The 2019/20 UEFA Champions League group stage begins with matchday one this week, with all 32 teams in action all over the continent across Tuesday and Wednesday.
Here’s a look at five of the biggest ‘must watch’ games taking place…
Napoli vs. Liverpool
Tuesday 17 September, 21.00 (CEST) @ Stadio San Paolo
Liverpool begin the defence of their Champions League title by facing a team they had to beat at home no matchday six just to get out of the group stage last season.
The Reds may have gone on to lift the trophy in May, but they were beaten when they travelled to Stadio San Paolo in early October. Liverpool, who would lose all three group stage away games, failed to score and conceded a late Napoli winner from Lorenzo Insigne.
With Genk and Red Bull Salzburg completing Group E, this trip to Napoli is likely to be Liverpool’s most challenging game and toughest test in this phase of the competition.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Barcelona
Tuesday 17 September, 21.00 (CEST) @ Westfalenstadion
Already a huge game as one of Europe’s most exciting young teams takes on an established giant, the potential return of Lionel Messi makes Barcelona’s visit to Borussia Dortmund even more enticing as the superstar is in the squad after missing the first four games of the season.
Dortmund have plenty to prove in Europe this season as they were eliminated from the group stage last year, while their overall reputation does not marry up with a team that has won just two Champions League knockout ties since playing in the 2013 final.
Barcelona will be desperate to make a strong start in difficult times as Group F also features a resurgent Inter and will claim a high profile scalp.
Chelsea vs. Valencia
Tuesday 17 September, 21.00 (CEST) @ Stamford Bridge
Group H could hardly be more open and that is why it is vital for Chelsea to get an early win under their belt when Valencia visit Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea were fired to Premier League victory over the weekend by home-grown youngsters Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, all of whom will be taking a step into the known for what will be their respective Champions League debuts.
Chelsea have the second leakiest defence in the Premier League this season after conceding 11 goals in five games, and they will therefore be vulnerable against a technical La Liga side, even one that has started the 2019/20 domestic season poorly.
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Real Madrid
Wednesday 18 September, 21.00 (CEST) @ Parc des Princes
The team that has been craving Champions League glory for years without success against the team that has won it more times than other club history, Paris Saint-Germain will host Real Madrid in a heavyweight clash at the Parc des Princes in Group A on Wednesday.
After brushing off an early season blip, PSG are on in Ligue 1, which is more than can be said for Real, who have only won two of their opening four domestic games and conceded six times.
A lot of focus will be on Neymar in Paris this week. The Brazilian superstar didn’t get his dream return to Barcelona during the summer and was heckled and booed by his own club’s fans when he made his first appearance of the season over the weekend – despite scoring a fairly incredible bicycle kick.
Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus
Wednesday 18 September, 21.00 (CEST) @ Wanda Metropolitano
Atletico Madrid and Juventus meet in matchday one of Group D after playing out an epic two-legged knockout tie in the Champions League last season. On that occasion it took a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick to overturn the tie for Juventus after a 2-0 first leg deficit.
Atletico have undergone a mini transformation since then, shedding Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin and bringing in younger talents like Joao Felix and Marcos Llorente.
These great clubs are two of European football’s biggest underachievers at a continental level. They have played in 12 European Cup/Champions League finals between them over the years, but have lost as many as 10 of those – including four in a row between 2014 and 2017.