Champions League Wednesday preview: AC back and Inter in Real trouble
The Champions League returned with a bang on Tuesday and there should be more of the same tonight.
An eye-catching clash between Liverpool and AC Milan as well as Inter Milan's showdown with Real Madrid headline Wednesday's slate of eight fixtures.
Club Brugge vs Paris Saint-Germain (8pm, BT Sport ESPN)
Revenge will be on the cards for Club Brugge when they welcome star-studded Paris Saint-Germain to the Jan Breydel Stadium.
PSG’s last trip to Brugge in the 2019-20 group stage saw them win 5-0 — the hosts’ heaviest home defeat in European competition in their history.
And with three of the six players with more than 30 goal involvements in the Champions League since the start of the 2017-18 season — Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi — involved, it could be beaten tonight.
Brugge will take heart from the fact they won their opening game in last season’s competition at Zenit Saint Petersburg 2-1, their first Matchday 1 victory in six attempts.
If they are to cause an upset, they will be looking for hotshot Hans Vanaken to come good after he scored four goals in his past seven European appearances.
Manchester City vs RB Leipzig (8pm, BT Sport 3)
Pep Guardiola will be hoping for more serene progress through the group stage for Manchester City, starting with victory over RB Leipzig.
The hosts' last defeat before the knockout rounds came in September 2018 to Lyon and they have only lost three of Guardiola’s 30 group stage games in charge.
City will want to quickly put last season’s final defeat behind them and face a Leipzig side who lost 5-0 at Manchester United and 2-0 at Liverpool last term.
Those defeats in England came while City were dominating Bundesliga opposition, winning both games against Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach last campaign.
Though much has been made of City’s failure to sign Harry Kane, Spaniard Ferran Torres has stepped up to the plate in this competition since moving to the Etihad — scoring four goals in six appearances.
Atletico Madrid vs Porto (8pm, BT Sport Extra 3)
Atletico Madrid and Porto renew acquaintances for the first time in eight years in Group B.
Atleti won both meetings back in Diego Simeone’s first Champions League campaign in charge and only Guardiola has more than the Argentine’s 41 wins as boss in that time.
In Jan Oblak they have an immovable object between the sticks too — his 28 clean sheets since his first appearance in 2014 are more than any other goalkeeper.
But Porto are a force in their own right and have won four of the past five away games in the group stage.
Sergio Oliviera netted five goals in Europe’s premier competition in 2020-21 — the most by a midfielder since Steven Gerrard managed seven in the 2008-09 season.
Liverpool vs AC Milan (8pm, BT Sport 2)
For the first time outside of a Champions League final, Liverpool and AC Milan meet in a competitive fixture.
The 2005 showpiece, when the Reds famously came from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 and win on penalties, and the 2007 showdown, where AC gained revenge with a 2-1 victory, are surprisingly the only previous meetings.
Despite a 2-0 defeat to Atalanta last season and a 1-1 draw with Napoli 12 months earlier, Jurgen Klopp will be hopeful of downing Serie A opponents this time.
Only Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi have scored more goals in this competition than Mohamed Salah since he joined Liverpool in 2017.
And Milan are without talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the Italian giants embark on their first Champions League campaign since the 2013-14 season.
Besiktas vs Borussia Dortmund (5.45pm, BT Sport 1)
Borussia Dortmund will face a hostile welcome at Besiktas as they look to maintain a 100% record against Turkish opponents.
BVB have won all four of their matches against Super Lig teams in the Champions League and won four and drew one of their five group games after defeat to Lazio in Matchday 1 last season.
In Erling Haaland they have a striker with the best minutes per goal ratio of any player to have played 500+ minutes in this competition — the Norwegian averages a strike every 63 minutes.
And the omens are not good for Besiktas, who have lost eight of their 11 meetings with German sides in Europe.
Their only home victory in their past 10 Champions League home games did come against Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig back in 2017, however.
Sporting vs Ajax (8pm, BT Sport Extra 4)
A fast start is vital for both Sporting and Ajax as they look to make the most of a kind group draw in this year’s tournament.
It is the Portuguese outfit's first Champions League campaign for four seasons after they ended their 19-year wait for a Primeira Liga title last season.
And their record at the Estadio Jose Alvalade is fearsome, with nine wins from the previous 13 home games in European competitions.
Ajax are looking to progress to the knockout stages for the first time since they unexpectedly reached the semi-finals in the 2018-19 season.
Only Mbappe (12) has assisted more goals from open play than Ajax’s Dusan Tadic (10) since the start of that campaign, despite their struggles in the past two seasons.
Sheriff Tiraspol vs Shakhtar Donetsk (5.45pm, BT Sport ESPN)
Sheriff Tiraspol will make history as they become the first Moldovan team to play in the Champions League when Shakhtar Donetsk visit tonight.
Moldova champions Tiraspol came through four rounds of qualifying to reach the group stage, picking up an impressive 3-0 victory on aggregate over Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb in the final round.
And the only other time they hosted Champions League regulars Shakthar was back in 2003, when they picked up a 0-0 draw before losing the away leg as they tried to qualify for this tournament.
The Ukrainians will hope to cause more upsets in a group containing European giants Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
They have only lost three of their last 11 Champions League games, beating Real twice last season and drawing both games with Inter.
Inter Milan vs Real Madrid (8pm, BT Sport Extra 3)
Serie A champions Inter Milan welcome Real Madrid to the San Siro hoping to avoid another fourth-placed finish in the group stage.
Real did the double over Inter last term as then boss Antonio Conte’s side crashed out of a group also containing Shakthar and Borussia Monchengladbach.
Qualifying should be an easier task this season even without Conte and star striker Romelu Lukaku, though the Spaniards have won four of their past five games against Inter.
Carlo Ancelotti was in charge when Real won La Decima back in 2014 and 76% win rate is the best of any manager to have taken charge of more than 20 games at a club.
French striker Karim Benzema will look to score in his 17th consecutive Champions League campaign, knowing one more goal would move him above Raul into fourth place on the all-time scorers' list with 72.