The glitz and glamour of the UEFA Champions League return tomorrow and so do the rivalries. The 2021/22 UEFA Champions League season kicks off on September 14th with Matchday 1 of the group stages taking centre stage. Chelsea is the defending champions and they will start their quest to retain the title with a home match against Zenit Saint Petersburg on Tuesday. Last season's beaten finalists, Manchester City, tops the list of challengers alongside recent Champions Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Real Madrid. We'll look at the 4 of the biggest clashes on Matchday 1 of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League.
FC Barcelona Vs Bayern Munich - Tuesday 14th September - Camp Nou
Ronald Koeman's weakened Barcelona side will welcome the never-relentless Bayern Munich to the Camp Nou on Tuesday. Barcelona will be without Lionel Messi in a UCL campaign for the first time in 18 years. Also, World-Cup winning forward, Antoine Griezmann has returned to Atletico Madrid. Ousmane Dembele is out injured, same as Sergio Aguero.
This leaves Sergio Busquets, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong and Phillipe Coutinho to lead the charge for Barcelona against the Bavarians. The last time both teams met, Barcelona suffered an ignominious 8-2 defeat to exit the quarter-finals of the 2019/20 edition. Ronald Koeman will be hoping to avoid that fate.
Inter Milan Vs Real Madrid - Wednesday 15th September - San Siro
Reigning Italian champions, Inter Milan will welcome the record-holders, Real Madrid to the San Siro for the first instalment of their group stage clash. Despite the departure of Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and Antonio Conte, the Nerazzurri have had an impressive start to life in Serie A. They will be hoping to avoid elimination from the group stages as they did the last season.
Real Madrid's new coach, Carlo Ancelotti is a veteran of the UEFA Champions League, leading the Los Blancos to the historic La Decima (10th UEFA Champions League crown) in 2014. Ancelotti will try to motivate an underachieving Madrid squad to replicate the 2014 victory. An away win against Inter Milan will certainly galvanise a squad short on confidence.
Liverpool Vs AC Milan - Wednesday 15th September - Anfield Stadium
One of the standout Matchday 1 fixtures of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League group stage is the face-off between Liverpool and AC Milan. The Italian side is back amongst the big boys after a long absence. Led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Olivier Giroud and Theo Hernandes, the Rossoneri will strive to make a big splash in this season's competition.
Their task would not be easy though as they have been drawn in the hardest group alongside Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and FC Porto. An away trip to 2019 Champions, Liverpool is probably not the easiest way to start your season. However, a point or an unlikely win against Jurgen Klopp's boys will give them the belief they can go far in the competition.
Manchester City Vs RB Leipzig - Wednesday 15th September - Etihad Stadium
Another season, another opportunity for Pep Guardiola to deliver the much-coveted UEFA Champions League trophy to the Saudi owners of Manchester City. Getting to touching distance of the trophy last season would have made the City players believe that it can be done, and soon. They will kick start that journey on Wednesday as they host the German side, RB Leipzig.
Aided by the signing of Jack Grealish from Aston Villa and the presence of all the stars from last season's final appearance at the UEFA Champions League, Pep Guardiola will be optimistic that this year is the year. However, he'll have cleverly manoeuvre two games against Paris Saint-Germain to ensure that his team finishes top of Group A.