Femi Solaja with agency report
Fresh from contrasting fortunes in their respective domestic scenes, Europe’s elite competition, the UEFA Champions League group stage gets underway this evening with interesting matches across major football grounds today and tomorrow in Europe.
Interestingly when the journey begins tonight, it is the beginning of a rough path for all the clubs en-route the final match in May next year in Madrid, a city which has dominated the competition in the recent years following the success of the defending champion, Real Madrid with four wins out of five consecutive tournaments since 2014!
Last season’s losing finalist, Liverpool FC will hope to consolidate on the 2-1 away win at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend with at crunch home tie against French league champions, Saint Paris Germaine at their Anfield fortress where they hammered all visiting teams all the way to the Kiev final match last May.
Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp, said yesterday that striker Roberto Firmino’s eye injury in the league clash against Spurs is not as serious as feared but it is likely the striker will not be available against visiting Paris club.
The Brazilian had to be substituted in the second half of his side’s 2-1 win on Saturday after clashing with the hand of opposition defender Jan Vertonghen.
“We all saw the picture and we were massively worried. But all these worries are away so he will be fine. (But) if he will be fine for tomorrow, I don’t know in the moment,” Klopp said yesterday ahead of the match.
“We are obviously in close contact with him and it improved already – but in this moment I can’t say if he will be available for (Tuesday),” he added.
Should Firmino be unable to take his place at centre forward, then Daniel Sturridge is the most likely to take his spot.
In the other group matches, FK Crvena Zvezda will host FC Napoli while in Group B, Inter Milan and English Premiership side, Spurs will aim for recovery from their respective home loss in domestic scenes with a mouth watering clash at the San Siro ground in Milan.
It’s a tricky tie in which neither of the two sides can step on banana peel because group favourite, FC Barcelona has less to worry for as the Catalan club host PSV Eindhoven at the Nou Camp ground same time this evening.
In Group A, Club Brugge will welcome Borussia Dortmund just as Monaco FC also play host to Spanish side, Atletico FC who are facing rough time so far in the domestic league.
While in Group D, Turkish champions, Galatasaray will host Lokomotiv Moscow just as Schalke O4 welcomes former European champions, FC Porto in the last round fixture of the night.
However, the major highlight of Wednesday’s matches will focus more on Cristiano Ronaldo who is fresh from scoring his first goals for his new club, Juventus but will make an eagerly-awaited return to Spain when the Italian champions play Valencia FC.
Attention will be on the Portuguese forward, the all-time top scorer in Europe’s elite competition and a five-time winner of the trophy, when he makes his first public appearance in Spain since ending a trophy-filled nine-year stay at Real in July.
Ronaldo’s last act for Real was lifting the Champions League trophy in Kiev after beating Liverpool 3-1 in the final before he dropped the bombshell in a pitch-side interview that he had decided to leave Madrid.
Ronaldo can expect a hostile reception in Valencia, who had to suffer 15 of his goals for Real and are returning to the Champions League for the first time in three years, hoping to improve on their miserable start to the La Liga campaign.
Ronaldo, who plundered a staggering 451 goals in 438 games for Real, made a slow start by his usual standards to life at Juventus by failing to score in his first three games but broke his duck with two strikes in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Sassuolo.
“I really wanted to score these first goals and I’m happy to have found the net,” Ronaldo told reporters.
Club Brugge Vs Dortmund 8:00 Pm
Monaco Vs Atletico 8:00 Pm
Zvezda Vs Napoli 8: 00 Pm
Liverpool Vs PSG 8:00 Pm
Galatasaray Vs Lokomotiv 8:00 Pm
Schalke Vs Porto 8:00 Pm
Barcelona Vs PSV 5:55 Pm
Inter Vs Tottenham 5:55 Pm