Champions League Matchday 1 is upon us as the group stage gets underway with 16 total matches split between Tuesday and Wednesday.
You can watch every Champions League game on CBS All Access. It wasn’t long ago when Bayern Munich conquered Europe with their dominant run to the title by beating PSG, but each team now has been forced to hit the reset button as the most prestigious club competition in the world returns.
And below you will find the five storylines to watch for Matchday 1:
1. Can La Liga giants bounce back?
Saturday was a weird day where both Real Madrid and Barcelona lost to widely inferior opponents in La Liga. Real lost 1-0 at home to newly promoted Cadiz in what was one of the southern club’s most important victories in a long, long time, while Barca really struggled in a 1-0 loss at Getafe.
It was the first time both had lost on the same day without scoring goals in 20 years. Both are entering the group stage on sour notes, though the displays last weekend could be a sign of where these teams are, essentially.
Real haven’t gelled much in attack and really needed some fortunate penalty kicks to take home the La Liga crown last season, while Barcelona has been as dysfunctional as the Bundys and didn’t bring in a whole lot to boost their squad in the offseason.
Both are expected to win their openers, but they were both also supposed to enters these games with emphatic victories.
2. COVID strikes Juventus
It will be a different looking Juventus on Tuesday at Dynamo Kyiv as superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and American midfielder Weston McKennie recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Ronaldo is obviously the bigger loss of the two, and heading to Ukraine is always quite tricky. Expect a combo of Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata in attack for Andrea Pirlo’s men.
It’s an unfortunate situation for both of the players, but better now than during the knockout stage if it had to be one of the two.
3. Paris is home to the week’s top matchup
The best matchup of the matchday, just barely, is PSG vs. Manchester United in Paris on Tuesday. You’ve got Neymar and the UCL runners up against a United team on paper that is strong and looking to get back to its top European form. PSG will be the favorites but were without several players in Friday’s 4-0 win over Nimes. United, on the other side, has a little momentum after beating Newcastle 3-1, but of course that came in the game following that shocking 6-1 loss to Tottenham.
For United to win, they will need to obviously be very sharp in defense, but they also need some juice in attack. Could it come via their new signing and former PSG star Edinson Cavani, who could potentially make his debut?
So who wins PSG vs. Manchester United? And where does all the betting value lie?
4. Liverpool’s injury dilemma
With the Reds expected to be without center back Virgil van Dijk for a long time following his horrible injury against Everton last Saturday, Jurgen Klopp has to decide what he is going to do at that position. Now, there are two options: First, he could just slide Joe Gomez in and pair him with Joel Matip. Or he can pick one of the two to start and pair them with defensive midfielder Fabinho. The Brazilian started at center back in the 2-0 win at Chelsea on Sept. 20, and he was sensational. He gave Timo Werner a roughing, though he also benefited from having van Dijk next to him. We’ll have to wait and see how Klopp lines up in a tasty match against Ajax this week.
5. Reigning champs have hands full
If Wednesday’s best game is in Paris, the most attractive matchup might be in Germany as Bayern Munich welcome Atletico Madrid, La Liga’s only undefeated team. Atleti have long been contenders in UCL under Diego Simeone, twice making the final. This year feels like it could be the year when you look at what Luis Suarez has brought to the club. He’s consistently scoring for Los Colchoneros, but he’s got a big test ahead of him with an unbelievable Bayern side. It’s going to be physical, very tactical and there will be a lot of high pressing. Errors passing the ball in the middle could give either team the chance to go on the counter, and that could be the difference. Expect a chess match between two of the world’s best managers, Simeone and Hansi Flick.