Champions League Tips – 14th & 15th September
I always feel the football season kicks into another gear when the major European competitions get underway at the group stages and this season, we have the first set of those games across the major competitions in Europe occurring this week.
This year’s Champions League is up first on Tuesday and Wednesday night and it looks like being an incredibly exciting year with perhaps the strongest line up of teams in many years.
PSG have been magically avoiding financial fair play rules and signing up a huge amount of talent in an attempt to win this tournament this year, so they will likely start as the favourites along with Manchester City – and they have been drawn in the same group to make matters even more interesting.
Chelsea and Manchester United look to have had favourable draws in the Group Stage, but Liverpool have a tough set of games to come against AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and FC Porto. Between them, these teams have won 15 Champions League titles, while Atletico have finished runners up in the tournament more times than any other team without winning it (three).
There’s some intriguing games coming up over the next few months so I’ll be focusing on these huge clashes between the top European sides alongside the British sides in the tournament in the main.
Champions League Tips: Tuesday 14th September
These two giants have played some incredible matches between them, not least the last time they met when Bayern ran out incredible 8-2 winners a couple of years ago. Now they meet in the group stage and while there is not the sense of jeopardy as there is in the knockout phase, this is still a huge game in the context of who wins the group.
Barcelona have home advantage and they have started the season relatively well despite all their off-the-field issues. However, there is no doubting that this team is nowhere near the standard of past Barcelona teams and I think that is a worry against Bayern.
The Germans have been one of the most dominant forces in European football over the last couple of years and they have started the season very well. Their last three games have seen them win 12-0, 5-0 and 4-1, the last win a 4-1 away win against title rivals Red Bull Leipzig.
Barcelona are normally bankers at home, but not against this Bayern side and in fact, while I think both teams will score, my money is on the Germans taking the victory here.
FIFA’s decision to ban certain players due to not being made available for international fixtures means both teams would have been without some key names for this game. However, a U-turn by organisations after talks between the organisations seems to have freed up the players to play.
Zenit have started well in the Russian Premier League and top the table after seven games, but they will be missing two key players and their form in Europe over the last few seasons hasn’t been particularly good.
Thomas Tuchel’s team will be keen to not only win this game, but also to win the group to give themselves a potentially easier draw in the knockout phase and I can’t see any reasons why they would not land the win here.
Zenit are solid defensively, but I think Chelsea will open them up on a couple of occasions and I can see Romelu Lukaku being the key man here to earn Chelsea a 2-0 win.
UCL Tips: Wednesday 15th September
The three big guns in this group will be familiar to each other after being in the same group last season too. Real did the double over Inter Milan in both their games at this stage of the competition, but I think there may be a different outcome this time around.
Having failed in their bid to land Kylian Mbappe from Paris St Germain, Real Madrid have the nucleus of the team that were knocked out by Manchester City in the quarterfinals last season. David Alaba has been added in defence and Eduoard Camavinga in midfield, but other than that this is a largely unchanged squad.
Eden Hazard has started this season well for Real and Karim Benzema remains a serious threat in front of goal, but I feel they are going to be hard pushed to get something against Inter Milan. The Italians have lost Romelu Lukaku but have Edin Dzeko as a replacement and they have started the Serie A season well.
This is probably the trickiest game of the four I am tipping this week to call. It’s hard to back against Real Madrid in any game, especially the Champions League, but I do feel this Inter team is very strong defensively and has enough to score a couple going the other way.
Real will score, but I think it will be Inter celebrating the win.
Liverpool fans will know that two of their most pivotal games have come against AC Milan. There was the night in Istanbul that is written in Anfield history when the Reds came from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 and win the game on penalties.
But a couple of years later, Filippo Inzaghi put the Reds to the sword as he scored two goals in Milan’s 2-1 win to claim the victory. It is strange to think that these are the only two games that these two giants of European football, with 13 Champions League wins between them, have played.
Both have started their season’s pretty strongly and with this group also having Atletico Madrid and FC Porto in it, both will know that any defeat, especially for the home team, could be very damaging in the context of the group.
That said, Liverpool have looked back to something like their best in recent times, so I am going for them to land the win here.
*Tips are exactly that tips (predictions) and do not guarantee success.