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Champions League Preview – Match Day 1

One of the most anticipated Champions League seasons in recent memory gets underway next week, with a full slate of games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Today we are previewing the Tuesday games.

Chelsea v Bordeaux – Buy ChelseaBordeaux Tickets
They were only a missed John Terry penalty kick away from being crowned champions of Europe last season but Chelsea must forget their Moscow misery as a new UEFA Champions League campaign opens with a home game against a Bordeaux side who finished runners-up in the French league under coach Laurent Blanc.

Chelsea have been almost impossible to beat at Stamford Bridge posting a run of 12 UEFA Champions League games without defeat, winning nine and drawing three. They were last beaten at home in February 2006 when FC Barcelona triumphed 2-1 in the first knockout round first leg.

I expect Chelsea’s unbeaten run to continue as they win this one.

Roma v CFR – Buy AS Roma – CFR Cluj Tickets
For the third straight season Roma begin with a game against opposition from eastern Europe as they entertain Romanian debutants CFR 1907 Cluj at the Stadio Olimpico.

This will be CFR Cluj’s first appearance in the Champions League after winning Liga 1 for the first time in May.

Roma has reached the quarter-finals in both the last two years and I expect them to kick off this season’s campaign with a home win even without captain Francesco Totti who is expected to miss the game through injury.

Panathinaikos v Inter Milan – Buy Panathinaikos – Inter Milan Tickets
Panathinaikos FC make their return to the UEFA Champions League after a two-year absence hoping to inflict another losing start on opponents FC Internazionale Milano.

Inter have opened their campaign with a defeat in the last two seasons, and new coach José Mourinho will have his team ready for the tricky visit to the  OACA Spyro Louis Stadium, where Panathinaikos have lost to Italian visitors only once out of four games in Europe’s premier club tournament.

Mourinho has already made headlines by leaving Hernan Crespo out of their Champions League squad. Crespo must have really upset Mourinho as he ran him out of Chelsea and looks like will do the same thing in Milan.

This should be a hard fought game and I expect both teams to get a share of the points here.

Bremen v Anorthosis – Buy Werder Bremen – Anorthosis Famagusta Tickets
Werder Bremen will be hoping to get off to a winning start at last in their fifth successive UEFA Champions League campaign. After four straight defeats on Match day 1, the Bundesliga runners-up will be trying to exploit the inexperience of Anorthosis Famagusta FC, the first Cypriot club to reach the group stage.

To make history and become the first Cypriot side to reach the group stage, Anorthosis needed to overcome all three qualifying hurdles, but they strengthened their hand with successive 3-0 home victories in the second and third rounds, first against SK Rapid Wien and then Olympiacos.

Anorthosis is one of the weakest teams in the tournament and I expect Bremen to win this one comfortably at home.

Basel v Shakhtar – Buy FC Basel – Shakhtar Donetsk Tickets
FC Basel 1893 begin their first UEFA Champions League campaign since 2003 with the visit of Group C rivals FC Shakhtar Donetsk to St. Jakob-Park.

This is the Ukrainian champions’ third successive UEFA Champions League campaign and they will want to improve on last term’s efforts. After winning their first two matches – at home to Celtic FC and away to SL Benfica – they then suffered four straight losses on their way to a bottom-placed finish.

This is a really important match for both teams given that Basel, Shakhtar and Sporting will all fancy their chances of a top-two finish in a section in which FC Barcelona start as outright favourites.

With both teams afraid to lose, I can see this game ending up a draw.

Barcelona v Sporting – Buy FC Barcelona – Sporting Portugal Tickets
A European champion with FC Barcelona as a player, Josep Guardiola begins his pursuit of the same prize as coach of Barcelona when they welcome Group C rivals Sporting Clube de Portugal to Catalonia on Matchday 1.

Barcelona reached the semi-finals last year and will be looking to go one step further this year.
For Sporting, meanwhile, this is their third successive season in the UEFA Champions League group stage – and fifth overall – but they are still waiting to secure a place in the knockout rounds.

Barcelona, who are led by Messi are one of the best teams in Europe and I expect them to beat Sporting here.

PSV v Atlético – Buy PSV Eindhoven – Atletico Madrid Tickets
Atlético de Madrid will end an absence of eleven years from Europe’s élite club competition when they step out at the Philips Stadion against PSV Eindhoven on Matchday 1.

Atlético last competed in the UEFA Champions League in 1996/97, when they lost out to AFC Ajax in the quarter-finals, and it is with a match against another Dutch side – the Eredivise champions PSV – that they mark their return to the continental spotlight.

PSV, who are embarking on their 12th consecutive campaign in Europe’s premier club competition, will hope to improve on last term’s efforts which ended in elimination at the group stage for the first time since 2003/04.

In a close game I expect PSV to beat Atlético and grab the three points.

Marseille v Liverpool – Buy Olympique MarseilleLiverpool Tickets
This is an intriguing game as Liverpool knocked out Olympique de Marseille out of the Champions League last year after inflicting the heaviest home defeat for Marseille in European competition

Liverpool will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the start they made to the group stage 12 months ago when they collected just a point from their opening three fixtures, which included a 1-0 home defeat by Marseille.
I expect Liverpool to struggle here in a game that comes right after a EPL game against Manchester United and I am looking for Marseille to take all three points here.

Tomorrow we will look at the Wednesday Match Day 1 games.