The Champions League is back, and we begin with the top clash in Group E as Napoli host Liverpool at the Stadio San Paolo. Both teams come into this match on the back of wins, as Dries Mertens netted twice to give Napoli a 2-0 win over Sampdoria, while Liverpool shook off an early scare to overcome Newcastle 3-1.
They also met in the Champions League knockout stages last season, with Liverpool ultimately progressing to the next stage. This time around though, the Italian side will be confident of giving the defending champions a run for their money. Napoli have won five of their last seven home games in this competitions, including a 1-0 win over the Reds. Last season Liverpool lost all three of their away games and have lost six of their last eight Champions League trips. With such a poor away record, it will be tough to see Jurgen Klopp’s men go past the Paetenopei.
Red bull Salzburg will host Genk at the Red Bull Arena. The Austrian side have been a consistent presence in the qualifiers but finally made it in this season. They will have it tough though in a group featuring Napoli and Liverpool, and they will be hoping to get off to the best of starts. Genk come into this game on the back of defeat and have won just three of their last seven matches. With Salzburg topping the Austrian Bundesliga table, they will be the favorites to take home the points.
The match of the round takes place in Group F as Borussia Dortmund lock horns with Barcelona at Signal Iduna Park. This is without doubt the group of death as it also features Inter Milan, which means one of these three teams will fail to reach the knockout stage. The Germans narrowly missed out on the Bundesliga title last season and have made further investments in order to contend this season. Barca on the other hand have had embarrassing defeats in the last few seasons, with the last two seasons being the pick of the bunch. In 2018 a quarter final lead against AS Roma was surrendered at the Stadio Olimpico, while last season the Catalans let a three goal lead slip against Liverpool to ultimately lose 4-0 and 4-3 on aggregate. Such has been the highlights of Ernesto Valverde’s Champions League tenure, and his side could find themselves kicking off their campaign with defeat.
Inter Milan will take on Slavia Prague at the San Siro. The Nerazurri have won three out of three Serie A games under new manager Antonio Conte, but they will be desperate to improve on their form in the Champions League. Inter finished third in their group last season behind Barcelona and Tottenham, and manager Conte has a poor record in cup competitions. Nonetheless, Slavia Prague are unlikely to pose a threat to the Italians, as they are undoubtedly the whipping boys in the group.
Chelsea and Valencia will face off in Group H. The Blues started the Premier League season on a shaky note but picked up a much needed 5-2 win away at Wolves. Youngster Tammy Abraham was the star of the show, scoring a hat trick to move joint top of the goal scoring chart. Defensively there are a few concerns, but Frank Lampard remains unbeat about his young squad’s chances in Europe. Valencia were on the wrong end of a 5-2 thrashing at the weekend. They are 14th in La Liga and have defensive issues of their own. They are winless in their last five Champions League trips, which will be music to the ears of the Chelsea players.
Lyon vs Zenit
Inter Milan vs Slavia Prague
Chelsea vs Valencia
B/Dortmund vs Barcelona
Ajax vs Lille
Benfica vs RB Leipzig
Red Bull vs Gent
Napoli vs Liverpool