How great will it be to hear the Champions League anthem back at the Emirates this week and not that horrible Europa League music?
A lot has happened since Arsenal last played in UEFA’s premier competition. It’s been 6 years, too long for a club our size.
It’s the first time a Champions League kicks off without either Ronaldo or Messi involved. To mark the occasion, I had a special look at the lay of the land In Europe.
Feel free to put your predictions in the comments.
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Feyenoord 3-1 Celtic
While the unique atmosphere at Parkhead will allow for the odd result, there will equally be European nights that showcase the financial limitations that SPL clubs work at.
Celtic have never won their opening game in the Champions League, have lost their last 11 consecutive matches and current record is 2 wins in 26 attempts in the CL proper.
Suspensions and injuries to the Dutch Champions two best strikers is the only reason I’m keeping the scoreline down.
Lazio 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Lazio have had a poor start in Series A while both these two teams lost at the weekend.
Atletico have more know-how at this level but have a few injuries which gives the home side a chance.
It might come down to which side has the most ambition to win their opening game.
Yet it’s Sarri vs Someone …. they will set up not to lose instead of to win.
AC Milan 0-1 Newcastle
In terms of famous names involved, Group F is the Group of death.
Yet, if Newcastle play what’s on paper all three of their opponents in this section have their vulnerabilities.
This tie comes three days after AC lost the Milan Derby by 5-1 and while they have the experience to deal with expectation, I’m not sure the weight of expectation is realistic.
A Toon Army under Bobby Robson (that’s how long ago the Geordies have been away from this stage) would embrace the occasion and express themselves knowing they had nothing to lose.
I’m not sure how positive Eddie Howe will be with his tactics but if he is, the visitors might have fresher legs.
PSG 1-2 B Dortmund
There’s a bit more acceptance among PSG fans as the club change their whole business model.
While they have still spent money this summer, they have abandoned the Galacticos policy with Luis Enrique trusted to build more of a team.
Having fallen out with the likes of Neymar and Messi, fans might be accepting that they are now in transition.
Some of their youngsters are struggling to cope with the expectation domestically and I think there will be the odd shock result in Europe.
Given Dortmund are a more settled side with more experience, I’m not sure how much a shock an away win would be?
Man City 4-0 Red Star Belgrade
The European Champions could play in second gear and still expect to win this group comfortably.
Haaland could have the Golden Boot sewn up by the knockout stages.
Red Star don’t travel well in Europe and defensively will face a jump up in quality to what they are used to in Serbia.
Their fate will be decided by their home form against the other two in the group so they can treat this as a free swing.
Young Boys 2-2 RB Leipzig
Leipzig are a different team to the one who finished third in Germany, losing Nkunku to Chelsea, Szoboszlai to Liverpool and their best player Gvardiol to Man City.
While they will have to face the Champions, who humiliated them 7-1 on aggregate last season, they would have accepted a draw where second spot is up for grabs.
Both sides have had had overhauls to their squads which leaves them relying on youngsters.
The home side can get a result with the pressure off them.
Barcelona 3-1 Royal Antwerp
Barca will be relieved not to be in the Group of death for the first time in three seasons, meaning they should qualify for the knockout stages this time around.
They are poor enough to have the odd wobble but enough quality to get over the line.
S Donetsk 2-2 Porto
Two teams who are unbeaten domestically.
Neither travel well in Europe so home form could decide who finishes runners up.
Donetsk having to play in Germany could give Porto an advantage.
Galatasaray 3-1 FC Copenhagen
Istanbul can be one of the most intimidating places to visit. With the likes of Icardi, Mertens and Zaha they have enough match winners to be dark horses for the group.
Bayern Munich 3-0 Man United
On paper the match of match day 1 but United are unlucky the way the fixtures have been scheduled, their hardest game in the group days after their second straight 3-1 defeat.
What’s a worse reflection on Ten Hag is there’s zero signs they have the character or team spirit to give a response in Germany.
If Bayern play what’s in front of them and not get caught up in the history between the clubs, this is actually a straightforward fixture.
Nights like this is why Harry Kane left Spurs.
Arsenal 2-1 PSV
A rematch when the two faced in the Europa League group stages last season where they each won a home match each.
As backwards as it sounds PSV are perhaps worse than they were when we faced them in UEFA’s second tier competition.
Van Nistelrooy left as manager, feeling not supported when Gakpo was sold to Liverpool and Simmons loan was not turned permanent.
They are relying on a crop of new youngsters in Holland but a trip to North London is a step up in level.
Sevilla 1-1 Lille
Sevilla are a unique club. They are only in the competition because they won the Europa League.
Based on their form domestically, they were the 12th best team in La Liga last season, and an ageing squad is currently 17th. Yet something mystical seems to happen to this club on a European night.
Lille though can use Europe as an adventure and play without pressure.
Real Madrid 3- 1 Union Berlin
One of the most romantic fixtures from match day one as Union Berlin travel to the Bernabeu 4 years after being in the German second division.
It’s still a team who finished 4th in the Bundesliga so will have their moments both on the night and in the group.
Real in the past have had moments of complacency at this stage but have started the season with a focus.
Braga 2-2 Napoli
A bit like their defence of Serie A, Napoli must now deal with expectation, whereas you assume they prefer the role of the romantic underdog, something they are not in this group.
Their home record means any point away from home is decent and I see a scenario where Napoli are drawing and accept the result.
Benfica 1-0 Salzburg
This is the hardest group to predict with all 4 capable of qualification.
Benfica’s home form though is the most formidable so I’m going for them to top the group.
Salzburg always produce a young talent we are talking about by the end of the group stages and will have their moments, just not in Portugal.
Real Sociedad 1-1 Inter Milan
Inter lost some star players in the summer but still have enough experience to deal with what comes from a tricky away game where the pressure is on them to win. They probably would have preferred a group where they stayed under the radar?
The manner of the Milan Derby was timely, and they should go to Spain with confidence?
Think both teams might take the point.
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