The anticipation is over, this night the Champions League lastly returns to our screens.
The best membership competitors on the planet by no means fails to ship and this season’s instalment guarantees to be one other fascinating and compelling battle for glory.
Here, Sportsmail columnist DANNY MURPHY picks out his contenders, names his dream Champions League XI and solutions all the important thing questions in his particular information to the event.
Chelsea will kick off the defence of their Champions League crown when it returns tonight
IS PREMIER LEAGUE DOMINATION SET TO CONTINUE?
We’ve had two all-English finals in three years and all our golf equipment Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United will fancy themselves to go all the way in which. It’ll be robust as a result of PSG and Bayern Munich specifically look sturdy however it would not shock me if we had three semi-finalists.
It’s an enormous shift as a result of a number of years in the past we have been asking why Premier League golf equipment weren’t doing higher. But soccer is cyclical and now the Spanish giants are struggling financially and Italian groups are struggling.
The Premier League groups are nonetheless the strongest in Europe and Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea can be sturdy contenders to win the Champions League
WHO IS GOING TO BE MORE SUCCESSFUL IN THIS COMPETITION WITH NEW CLUBS, MESSI OR RONALDO
I’d agree with the bulk who’d go for Messi as a result of PSG have invested massively in successful the Champions League. They’ve already come shut and now they’ve introduced in Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and the world’s greatest participant to recover from the road.
If United are to surpass PSG, it will imply a unbelievable season. Ronaldo will assume he can do it however I’m not so certain. United have been nowhere close to it since Fergie’s day.
Lionel Messi will go additional than Cristiano Ronaldo will on this season’s Champions League
ARE BARCELONA AND REAL MADRID STILL THE GLAMOUR TEAMS
Unfortunately, they’re a good distance away from what they have been and that has an impact on how they’re perceived, regardless of historical past. Barcelon haven’t solely misplaced Messi and Griezmann, they’ve let good younger gamers be a part of golf equipment like Spurs and Leeds to boost cash. Real Madrid aren’t in that nice form both.
Some of the glamour has gone for now. You’ll see fewer children sporting Barca shirts and folks like me are much less more likely to flick on the tv to observe them play. In distinction, cash isn’t any object for PSG, Manchester City have signed Jack Grealish for £100million, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid have higher gamers. The turnaround has been excessive and do not anticipate Barca or Real to be within the latter levels.
WHICH NO 9 WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE PLAYED WITH: LUKAKU, RONALDO, LEWANDOWSKI, BENZEMA OR HAALAND?
To inform the grandchildren about, Ronaldo. From my footballing perspective, Karim Benzema. I’m not saying he is higher than the others on the listing however for a midfielder it is pleasant to have a ahead with the notice to drop deep, hyperlink play and change passes. I liked taking part in with Litmanen, Gudjohnsen and Robbie Keane who had eyes at the back of their head.
You’d select Ronaldo for various causes. He’ll go down in historical past as one of many best ever and there could be massive bragging rights to say you knew him, and performed with him.
As good as Ronaldo is, Karim Benzema’s a midfielder’s dream and I’d’ve liked to have performed with him
HOW WILL HARRY KANE BE FEELING WHEN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE BEGINS
He’ll say the fitting issues and I’m certain he’s mentally sturdy sufficient to focus on Europa Conference however privately I believe this would be the hardest a part of not getting his transfer to Manchester City. My recommendation could be to not flip the telly on as a result of it’ll harm. The frustration can be immense.
I struggled after I left Liverpool in 2004 and watched their run to win the Champions League. I did comply with the video games as a result of I supported the membership and had mate within the crew however there was a particular feeling of “I ought to be there”. For Kane, will probably be 100 instances worse as a result of he is aware of he has the flexibility to play for any aspect on the planet.
Watching the Champions League will harm Harry Kane and if I used to be him I would not flip on the TV
PREMIER LEAGUE OR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, WHICH ONE WOULD THE MANAGERS CHASING BOTH PREFER TO WIN?
It’s a simple one for Thomas Tuchel. He’s simply received the Champions League so he’d love the Premier League now, it’s human nature to attempt and get what you’ve not achieved. Likewise for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, he’ll crave the Champions League having been unable to get his arms on it but in England.
It’s a tougher one for Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. I don’t assume Klopp will differentiate in choosing his groups however it’s a practice at Liverpool to make successful the home league as your precedence and they’ve nonetheless solely received it as soon as in 30 years so I believe at a twist he’d desire the Premier League. For Solskjaer, any of them! He badly wants a trophy and both of those would put him in a phenomenally sturdy place transferring ahead.
Some managers can be prioritising sure trophies, however for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he’ll take any of them – and the Champions League would put him a robust place transferring ahead
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE AWAY GOAL RULE BEING SCRAPPED?
I’m glad. It’s inherently unfair to place one crew by way of and one other one out in the event that they’ve scored the identical quantity of objectives. At least in a penalty shoot-out a crew has to place the ball within the web extra instances than the opposition, the essence of soccer.
The away objectives rule was launched to cease groups being over-defensive however I do not assume scrapping it’ll harm the spectacle. Most profitable groups now play on the entrance foot. And if away groups have much less incentive to attain, it is offset by residence groups not having the identical concern of conceding, to allow them to actually go for it!
IS LIVERPOOL’S SQUAD BIG ENOUGH TO FIGHT ON TWO FRONTS?
I believe so, offering they aren’t too unfortunate with accidents. Ideally, you’d need one or two extra choices up entrance however the squad now might be stronger than it was in 2019 after they received the Champions League and have been within the title race till the tip.
Diogo Jota is one other choice to Mane, Salah and Firmino and Origi and Minamino are on the membership, as well as Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are able to be given extra accountability by Klopp. They look in fine condition on the again with 4 high centre-backs.
Liverpool have nice back-up choices to go for the Premier League and Champions League this season with the likes of Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones (pictured) being utilized in rotation
HOW MANY OF THE 32 CLUBS WOULD YOU SAY ARE POTENTIAL WINNERS?
I personally assume the winners will come from one in every of six – Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and PSG, with Atletico as an outsider as a result of Diego Simeone has matchwinners in Luis Suarez and Griezmann along with the outstanding crew spirit he’s fostered.
But should you ask the managers themselves, I’d assume Manchester United, Real Madrid and even Juventus would give themselves an opportunity. Juventus have Euro 2020 winners like Giorgio Chiellini of their aspect so you may see why they’d consider they’re aggressive however that Italian nationwide crew additionally had Veratti, Jorghino and Donnarumma to assist out.
With Luiz Suarez and Antoine Griezmann in assault, Atletico Madrid are my darkish horses
WHICH TIE WOULD YOU PAY TO WATCH THIS WEEK?
Barcelona-Bayern and Inter Milan-Real Madrid are enticing fixtures however I believe the stand-out is Liverpool-AC Milan as a result of it alerts the return of these magical European nights to Anfield after such an extended wait. You can think about the thrill earlier than kick off when the groups stroll out.
It ought to be a high match as effectively. Olivier Giroud has already been among the many objectives in Serie A and as a former Chelsea man, he can anticipate a raucous welcome from The Kop.
NAME YOUR 2021/22 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE XI
Manuel Neuer (Bayern): Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ruben Dias (Man City), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Alphonso Davies (Bayern); Joshua Kimmich (Bayern), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Kevin De Bruyne (Man City); Neymar (PSG), Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), Lionel Messi (PSG)
Erling Haaland (left) will get in my Champions League dream crew alongside Neymar (proper), however there is not any place for the latter’s PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe