Preview: Man City begin Champions League title defense; Barcelona look for winning start

AP , Tuesday 19 Sep 2023

A look at what’s happening in European football on Tuesday:

Barcelona's Joao Felix celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during a Spanish La Liga football match between Barcelona and Betis at the Olympic Stadium of Montjuic in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. Photo: AP


Champions League
Lazio vs. Atletico Madrid (Group E)

Diego Simeone brings his Atletico to the Stadio Olimpico and Lazio, the club he won four trophies with as a player, including Serie A in 2000.

It’s the first time the teams have met since 2011-12, when Simeone had just taken charge of Atletico and led his team to home and away wins in the Europa League.

Atletico then went on to win the trophy that season. Lazio have had an up-and-down start to Serie A, with one win and three losses. But the win came in a visit to defending champion Napoli.

Feyenoord vs. Celtic (Group E)

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has set his team the target of still being in Europe after Christmas.

The Scottish team would want that to be in the Champions League, rather than the Europa League if Celtic finish third in Group E.

Looking at the Scottish champions rivals, however, they face a major challenge after being grouped with Atletico Madrid, Lazio and Feyenoord.

Celtic travel to Rotterdam to face Feyenoord on Tuesday aiming to end a 10-game winless streak in the group stages.

Paris Saint Germain vs. Borussia Dortmund (Group F)

After repeated failures, PSG have toned down its ambition to win the Champions League for the first time.

However, the French champions hope the revamping of their squad during the offseason will result in a more balanced team less focused on individuals.

PSG have retained its main attacking threat, Kylian Mbappe, who should lead the attack against Dortmund.

PSG will be without Marco Asensio and Presnel Kimpembe. Dortmund has been shaky in defense so far this season and has struggled to replace Jude Bellingham, who’s now starring for Real Madrid.

AC Milan vs. Newcastle (Group F)

Last season’s semifinalist Milan are hurting psychologically following a 5-1 loss to city rival Inter Milan in the Milan derby on Saturday.

Recently retired Rossoneri standout Zlatan Ibrahimovic showed up at the team’s Milanello training center on Monday to raise the team’s spirits.

Midfielder Sandro Tonali recently transferred from Milan to Newcastle and will now face his former club.

Manchester City vs. Red Star Belgrade (Group G)

Manchester City begin their defense of the title when they host Red Star Belgrade. Pep Guardiola led the Abu Dhabi-backed club to their first European Cup last season as part of a treble of trophies.

History is against City as they try to retain the title. Real Madrid are the only club during the Champions League era to win it back-to-back. Madrid won it three times in a row from 2016-2018.

Young Boys vs. Leipzig (Group G)

Leipzig are coming into form just in time for the Champions League, where they will expect to make a winning start at Swiss team Young Boys in Bern.

Marco Rose’s team recovered from their Bundesliga-opening loss to Bayer Leverkusen with three straight wins and 20-year-old Dutch forward Xavi Simons has quickly emerged as the team’s new star.

Xavi has scored in each of his last three games and set up four goals.

Barcelona vs. Antwerp (Group H)

After two consecutive group-stage exists, Barcelona begin this year’s campaign boosted by four straight victories in the Spanish league, when they scored 13 goals in total.

New signings Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo both scored in the team’s 5-0 rout of Real Betis on Saturday, and coach Xavi showed confidence that the two Portuguese internationals will make the team more competitive heading into the Champions League this season.

Antwerp defeated Greek club AEK Athens in a playoff to reach the group stage for the first time.

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Porto (Group H)

Ukrainian champion Shakhtar are playing their home games in Hamburg, Germany, this season because of the Russian invasion of their home country.

Shakhtar have fewer foreign players and a greater emphasis on local talent than they used to, but can still hold their own in the Champions League, as shown by a win over Leipzig and a draw with Real Madrid last year.

Porto are unbeaten in five Portuguese league games since losing the season-opening Super Cup to Benfica.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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