With the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League beginning on Tuesday, anticipation around the globe is building as soccer’s elite club competition is ready for kick off.
It’s hard (really hard) to single out any particular games to look out for, between now and December 11 when the group stages end.
But I’ve had a go.
So here’s five UCL games that will get the juices flowing, as European giants clash across the continent between now and December. Roll on Tuesday as the famous Champions League pregame anthem will return to our ears in all its mighty splendor.
Napoli vs. Borussia Dortmund – September 18
By far the most intriguing game on matchday one, Rafael Benitez’ new-look Napoli take on last years runners-up Dortmund at a fired up Stadio Sao Paulo. Will BVB start off with a win in Italy? Or can Rafa’s revolution, spearheaded by Gonzalo Higuain, give the Serie A side a perfect start? Make sure you watch this for an incredible atmosphere between two of Europe’s most intriguing teams.
Real Madrid vs. Juventus – October 23
Two former winners of the Champions League square off at the Santiago Bernabeu as Real host Juve in a massive clash. Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo against Carlos Tevez. Who will prevail? Antonio Conte has done a superb job in Turin since taking over and the reigning Italian champions will push Real Madrid’s Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti, and his team, all the way.
AC Milan vs. Barcelona – November 6
They met again. After playing each other in the last three seasons of Champions League play, Barca and Milan are familiar foes on Europe’s biggest stage. But this won’t be a friendly encounter as the Milanese crank up the volume at a packed-out San Siro. Kaka, Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy will cause Messi and co. plenty of problems… Will Milan rule Barcelona? Worth nothing, Milan have won the UCL title seven times, Barca have won four. Talk about pedigree…
Borussia Dortmund vs. Arsenal – November 6
Another massive game for German side Borussia as they take on Arsenal in the dreaded “Group of Death.” One daunting aspect for the Gunners will be the Westfalenstadion and the incredible tifos and colorful support the German side gets at home. Can German born Mesut Ozil lead Arsenal to victory over Robert Lewandowski and Dortmund’s other stars? This match will go a long way to deciding who qualifies from Group F. Expect another great atmosphere in a thunderous match between the English and German sides.
Benfica vs. Paris Saint-Germain – December 10
Despite not winning the Champions League trophy for many years, both of these sides have tremendous amounts of talent at their disposal and PSG will be hoping to take the UCL by storm. Last year they were knocked out by Barcelona at the quarterfinal stage but with the additions of Edinson Cavani and Marquinhos over the summer, Laurent Blanc’s men have added real quality. Can Oscar Cardozo lead the Lisbon side to the knockout stages with his bustling forward display? It will likely come down to this game on the final matchday.