Champions League: The key questions as 2019-20 campaign gets under way

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By Emlyn Begley
BBC Sport
Can an unwanted win the Champions League again? What shape are their La Liga rivals in? Could Ajax replicate last season’s heroics?
European football competition returns this week with some fittings worthy of their knockout stages.
On Tuesday, holders Liverpool go to Napoli, Chelsea welcome Valencia and Borussia Dortmund host Barcelona, while on Wednesday, Juventus travel to Atletico Madrid and Paris St-Germain host Real Madrid.
BBC Radio 5 Live will have opinion of Napoli v Liverpool Olympiakos v Tottenham along with Shakhtar Donestk v Manchester City on Wednesday.
Two of those three championships to win this season’s championship are Language – holders Liverpool and Premier League winners Manchester City.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are hoping to do since the competition had been rebranded as the Champions League in 1992, what 1 team have managed – retain the trophy.
Real Madrid’s’three-peat‘ – if they won in 2018 and 2016, 2017 – had been the first time that the team had won European allies since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990.
Consistency could be the key. Real named 13 starters . Premier League leaders Liverpool still have 10 of their starting XI in the 2018 last defeat by Actual, using only goalkeeper Loris Karius with defected, and might conceivably name last season’s closing line-up on a regular basis this year.
Manchester City are the bookmakers‘ favourites.
They seem in terrific shape (albeit perhaps slightly less after Saturday’s shock defeat by Norwich – just their second loss since January). Pep Guardiola’s side won the brush of English decorations every year, and have picked up 198 points in their past two complete Premier League seasons.
While celebrity midfielder Kevin de Bruyne has returned following an injury-hit season they have added with Rodri and Joao Cancelo.
Add to this the fact Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero are scoring a goal a game or even more this year and they definitely have a huge prospect of lifting the trophy in Istanbul on 30 May 2020.
„If you talk to high Spanish clubs, leading Italian clubs, top French clubs, they’re all fairly unanimous that English clubs will be those to fear from the Champions League,“ football journalist James Horncastle mentioned on last week’s BBC Radio 5 Live Football Daily.
Tottenham will be hoping to go one better than last year, when they lost to Liverpool in the last.
They reached that point despite having signed up a player all year and dropping striker Harry Kane to injury for crucial games.
Spurs have strengthened since then, but they have had an beginning with just two wins from five Premier League games, to this campaign.
Frank Lampard will soon function as a Champions League director for the very first time as a young Chelsea yield to Europe’s top table after a year off, during which time they won the Europa League.
Lampard, a 2012 European champion as a Blues player, substituted Maurizio Sarri this summer as well as together with the club under a transfer embargo, has looked to childhood. All 11 of their Premier League goals this year have been scored by English kids who were on loan in the Championship last year – Tammy Abraham, who had been at Aston Villa, and Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, that had been with Lampard in Derby.
Barcelona are the favorites to win the tournament, but the Spanish champions‘ past two European names were 2015 and 2011.
Both of Ernesto Valverde’s seasons in charge have finished with a Champions League implosion following a three-goal win – against Roma at the 2018 quarter-finals then against Liverpool at the semi-finals earlier this season.
He’s freshened things up, together with the arrival of forwards Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid along with midfielder Frenkie de Jong from Ajax, in addition to the emergence of wonderkid Ansu Fati. Superstar Lionel Messi is yet to play with this year after injury, but he is in the squad for their opening match against Borussia Dortmund.
„He’s 32 and for the first time ever I have begun hearing stories of individuals close to Messi stating:’How about if he’s just got two years in Barcelona,'“ Spanish author Guillem Balague explained. „I went to panic… only two years of Messi?
„We have not seen the top of Barcelona however this season. It’s been a poor start but there is still time to get that fixed.“
Barcelona rivals Real Madrid do not seem in the very best of shape so far. Zinedine Zidane is looking to win the Champions League for a fourth time as Actual manager – he resigned last summer after three in a row but came back in Marchand after their European departure.
His reconstruct of the club has so far not materialised as intended. They spent over #200m on five players that summer, however Zidane had hoped for much more – like midfielder Paul Pogba from Manchester United – and he was unable to move on some players he didn’t desire, such as forward Gareth Bale.
In fact, none of the new signings began in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Levante, though Eden Hazard arrived off the bench because of his debut.
„It must be a must-win month,“ said Balague. „If things don’t go well in September we may be seeing a new coach, certainly by Christmas.
„It’s not just about results. Things have worked as Zidane expected, and things are not functioning the way [president] Florentino Perez anticipated.
„There was going to be revolution, Zidane explained that himself . We have observed the very same players. Out of all of the new onesEden Hazard will go into the line-up. Everybody else will be on the seat.“
Plenty of observers are fascinated to understand how the Atletico Madrid get with this season.
Diego Simeone recouped more in charges and spent 200m this summertime. Among the players to come in were Benfica forward Joao Felix (more on him later), Tottenham right-back Kieran Trippier, Real Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente and Espanyol defender Mario Hermoso.
Three of the famous back four left free transfers – Diego Godin, Filipe Luis and Juanfran – also Griezmann into Barca, Rodri to Manchester City and Lucas Hernandez into Bayern Munich.
It’s a decade since Atletico, who have never won the Champions League, have been eliminated in the knockout phases to a team not for example Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s in this year’s group stages together. City rivals Real beat against them in four years, including two finals. And this past year Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as a 2-0 deficit overturned in the past 16. That was a huge second.
Balague said:“It had a bearing on the future and current of Atletico. For Simeone, this was affirmation the team needed to eliminate players like Godin and Juanfran. Now he’s got an exciting, very versatile team.“
Valencia, who play Chelsea at the opening game, seem to be going via a now-traditional self-destruction. As things were looking good, they reluctantly the director who got them to the Champions League and led them to the Copa del Rey last year – substituting Marcelino with Albert Celades final week.
There are 3 other teams expected to compete for the trophy, all perennial champions of their nations – Juventus (eight Italian names in a row), Bayern Munich (seven successive German names ) and Paris St-Germain (half the past seven French leagues).
Juventus – whose past Champions League title came from 1996 – have added youth and dynamism for their squad, together with #67.5m Netherlands centre-back Matthijs de Ligt the very notable recruit. That signing was particularly significant, after the reduction of captain Giorgio Chiellini into some long-term knee injury.
Three complimentary transfers arrived in – Arsenal and Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey, Paris St-Germain and France midfielder Adrien Rabiot along with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, a Juventus legend who only left a year ago to PSG. And of course they will have the greatest goalscorer at Ronaldo of the Champions League.
Their team is so big that midfielder Emre Can and forwards Mario Mandzukic happen to be left from their 22-man Champions League selection.
Horncastle said:“Sarri reported the group was too big in the summer. He explained:’We’ve six players many and we must market players.‘ They were unable to. This is really on the bar – not Sarri. They went at the onset of the transfer window and couldn’t sell Paulo Dybala or even Mandzukic. It has been a real problems for them.“
Bayern Munich, who sponsor Red Star Belgrade on Wednesday, move into a year without Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery on the wings (or at the treatment room) for first time in a couple of years. For a little while it seemed as if they wouldn’t sign replacements, however, Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic have boosted their choices.
French Globe Cup-winning full-backs Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard were their additional two big-money signings, but the expected overhaul did not quite materialise.
Where to Begin using Paris St-Germain? Is this the season they eventually get their act together? That’s what people are wondering for approximately seven decades.
The French giants look no closer to achieving their owners‘ purpose of being crowned European champions and also appear to be going backwards. They’ve gone out in the last 16 for the previous 3 years, having reached four successive quarter-finals prior to that.
They are without Neymar, who failed to have a move to Barcelona this summer, for half of the group stage because of a ban following his reaction to the last season’s collapse against Manchester United. He was booed relentlessly to the group at the weekend on his return.
But they’ve added forward Mauro Icardi for their frontline this summer, in addition to eventually investing in holding midfielders – Ander Herrera and Idrissa Gueye.
Both top scorers in Champions League history, Juventus ahead Cristiano Ronaldo (126) along with Barcelona captain Lionel Messi (112), go without mentioning every year in the listing of potential stars. The couple shared, or have won, that the Golden Boot at each of the previous 12 seasons.
Elsewhere, this might be a major season for Atletico Madrid’s new signing Joao Felix. They signed the 19-year-old from Benfica for #113m plus he’s shown some real traces of quality in pre-season and the opening weeks.
The Portuguese just made his professional debut last August, became the youngest hat-trick scorer in the Europa League and play with 15 league goals since Benfica won the domestic title.
He was the replacement for Griezmann of Atletico, prior to the Frenchman left for Barcelona, even though signing.
Neymar needs his standing to be boosted by a major time from the Champions League and possibly win the PSG supporters back. Both of the previous seasons at Paris have finished through injury, if he does not have it and he’s in danger of becoming a flat-track bully reputation in France.
PSG team-mate and Real Madrid goal Kylian Mbappe may have a huge season before him. If press reports are to be considered, it might be the French World Cup winner’s final season at his hometown team. The 20-year-old scored 33 goals in 29 Ligue 1 matches last season, but has managed only one Champions League match target for the club.
Elsewhere, Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling’s kind this year makes him look a genuine candidate to be one of the greatest players in the tournament of this season. Boss Guardiola says that he is capable of attaining Messi or Ronaldo degree.
Ajax’s heartbreaking last-second semi-final overcome by Tottenham felt like the ending of an era. Contrary to the highs of PSG or Barcelona in the past, it never seemed like that side were likely to have a chance to go again the next season.
Similar to Monaco’s Ligue 1 title-winning team at 2017, Ajax’s staff was destined to be gutted by the big-spending elite of Europe.
De Jong’s transfer to Barcelona during the summer had already been declared, and ruler De Ligt – who ended up joining Juventus – was likely to depart practically every rich club curious.
These two were key to Ajax’s achievement. But there was maybe not the enormous exodus people anticipated, together with the movement to Nice the sole additional selling of 10m or more of Denmark forwards Kasper Dolberg.
Winger Hakim Ziyech looked set to depart, but has instead extended his deal, and midfielder Donny van Beek, allegedly a Madrid goal, has stayed with the club. Dusan Tadic – an unlikely star of last year’s surprise – has stayed put.
The champions, who needed to come through qualifying rounds seem as though they might have functioned with Sevilla winger Quincy Promes their main transfer.
They are unbeaten in two Eredivisie and Champions League qualifiers this season, and sponsor Lille on Tuesday.
If there is to be a surprise package this year, Group G seems a source. This summer RB Lyon, Benfica, Leipzig and Zenit St Petersburg, who signed Barcelona winger Malcom, all have fascinating players in their group.
Since they were formed in 2009 by an energy beverages firm RB Leipzig, that are at Benfica on Tuesday, are not going to appeal to the romantics such as Ajax. However they have a chance of a good run this year.
They have among the world’s most exciting young managers in Julian Nagelsmann, who already has three and a half years of managerial experience with Hoffenheim despite only being 32.
Leipzig have potential celebrity Timo Werner up front, and future France centre-back Dayot Upamecano in defence. And they signed two players – lasting target Ademola Lookman on a deal from Ethan and Everton Ampadu from Chelsea on loan. They went for forward Patrik Schick to Roma and brought in midfielder Christopher Nkunku out of PSG.
They are after drawing the unbeaten Bundesliga leaders.
Benfica have recruited after losing Felix using striker Raul p Tomas joining following two seasons on loan at Rayo Vallecano from Real Madrid.
But, Lyon might be poorer with Tanguy Ndombele joining Spurs, Ferland Mendy visiting ruler Nabil Fekir and Real Madrid leaving for Real Betis.
Elsewhere, Atalanta – at a group together with Manchester City, Wednesday’s opponents Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk, might be a team to keep a watch out for.
Because this is their Champions League debut, They’re seeded bottom, however they finished third in Serie A last year – over AC Milan Inter Milan and Roma.
{Gian Piero Gasperini’s side|Th

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