Later this evening, the 57th installment of the UEFA Champions League kicks off all around Europe. The excitement, suspense and drama returns to the stadia and our homes. The first round of matches may notl decide which team of the 32 will make it to the next elimination round, but will definitely point fans in what directions the teams are headed. Here’s a quick preview of Match day 1:
Andre Villas –Boas begins the hunt for the Holy Grail that Abramovich desperately craves at home to Bayer Leverkusen. The young Portuguese has not completely impressed in his first few games in England, but Europe might just be the right turf for him. It is important to note that just last season, in his first season, he picked up three trophies with FC Porto and one of them included the Europa League. Who knows? He may just make the step up and win The UEFA Champions League this season.
PREDICTION: I see Chelsea picking up three points in this game.
The Spanish side start their campaign in Europe without Juan Mata who moved to Chelsea in the summer. His departure leaves them a bit short of creativity. But I expect the team to get a positive result as they travel to Belgium.
PREDICTION: I expect Valencia to get a positive result. The worst case scenario may be a draw.
The Gunners finally picked up their first win of their domestic campaign over the weekend, beating Swansea by a fortuitous Andrey Arshavin goal. Despite the nature of the win, Arsenal fans are eternally optimistic that their season just started. No doubt, the win will do a lot of good to their confidence that hit an all time low after the 8-2 defeat to Manchester United. On the other hand, Dortmund lost their Bundesliga game over the weekend and are in shaky form too. It promises to be an entertaining encounter. I think the Gunners will pick up a win or a draw at least, depending on how much they keep star man, Gotze quiet.
PREDICTION: A draw or an Arsenal win.
Playing away in Greece is not quite a simple and straightforward task. I have watched a few Champions League games that involved Greek sides in the past and the atmosphere was both hostile and noisy. Marseille travel there on the back of a decent run in the French League. If they are not overwhelmed by the crowd, they might just get a good result.
PREDICTION: A draw.
I don’t know much about Apoel Nicosia, but I believe Zenit St Petersburg will have too much experience and flair for them. I expect the Russian side to take full points from this away fixture.
PREDICTION: A win for Zenit.
This will be a very intriguing game of football. FC Porto are in the process of building a new team, after coach Villas-Boas and key striker, Rodamel Falcao left in the summer for England and Spain respectively. Shakhtar Donetsk boasts of relatively unknown Brazilians who are not short on skill and pace their compatriots are known for.
PREDICTION: FC Porto should be able to get a home win, but never to underrate the Russian team.
Let’s not even argue this – this is the game of tonight. Yes, AC Milan are not exactly the force they use to be at home and Europe anymore. But with Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Kevin Prince-Boateng, a much younger AC Milan stormed the Serie A title just last season. Having said so, I find it absolutely hard to bet against Barcelona. Despite the fact they threw away a two goal lead over the weekend, I cannot see anything but a win for pass masters from Catalonia.
PREDICTION: A win for Barcelona.
I expect BATE Borisov to win this game.