SuperSport: Top five Champions League group-stage clashes

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Goal, in association with SuperSport, reveal our pick of the Champions League group-stage bouts

Europe’s footballing royalty learned their opponents for the Champions League group stage on Thursday, during a glittering ceremony in Monaco.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona and Virgil van Dijk were in attendance as the continent’s top sides were pooled into the eight groups, setting up a series of mouth-watering clashes through the rest of 2019.

With all of the action available to watch on SuperSport, here are our pick of the bouts coming to your TV screens over the coming months.

Zinedine Zidane Real Madrid 2019-20

Group A: Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid

Group A is among the most fascinating of the eight pools, with genuine European giants PSG and Real drawn alongside Turkish heavyweights Galatasaray and ambitious Club Brugge.

Last term, both PSG and Real fell short of expectations in Europe, with the former falling in the Round of 16 to Manchester United, and the latter eliminated at the same stage by Ajax Amsterdam.

Los Blancos are bouncing back from a miserable campaign following the re-appointment of Zinedine Zidane, although the Frenchman appears well aware of the task facing him.

PSG have their own problems, with Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe injured, and Neymar yet to be truly integrated into the team following his desire to exit during the summer.

These two will have their sights set on the latter stages, and the meetings between them in the group stage should offer a glimpse into who’s better placed to go the distance.

Cristiano Ronaldo Juventus Napoli Serie A

Group D: Juventus vs Atletico Madrid

These two—who were both recently defeated finalists in the competition—were again pitted against each other after meeting in the Round of 16 last season.

They also met in the International Champions Cup in preseason, and each will feel that they have a feel of their opponents heading into their group-stage meetings.

Atleti are a side being rebuilt under Diego Simeone, following a swathe of high-profile exits, although they retain many of the qualities they’ve demonstrated in abundance during the Argentine’s tenure.

Juventus, who advanced past Atleti before being defeated by Ajax in the quarter-finals last season, although it remains to be seen how quickly they can adapt to the style of new coach Maurizio Sarri.

Sadio Mane Liverpool 2019-20

Group E: Liverpool vs Napoli

Immediately after the draw, Jurgen Klopp was quick to discuss the ‘emotional’ element of a reunion with Napoli, after the pair clashed in the group stage last term.

The Italians were eliminated at the hands of the eventual winners—condemned to an exit after a 1-0 loss at Anfield—but will be confident of progression this time around after being joined by Red Bull Salzburg and Genk in Group E.

"Napoli again. I don’t know how often I’ve now played against Napoli, but they’re obviously a very experienced side,” Klopp told Liverpool’s official website.

“The home game we played against Napoli was one of the best games we played because it was so rock solid,” he added. "The way they play is clear and it’s really good. 

"When they went out last year, it was pretty close – [Alisson] made a big save in the last seconds, so they will remember that and it will be emotional.”

Could the Partenopei exact a measure of revenge when these two meet?

Harry Kane Tottenham 2019-20

Group B: Bayern Munich vs Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs’ unforgettable run to the Champions League final last season went some way to masking the side’s domestic malaise under Mauricio Pochettino, and they’re still encountering some issues which have persisted into the current campaign.

Nonetheless, Tottenham have a tendency to lift themselves for the big games, and two massive European nights against Bayern, who smashed Mainz 05 6-1 at the weekend, may well get the best out of this side.

Will it be a similar story to Spurs’ recent memorable UCL clashes against Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax, or can the German giants expose some of the ongoing limitations of Pochettino’s side?

Olympiakos and Red Star Belgrade—two potentially tricky opponents—complete the group, so points taken (or lost) in the two matches between the group favourites could prove decisive in establishing who advances from Group B.

Hakim Ziyech - Ajax 2019-20

Group H: Chelsea vs Ajax

This match hasn’t typically been mentioned among the true glamour ties of the opening round, but it should represent a fantastic tangle between two teams who have undergone significant summer makeovers. 

Ajax predictably lost several of their top stars following their run to the semi-finals last time around, and it remains to be seen whether their replacements can fill the voids left in the team.

Chelsea, who qualified despite the broad displeasure at Sarri’s tenure, have much to prove under rookie manager Frank Lampard, and domestic results since he arrived have hardly been convincing.

Nevertheless, the Blues have some quality to work with—not least the emerging Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount—and if Lampard can improve their defence, their UCL campaign could prove to be more than just a learning experience.

Watch all the opening round UEFA Champions League fixtures on SuperSport.

Fixtures 

Tuesday 17 September

Inter Milan vs Slavia Prague SS3 (SA) & SS5 (ROA) Kickoff at 18:55 (CAT)

Lyon vs Zenit St Petersburg SS5 (SA) & SS6 (ROA) Kickoff at 18:55 (CAT)

Liverpool vs Napoli SS3 (SA) & SS5 (ROA) Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT)

Chelsea vs Valencia SS5 (SA) & SS6 (ROA) Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT)

Borussia Dortmund vs Barcelona SS6 (SA) & SS3 (ROA) Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT)

Salzburg vs Genk SS8 Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT)

Benfica vs Leipzig SS11 Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT)

Ajax v Lille SS12 Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT) 

Wednesday 18 September

Olympiacos vs Tottenham Hotspur SS3 (SA) & SS5 (ROA) Kickoff at 18:55 (CAT)

Club Brugge vs Galatasaray SS5 (SA) & SS6 (ROA) Kickoff at 18:55 (CAT)

Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid SS3 (SA) & SS5 (ROA) Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT)

Atletico Madrid vs Juventus SS5 (SA) & SS6 (ROA) Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT)

Shakhtar Donetsk vs Manchester City SS6 (SA) & SS3 (ROA) Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT)

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Bayern Munich vs Red Star Belgrade SS8 Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT)

Bayer Leverkusen vs Lokomotiv Moscow SS11 Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT)

Dinamo Zagreb vs Atalanta SS12 Kickoff at 21:00 (CAT)

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