The highly anticipated UEFA Champions League (UCL) featuring some of the best formidable teams in Europe is back with defending champions Manchester City beginning their title defence with their host, Red Star Belgrade, at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
Pep Guardiola led the Abu Dhabi-backed club to its first European title last season as part of a treble of trophies.
History is against Premier League giant as it tries to retain the title. Real Madrid is the only club during the Champions League era to win it back-to-back. Madrid won it three times in a row from 2016-2018.
Manchester City are drawn in group G alongside BSC Young Boys Switzerland and German club Leipzig.
Young Boys vs. Leipzig:
Leipzig are expected to make a winning start at Swiss team Young Boys in Bern. Marco Rose’s team recovered from its Bundesliga-opening loss to Bayer Leverkusen with three straight wins and 20-year-old Dutch forward Xavi Simons has quickly emerged as the team’s new star. Xavi has scored in each of his last three games and set up four goals.
AC Milan Vs Newcastle:
Last season’s semifinalist AC Milan are psychologically down following a 5-1 loss to city rival Inter Milan in the Milan derby on Saturday and may find it tough
to bounce back against Saudi sovereign wealth fund Newcastle.
Newcastle return to the Champions League for the first time in 20 years at AC Milan on Tuesday hoping this is just the start of their rise on the European stage.
The Magpies have spent more time in the Championship than facing Europe’s elite for the past two decades, but are aiming to follow in the footsteps of Manchester City by turning their Gulf state backing into glory at home and abroad.
When they broke into the Premier League’s top four in their first full season since the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) took an 80 percent stake in the club, the Newcastle project appeared to be ahead of schedule.
But the early weeks of the new season have brought a reality check as Eddie Howe’s men suffered consecutive defeats to City, Liverpool and Brighton before bouncing back with an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Brentford on Saturday.
Paris Saint Germain vs. Borussia Dortmund:
After repeated failures, PSG has toned down its ambition to win the Champions League for the first time. However, the French champions hope the revamping of their squad during the offseason will result in a more balanced team less focused on individuals. PSG has retained its main attacking threat, Kylian Mbappe, who should lead the attack against Dortmund. PSG will be without Marco Asensio and Presnel Kimpembe. Dortmund has been shaky in defense so far this season and has struggled to replace Jude Bellingham, who’s now starring for Real Madrid.
Lazio vs. Atletico Madrid:
Diego Simeone brings his Atletico to the Stadio Olimpico and Lazio, the club he won four trophies with as a player, including Serie A in 2000. It’s the first time the teams have met since 2011-12, when Simeone had just taken charge of Atletico and led his team to home and away wins in the Europa League. Atletico then went on to win the trophy that season. Lazio has had an up-and-down start to Serie A, with one win and three losses. But the win came in a visit to defending champion Napoli.
Feyenoord vs. Celtic:
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has set his team the target of still being in Europe after Christmas. The Scottish team would want that to be in the Champions League, rather than the Europa League if Celtic finish third in Group E. Looking at the Scottish champions rivals, however, it faces a major challenge after being grouped with Atletico Madrid, Lazio and Feyenoord. Celtic travels to Rotterdam to face Feyenoord on Tuesday aiming to end a 10-game winless streak in the group stages.
Barcelona vs. Antwerp:
After two consecutive group-stage exists, Barcelona begins this year’s campaign boosted by four straight victories in the Spanish league, when it scored 13 goals in total. New signings João Félix and João Cancelo both scored in the team’s 5-0 rout of Real Betis on Saturday, and coach Xavi showed confidence that the two Portuguese internationals will make the team more competitive heading into the Champions League this season. Antwerp defeated Greek club AEK Athens in a playoff to reach he group stage for the first time.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Porto:
Ukrainian champion Shakhtar is playing its home games in Hamburg, Germany, this season because of the Russian invasion of its home country. Shakhtar has fewer foreign players and a greater emphasis on local talent than it used to, but can still hold its own in the Champions League, as shown by a win over Leipzig and a draw with Real Madrid last year. Porto is unbeaten in five Portuguese league games since losing the season-opening Super Cup to Benfica.