Sunday 18 February 2018 / 09:34 PM


The UEFA Champions League round of 32 group stage begins this week, and we’ve got preview of the best matches to look forward to in a bumper start to the season.

Barcelona v Juventus – 4:45am (AEDT), Wednesday, September 13 @ Camp Nou, Barcelona

Barcelona host Juventus in the first game of Group D in what will be a rematch of last season’s quarter-finals, where Juventus won 3-0 on aggregate. Since then, Juventus have replaced right-back/winger Dani Alves with the younger Mattia De Sciglio, while also welcoming Brazilian superstar Douglas Costa. Costa is known for his trickery with the ball at his feet; he’s also able to unfurl a powerful strike from his left side.

Barcelona haven’t strengthened themselves since they last met Juventus in April and appear vulnerable. They only brought in defensive midfielder Paulinho, who is clearly a back-up to Sergio Busquets, and the raw Ousmane Dembele as a replacement for Neymar. There will be massive expectations on superstar attacker Lionel Messi to continue to carry his side while Dembele settles in.

Juventus will be confident of nabbing an important away draw to start their crusade to go one better than last season.

Celtic v Paris – 4:45am (AEDT), Wednesday, September 13 @ Celtic park, Glasgow

The much-hyped PSG forward line will be rolled out in Scotland on Wednesday morning, as star signings Neymar and Kylian Mbappe make their European debuts for the French club.

PSG broke the bank to bring both Neymar and Mbappe across for astronomical fees, and will expect an immediate return on their investments after failing to win the French league and Champions League last season.

Celtic have a couple of players who can ask some questions themselves. One of these is Australian midfielder Tom Rogic, who likes to play in an advanced role, along with quick winger Scott Sinclair. Expect Celtic to be under siege all night, given goals, goals and more goals are on Paris’s agenda.

Tottenham v Borussia Dortmund – 4:45am (AEDT), Thursday, September 14 @ Wembley Stadium, London

Already a high-stakes game as only one of these teams will progress to the next round – with champions Real Madrid also in Group H.

Tottenham only won one home game at Wembley last season, and will need to considerably improve how they play at the bigger venue this season. Spurs will be missing key attacking midfielder Dele Alli because of suspension in last season’s Europa League.

Given the lack of attacking flexibility in their squad, this will mean the defensive-minded Mousa Dembele will feature in the centre. Christian Eriksen will be expected to play in Alli’s position behind striker Harry Kane.

Dortmund will be fancying their chances of getting an away win, and should employ an aggressive style given the quality attacking options they boast – led by the deadly Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Leipzig v Monaco – 4:45am (AEDT), Thursday, September 14 @ RB Arena, Leipzig

RB Leipzig make their European debut, qualifying for the first time in club history thanks to finishing second in the Bundesliga last season. They still have the key planks that made them hugely successful in central midfielder Naby Keita and rising pacey striker Timo Werner. However, Keita comes into the game under an injury cloud.

While Monaco have been raided by other sides this summer after making a dream run to the semi-finals, they were able to hold onto the impressive Thomas Lemar, who had a breakout campaign last season. The signings of exciting Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans and experienced striker Stevan Jovetic should ensure Monaco spoil Leipzig’s watershed UCL appearance.

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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