Barcelona to re-live Bayern Munich nightmare? Cristiano Ronaldo's return and more as UEFA Champions League 2021/22 kicks off
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(Football news) The Champions League is back for another scintillating season, this time with fans back in the stadium. Chelsea were crowned Champions of Europe after beating Manchester City in the finals last year. The quest for the 2021/22 trophy begins with 8 mouth watering fixtures.
Sevilla host RB Salzburg to kick off the European season. Julen Lopetegui's men were knocked out of the Round of 16 by BVB last season. RB Salzburg on the other hand couldn't make it past the group stage and had to settle for a Europa League spot. Salzburg will be without Sekou Koita, Zlatko Junuzovicand Albert Vallci while Sevilla will have a full strength team.
Manchester United travel to Switzerland to face BSC Young Boys. Cristiano Ronaldo could feature in his first ever UCL game as a Manchester United player since the 2009 final against Barcelona. Solskjaer will be looking to rest some of his key players which means Diogo Dalot, Donny Van de Beek and others could get a chance to impress the Norwegian. Marcus Rashford, McTominay, Edinson Cavani, Alex Telles and Phil Jones are all unavailable due to injuries. Young Boys on the other hand will be without Fabian Lustenberger, Jean-Pierre Nsame, Joel Monteiro and Esteban Petignat. Manchester United faced an upset last year when they were eliminated from the group stage and to make matters worse they even lost the Europa League final. This season with Ronaldo at his disposal, the pressure on Solskjaer to deliver will be up to the brim.
Ligue 1 champions Lille will play against Wolfsburg who are returning to the UCL after 6 years. The French champions will be looking to make it past the group stages for the first time since 2007.
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The Europa League champions Villareal play Atalanta at La Ceramica. Villareal have played in the UCL twice in their history. They reached the Semi Final in 2007 and the Quarter finals in 2009 as they lost to Arsenal on both occasions. Atalanta on the other hand were outclassed by Real Madrid in the Round of 16 last season. Samuel Chukwueze will miss the game because of an injury whereas Atalanta will be without Hans Hateboer and Luis Muriel.
Chelsea will start their title defence against Zenit at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea with Romelu Lukaku leading the line are on fire this season. N'golo Kante is still out of contention while Christian Pulisic is also set to miss out. Thomas Tuchel may be looking to rest a few players before their away trip to Spurs on the weekend.
Juventus will start their post Ronaldo era in Europe with an away trip to Malmo. Juventus haven't won a single game this season and they will not get a better chance than this. Federico Chiesa will not travel with the team due to an injury along with Federico Bernardeschi which leaves Juventus short of options on the wing.
The big game is ofcourse Bayern Munich's trip to FC Barcelona. The last time these two teams faced each other, the Bavarian side dismantled the Catalans 8-2 in a one off knockout game. Barcelona are very short of attacking options with only 3 first team forwards fit for the game. Gerard Pique's return to the side is a huge bonus for Ronald Koeman. Bayern Munich on the other hand will be without Corentin Tolisso while Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman are doubtful. Bayern have scored 21 goals in their last 3 games so a repeat of the last time is a very realistic possibility as far as Barcelona are concerned.
Dynamo Kiev and Benfica face each other in a Group E fixture. With Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the group, this game is pretty much a fight for the Europa League place.