Champions League: PSG v Juve, Inter v Bayern and plenty of English sides in action on matchday one

It promises to be an explosive return to Champions League action as teams gear up for the start of the group stages this week.

Across Tuesday and Wednesday, all 32 teams will kick off their campaigns – with six British sides in action and two mouthwatering mega-ties sure to have fans licking their lips.

Paris Saint-Germain welcome Juventus and Inter Milan entertain Bayern Munich in the week’s most tantalizing ties, but Liverpool will lock horns with Napoli, Spurs host French side Marseille and Celtic take on Real Madrid for the first time in 42 years.

Elsewhere, Ajax face Scottish outfit Rangers, Sevilla face one of the tournament favorites in Manchester City, struggling Chelsea face Dinamo Zagreb and Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk are in action too.

So below, Sportsmail previews matchday one of the Champions League midweek games and takes a look at how the sides are shaping up.

There will be an explosive Champions League return, with the group stage starting midweek

There will be an explosive Champions League return, with the group stage starting midweek

Real Madrid, the reigning European champions, kick off their defense at Parkhead on Tuesday

Real Madrid, the reigning European champions, kick off their defense at Parkhead on Tuesday

Napoli v Liverpool

Both Napoli and Liverpool look very different this season. Napoli have lost goalkeeper David Ospina, defensive linchpin Kalidou Koulibaly to Chelsea, influential midfielder Fabian Ruiz to PSG, and veteran forwards Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne to Galatasaray and Toronto FC respectively.

But Luciano Spalletti’s side have added, too, with Kim Min-jae already looking a solid prospect in defense, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s loan from Fulham made permanent and Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia hitting the ground running.

The 21-year-old wideman has four goals in his opening five games and has plenty of threats across the field, with Spurs outcast Tanguy Ndombele in on loan, Stanislav Lobotka in midfield and the electric Victor Osimhen up front.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have something of an injury crisis to contend with. Caoimhin Kelleher, Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konate, Calvin Ramsay are all missing, as are midfielders Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Thiago Alcantara and Fabio Carvalho.

Sadio Mane, who joined Bayern Munich this summer, has proven a big loss in attack, with the Reds currently seventh in the Premier League.

Jurgen Klopp’s team are favorites but this will be a tough test first up – and Napoli have won the only two Champions League games between the sides in Italy.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool travel to a much-changed Napoli with a well-publicized injury crisis

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool travel to a much-changed Napoli with a well-publicized injury crisis

Ajax v Rangers

The Calvin Bassey derby.

Ajax, having lost several star players this summer – including Lisandro Martinez and Antony to Manchester United, plus Sebastian Haller to Borussia Dortmund and Ryan Gravenberch to Bayern Munich, snapped up defender Bassey from Rangers in July.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side, who lost 4-0 against Scottish Premiership title rivals Celtic at the weekend, at least carried some good European form into the fixture, having beaten PSV 3-2 on aggregate to qualify for the group stages.

Can Alfred Schreuder’s men overcome the Gers in Amsterdam? It promises to be a tasty atmosphere…

Sevilla v Manchester City

Julen Lopetegui’s side faltered last year in cup competitions and have not started this season well at all. They’ve taken one point from their last four league games and were soundly beaten 3-0 at home against Barcelona on Saturday.

Still, they will have several useful players across the pitch. Defender Tanguy Nianzou will be looking to impress after moving from Bayern, wily attacking midfielder ‘Papu’ Gomez can create something out of nothing and Youssef En-Nesyri knows how to find the back of the net.

With German giants Dortmund also in the group, Pep Guardiola’s side know they can barely afford an early slip-up. Will Erling Haaland get a rest? Guardiola has admitted that they cannot hang their competition hopes solely on the striker’s shoulders.

Can City’s small squad get through the relentless churn of Premier League-European-Premier League fixtures?

How many youth players like Rico Lewis or Josh Wilson-Esbrand will be called into action given City’s injuries, including England defenders Kyle Walker and John Stones? There are a lot of questions to be answered at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium

Tottenham v Marseille

There is a distinctly Arsenal-flavoured feel to the Marseille squad.

Sead Kolasinac, Matteo Guendouzi, Alexis Sanchez and loanee Nuno Tavares all know what it’s like to come up against Spurs, which could add some spice to the fixture.

Antonio Conte’s side haven’t actually played brilliantly this season but keep grinding out results, and with several tricky games in this group, he will want a home win first to get off to a flying start.

With the dangerous Sanchez and Dimitri Payet pulling the strings for the French side, the north London side may need to find another level.

Tottenham face a Marseille side with a distinctly Arsenal flavor, adding spice to the fixture

Tottenham face a Marseille side with a distinctly Arsenal flavor, adding spice to the fixture

Dinamo Zagreb v Chelsea

Perhaps the easiest game on paper for a British side on matchday one, Chelsea travel to the Croatian capital city to face Dinamo Zagreb, with deadline-day signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in line to make his debut up front.

New loan signing from Juventus, Denis Zakaria, has traveled with the side too – but it won’t be as easy as expected for Thomas Tuchel’s side, who have left veteran defender Thiago Silva at home as a precaution.

The hosts boast international goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic in net, former Cardiff man Kevin Theophile-Catherine in defense and Josip Drmic up front, plus, of course, Tottenham’s conqueror Mislav Orsic.

Orsic, the club’s No 99, scored a marvelous hat-trick as Zagreb overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit to beat Tottenham 3-2 in the Europa League round of 16 in March 2021. Chelsea have been given fair warning of this potential banana skin.

Elsewhere in the group, Milan will be hoping to rival Chelsea for the top spot. They kick off their campaign in Austria as they face Red Bull Salzburg.

Inter Milan v Bayern Munich

Two hugely historic sides face off first up in the Group of Death. For Viktoria Plzen, drawing Barcelona would be tough enough. But coming up against Inter Milan and Bayern Munich is as daunting a prospect as there is, even if the players are relishing the challenge.

The latter two sides clash after summers of upheaval. Simone Inzaghi’s side lost Ivan Perisic, Alexis Sanchez, Matias Vecino, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Ranocchia on free transfers.

However, they seem to have recruited smartly given their financial constraints, making Joaquin Correa’s loan permanent, bringing in Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Andre Onana on free transfers and loaning in Romelu Lukaku and Francesco Acerbi.

German giants Bayern, meanwhile, spent big on Matthijs de Ligt, Sadio Mane and Ryan Gravenberch, while selling star striker Robert Lewandowski to group opponents Barca and getting rid of several unwanted squad players.

It promises to be a titanic clash.

Bayern Munich know an early win against Inter Milan is important in the 'Group of Death'

Bayern Munich know an early win against Inter Milan is important in the ‘Group of Death’

Paris Saint-Germain v Juventus

The most eye-catching tussle from the opening round of fixtures is PSG v Juventus, arguably the most prestigious clubs in France and Italy going head-to-head at the Parc des Princes in Paris.

Christophe Galtier has made a fine start as PSG manager, with his side top of Ligue 1 after five wins and a draw from their opening six fixtures, including 24 goals scored and just four conceded.

More encouragingly, the no-nonsense head coach seems to have finally unlocked the attacking potential of ‘MNM’ front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe by using a back five and wing-backs.

Juve have not started as brightly – they are still unbeaten in the league but have drawn three of their opening five matches and lie in sixth.

Can Dusan Vlahovic and Co put their stuttering domestic form to one side and deliver an early dent in PSG’s hopes of finally getting their hands on that European crown? We’ll find out soon enough.

Can PSG's Christophe Galtier harness the power of his fearsome front three to beat Juventus?

Can PSG’s Christophe Galtier harness the power of his fearsome front three to beat Juventus?

Celtic v Real Madrid

What a European tie. Celtic, the 1967 European Cup winners, face by far and away the most successful club in the competition’s history.

Carlo Ancelotti’s reigning champions Real have won 14 titles – double their closest challengers, AC Milan – and are among the favorites to retain their crown given their European pedigree and experience.

But Celtic have an exciting style of play, a canny boss in Ange Postecoglou and have a history of shocking Spanish sides on the top European stage.

Just ask the Barcelona side in November 2012, who lost in Glasgow and still break into cold sweats when the names of Victor Wanyama and Tony Watt are mentioned.

The Hoops have forward Kyogo Furuhashi available again after leaving their resounding Old Firm victory in the opening stages with injury, but center back Carl Starfelt will miss out.

Best of the rest

Austrian side RB Salzburg will be hoping their young stars fire them to an unlikely home win against AC Milanwhile Shakhtar Donetsk travel to Germany to face RB Leipziga match which offers a very brief relief for fans from the reality of the dire situation back home in war-torn Ukraine.

Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt face a tough test against Ruben Amorim’s progressive Sporting Lisbon side, while Atletico against port will be a fiery clash. Bayer Leverkusen will want to put their woeful domestic form behind them when they travel to Club Bruges.

Other Champions League ties starting mid-week:

Borussia Dortmund (Germany) v FC Copenhagen (Denmark), Benfica (Portugal) v Maccabi Haifa (Israel), RB Salzburg (Austria) v AC Milan (Italy), RB Leipzig (Germany) v Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Eintracht Frankfurt ( Germany) v Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Barcelona (Spain) v Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic), Atletico Madrid (Spain) v Porto (Portugal), Club Brugge (Belgium) v Bayer Leverkusen (Germany).


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