The UEFA Champions League, European Soccer’s most prestigious tournament, has begun for the 2020/21 season. After last season’s restart in August, a majority of the games will be played behind closed doors, without fans in the stadium. However, teams located in countries that have allowed limited seating will be able to host fans, a step closer to returning back to full capacity.
Last season’s champions, German club Bayern Munich, set a record for most wins in a single campaign as they went on to win their 6th title in club history. They humiliated Spanish Giants Barcelona 8-2 in last season’s quarter finals. Bayern are favorites to repeat their success this season, as they have continued their unbeaten run.
Barcelona’s disastrous finish sparked rumors that star player Lionel Messi would leave the club, and a summer full of transfer rumors began. However, Messi decided to stay for at least one more season, as controversies surrounding his contract situation arose. However, this decision would prove to be desirable for every soccer fan, as Barcelona was placed in the same group as Juventus. Why is this so important? Well, Juventus is the team that Cristiano Ronaldo plays for, the player that Messi is compared to when it comes down to the greatest player of all time. Ronaldo and Messi haven’t faced off against each other since 2018, so this matchup is highly anticipated.
Real Madrid are Barcelona’s Spanish league rivals, as well as the most successful team in the history of the Champions League with 13 titles. However, they have struggled with the start of the group stage so far, after losing and drawing their first two matches. The team has shown once again that they have not been the same since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018. The poor start does not eliminate them from the tournament yet, but they have a lot of ground to make up.
English side Manchester United has been a surprise this season, as they were picked into the “group of death”, which is a nickname for the group with the strongest teams. Two of last season’s semi-finalists, Paris Saint Germain and RB Leipzig, were drawn into the group. However, Manchester United started off the campaign with two wins, both coming against Paris and Leipzig. United had missed out on last season’s competition due to poor results in the English Premier League, so this season they look to show their worth.
Liverpool, a rival of Manchester United, won the competition back in 2019. A strong start to the group stage with three consecutive wins looks enough for them to progress to the knockout stages, but a winning run looks unlikely. The squad is struggling with injuries to key players such as defender Virgil Van Dijk and Fabinho. Van Dijk tore his ACL and is out for the season, a huge blow as he is one of the best players in the world.
Marquee Matchups of the Group Stage
- Bayern Munich 4-0 Atletico Madrid; 10/21/20
- Paris Saint Germain 1-2 Manchester United; 10/20/20
- Borussia Monchengladbach 2-2 Real Madrid; 10/27/20
- Juventus 0-2 Barcelona; 10/28/20 (Ronaldo missed game: Covid-19)
- Manchester United 5-0 RB Leipzig; 10/28/20
- Real Madrid 3-2 Inter MIlan; 11/3/20
- Paris Saint Germain vs. RB Leipzig; 11/24/20 3:00pm
- Manchester United vs. Paris Saint Germain; 12/2/20 3:00pm
- Barcelona vs. Juventus; 12/8/20 3:00pm (Messi vs. Ronaldo)