucescu’s Dynamo Kiev have no new injury concerns.
Zenit Saint Petersburg v Club Brugge
Russian Premier League leaders Zenit Saint Petersburg welcome Belgian frontrunners Club Brugge this evening in Group F.
Both of these sides earned their right to play in the UEFA Champions League by winning their respective league titles last season, and whilst they’ll more than likely have been overlooked by most in a group that also contains Borussia Dortmund and Lazio, both Zenit and Brugge have it within them to go far in this competition.
Zenit coach Sergei Semak has added quality to his ranks since last season’s disappointing group stage performance, and he has a full squad available tonight. Club Brugge will be without Simon Mingolet, whilst Emmanuel Dennis could also miss this one.
Lazio v Borussia Dortmund
Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio had a wonderful Serie A campaign last season, in with a shout of landing the Scudetto until eventually running out of steam at the business end of the campaign.
However, their fourth-placed finish (just five points behind champions Juventus) earned them an automatic route to the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time since 2007, and they get started against Borussia Dortmund in Rome tonight.
Inzaghi’s side have been less than impressive so far this season though. Currently 13th in the table with four points from as many games, they’ll be counting on their talismanic forward Ciro Immobile returning to form against his former side tonight.
Dortmund have been going steady in the Bundesliga, and currently sit in third place, and with Erling Haaland and Marco Reus both out of the starting line-up for the weekend win over Hoffenheim, Lucien Favre’s intentions are clear when it comes to their European ambitions this season.
Dortmund’s chances tonight will have been helped with Lazio’s injury woes. Captain Senad Lulic, Andreas Pereira, Silvio Proto, Stefan Radu and Manuel Lazzari are all set to miss tonight’s game with Luiz Felipe also struggling for fitness.
Marcel Schmelzer, Nico Schulz and Dan-Axel Zagadou are out for Dortmund, with Thorgan Hazard and Lukasz Piszczek unlikely to shake off their recent knocks in time for the trip to Rome.
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