The Champions League makes its long-awaited return this week with all four English teams looking for the perfect start in the most prestigious club competition on the planet.
Last season’s finalists Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur both face tricky away ties at Napoli and Olympiakos respectively. But both Chelsea and Manchester City will be confident of getting three points on the board at this early stage. Frank Lampard’s men play host to Valencia and Manchester City travel to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk.
Read on for our predictions for this week’s biggest games…
Champions League Predictions: Gameweek 1
Borussia Dortmund vs Barcelona, Tuesday 20:00
The lowdown: Arguably the pick of the opening round of Champions League fixtures sees Barcelona travel to Dortmund for a showdown that could set the tone for how Group F will play out. Both sides have struggled defensively to start their domestic seasons but have more than made up for that in their potency going forward. All eyes will be on the likes of Lionel Messi and Jadon Sancho as a result, and an open, entertaining affair looks to be in store. There’s seemingly little to separate the sides, so a back and forth draw looks likely.
Verdict: Defensive frailties to be exposed in thrilling draw. 2-2.
Chelsea vs Valencia, Tuesday 20:00
The lowdown: After a rocky start to life as a Premier League manager, Frank Lampard appears to be finding his feet. His Chelsea side comes into this clash with Valencia fresh off the back of a 5-2 thumping of Wolves at the weekend. In Tammy Abraham they have a goalscorer in the form of his life after finding the back of the net seven times in his last three appearances. But they’ll find Valencia to be no pushovers. This is a Champions League-savvy side who – despite their stuttering start to the season – can cause the Blues’ questionable back four major issues.
Verdict: Chelsea’s quality to tell in the end. 3-1.
Napoli vs Liverpool, Tuesday 20:00
The lowdown: Liverpool get their Champions League defence underway with a potential banana skin of a fixture away to Napoli on Tuesday. Whilst Liverpool have started the Premier League season perfectly, there have been signs that they won’t be as defensively solid as they were last season. With the likes of Hirving Lozano, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne in their ranks, Napoli have enough firepower to give Liverpool’s backline a stern test in Naples. The Reds’ quality should be too much for Napoli, but the Italian side will look for a similar performance that saw them turn Jürgen Klopp’s side over in the group stages last year.
Verdict: Liverpool to edge it. 1-2.
Best Bet: Sadio Mané to score anytime at 83/50.
Olympiakos vs Tottenham Hotspur, Wednesday 17:55
The lowdown: Last season’s defeated finalists Spurs begin their quest to go one step further in the Champions League with a trip to Greece for a clash with Olympiakos that’s sure to be contested in a fiery atmosphere. Pochettino’s men have looked reinvigorated in attack since the return of Heung-Min Son, and a clean sheet at home to Crystal Palace last weekend will have eased their defensive concerns. The Greek Superleague may not be able to compete with the Premier League, but in Olympiakos, Spurs find themselves facing a team yet to concede a goal this season. Pochettino will make sure to guard against complacency.
Verdict: Spurs to grind out a gutsy win. 1-3.
Atlético Madrid vs Juventus, Wednesday 20:00
The lowdown: Another enticing fixture thrown up by the Champions League draw sees Atletico Madrid play host to Serie A giants Juventus in Gameweek 1. With both teams better known for their defensive prowess as opposed to their attacking flair, this may be one of the slower burners of this round. Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to make it a happy return to the Spanish capital on Wednesday. After knocking Diego Simeone’s side out of last season’s competition with a hat-trick in the last 16, the Portuguese will be key to Juve’s hopes of making the perfect start to their Champions League campaign.
Verdict: A tight, low scoring affair beckons. 1-1.
PSG vs Real Madrid, Wednesday 20:00
The lowdown: Another two of the continent’s giants come to blows in Gameweek 1, with PSG welcoming 13-time Champions League winners Real Madrid to Paris. With Galatasaray and Club Brugge for company in Group A, both sides will be feeling confident about making it to the knockout stages. But this clash should serve as a good litmus test as to whether either has a genuine shot at winning the competition. The Parisians will be bolstered by the return of wantaway star Neymar. The Brazilian took a step towards regaining favour with the PSG fans at the weekend with a last-minute overhead kick winner. He could be the difference-maker on the night, with Real still struggling to get up to speed this season.
Verdict: Real struggle to contain Neymar and Mbappé. 2-1.
Best Bet: Back PSG to Win 2-1 at 81/10.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Manchester City, Wednesday 20:00
The lowdown: Following their shock loss to newly promoted Norwich City at the weekend, Pep Guardiola will be looking for a reaction from his side as they travel to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk. Whilst City should have too much talent in their ranks to slip up this early in the competition, they face a Shakthar side who are yet to lose this season. The reigning Ukrainian Premier League champions are a perfect seven from seven in the league and are averaging over three goals a game. City will still be heavy favourites though and look to be a safe bet to register their first win in this season’s competition.
Verdict: Man City to bounce back with dominant win. 1-4.
Odds correct at time of writing but may be subject to change.
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