Welcome to this Wednesday's Champions League preview. After a round of exciting fixtures on Tuesday that included Newcastle's long awaited return to the competition, a baptism of fire in Barcelona for Royal Antwerp, and a stunning last second equalizer from Lazio keeper Ivan Provedel, there is a wealth of action to look forward to this evening.
Revitalised Real Take On Germans
We start at the Bernabeu, and with 14 time UCL champions Real Madrid. Wednesday marks the superstar Jude Bellinghams first appearance for Los Blancos in the competition, and if his recent for is anything to go by first-timers Union Berlin will be shaking in their boots. The Germans are not to be taken lightly however, boasting a revitalised squad featuring the experienced Leonardo Bonucci and exciting talent that includes Robin Gosens, David Fofana and the hitman Kevin Volland. You can count on them to spark a surpise.
Group C also features Serie A champions Napoli, albeit without the guidance of Luciano Spaletti at the helm. This season will prove to be an interesting one, as they adjust to a new style under head coach Rudi Garcia. Will he be able to replicate the kind of performances that took Napoli deep into the knockout stages in recent years? With the disposal of talent that includes Victor Osimhen, Kvicha Kvartshkelia and Giovanni Simeone at his fingertips, it would be hard to bet against them. Their opponents Braga should not be the most difficult of challenges on Wednesday night. The Portuguese side have made an unconvincing start to the league season and are on paper the weakest side in the group.
History Revisited in Munich
1999. That is a year that will forever be etched into the hearts of Manchester United supporters. For their Bavarian hosts on the other hand, it is one they will certainly want to forget. In the almost quarter century since the famous night in Barcelona, in which 2 late stoppage time goals overturned Bayern's lead to win United's 2nd European Cup title, fortunes for the sides have differed. Both have triumphed in Europe since, but it has now been a decade since Bayern completed the feat; for Manchester United it has been 15 years. Bayern are the clear favourites for this one, beginning the Bundesliga season as strongly as ever, with new talisman and missed United target Harry Kane leading the line. The visitors, on the other hand, have found themselves once again in turmoil, a common theme in recent seasons for the Old Trafford outfit. With 3 defeats in 5 games, scandals and injuries ruling them short of high profile players, and the ongoing ownership saga, Erik Ten Hag is navigating his side through choppy waters. As ever though, this will be a hard fought contest, and there is plenty of quality on both sides to swing this tie in any direction.
The 2nd fixture in Group A will be contested between Turkish giants Galatasaray and FC Copenhagen. The Danes are the obvious choice to finish bottom in this group, but will need to rely on home form, where they remained unbeaten in last seasons group stage. The trip to Istanbul will not be an easy affair, as they enter into one of the most hostile stadium atmospheres in Europe. If they say that the crowd can often be the 12th man, then Galatasaray's 12th man is world class, so often intimidating opponents and roaring their side to victory through sheer enthusiasm. They also boast some frightengly good talent, in a squad featuring Wilfred Zaha, Hakim Ziyech and Dries Mertens. The Turkish outfit are certainly ones to watch in this season's competition.
Confident Gunners Back With A Bang
Mikel Arteta's Arsenal mark their return to the UCL with what is a seemingly manageable group. They invite an uncertain PSV side to the Emirates on Wednesday in a game they will be heavy favourites for. The North London side have made an impressive start this season and will be looking to carry this form into the Champions League. However, they will be looking to avoid the kind of unconvincing performance they showed agaisnt Everton on the weekend if they are to dispatch with the bigger clubs as the tournament goes on.
This group may be the best draw the Gunners could've hoped for too, as the other fixture contains 2 sides who have made shambolic starts to their respective league seasons. Lens find themselves bottom of Ligue 1 after a horrible first 5 games in which they have only picked up a single point. Sevilla haven't fared too much better themselves, as they find themselves 17th in La Liga losing 3 of their first 4 fixtures. If current form is anything to go by, both sides playing at the Emirates tonight should progress to the knockouts easily. But, as football has taught us many times in the past, nothing is ever a foregone conclusion.
Can Anyone Stop Incredible Inter?
Finally, in Group D we find last seasons finalists and Serie A leaders Inter, fresh from a 5-1 thrashing of local rivals Milan at the weekend. They seem like a team hungry for blood and will be galvanised by recent performances, hoping to replicate the incredible run that brought them within inches of lifting their first UCL trophy since 2010. They travel to Real Sociedad in their first fixture, a well drilled spanish side who will not make this easy. Despite being 11th in La Liga, they have only lost once this season and the Basque outfit will be a tough opponent in this group.
Benfica face RB Salzburg in the final game of this group. The former UCL Champions will fancy their odds and this should be a victory for them against the Austrian side who lack the star power of their counterparts. Expect big performances from World Cup holders Angel Di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi, the countrymen reunited once more as they attempt to guide their club to victory with experience. The Portuguese side will be favourites to battle Inter for top spot, and you can expect nothing less than a fiery first performance at home tonight.