The 2019/2020 UEFA Champions League (UCL) group matches began on 17th September 2019. The fixtures included some mouthwatering clashes such as Napoli vs. Liverpool and Dortmund vs. Barcelona. The UCL always provides entertaining clashes as teams seek the coveted European trophy. Last season’s champions, Liverpool, lost to Napoli in one of matchday one’s most thrilling encounters.
The Champions League group stage matches continue on 18th September with potentially exciting encounters such as PSG vs. Real Madrid. The group stages determine which teams qualify for the round of sixteen. There will be six matchdays in this stage, with each team playing six matches against the group opponents.
2019 Champions League news
- Dutch police detain Lille supporters: 303 supporters of the French team were detained in Amsterdam for lighting off fireworks, disturbing public order, and violence. This happened as Lille took on Ajax in a Champions League clash.
- Erling Haaland record: Haaland became the third-youngest player in history to score three goals in a Champions League match. The teenager scored his hat trick before halftime as Salzburg thrashed Genk by six goals to two.
- Mendy’s return: Benjamin Mendy has returned to the Manchester City squad ahead of their clash with Shakhtar Donetsk. The player has been sidelined since May due to a knee injury.
- Klopp displeased with penalty decision: Liverpool coach, Jurgen Klopp was not pleased with the penalty awarded to Napoli during the team’s clash against Liverpool. Andrew Robertson was adjudged to have fouled Callejon in the lead up to Napoli’s penalty.
- Manchester City is the best team: Well, according to Jurgen Klopp, the Citizens are the best team in the world. Klopp believes this despite leading City by five points in the English Premier League.
- Neymar’s ban: The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has reduced Neymar’s three-game ban to two games. The forward was found guilty of social media abuse in March 2019. UEFA dismissed PSG’s appeal against the ban. The team then appealed to CAS and got the ban reduced by one match.
- Real Madrid fans are better: Eden Hazard says that he has noticed that Real Madrid’s fans seem more invested than Chelsea’s fans. The Belgian striker moved to Real Madrid in the summer for a reported fee of £130m.
17th September UCL fixtures
Here are the fixtures that were played on 17th September.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Barcelona: 0-0
Borussia Dortmund hosted Barcelona at Signal Iduna Park for the teams’ first clash in the 2019/2020 season Champions League. Barcelona’s talisman, Lionel Messi came back from injury in time for the faceoff with Dortmund. However, the return of the prolific forward was not enough to inspire the Catalans to a victory in Germany. Barcelona’s keeper, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was instrumental in securing a point for Barcelona with his heroic moves.
Both teams played cautiously in the first half although proceedings got more interesting after the break. Dortmund’s Reus spurned the best chance of the game when he had his penalty kick saved. Julian Brandt then came close when his effort struck the crossbar. Dortmund was the better side during the opening exchanges although Barcelona created the first chance when Pique’s header went wide. Ter Stegen then saved a close-range effort from Reus before Jadon Sancho’s shot went wide.
A few minutes after the break, Barcelona’s Semedo tripped Sancho inside the box. The referee did not hesitate to award Dortmund a penalty. Reus stepped up to take the spot-kick, but Ter Stegen’s heroics once again came to play as he dived to his left to deny the German. Lionel Messi then came on for the relatively quiet Ansu Fati. Paco Alcacer, Reus and Brandt all came close for Dortmund, but Barcelona still held on for a point.
Dortmund will undoubtedly rue some missed chances after the match. Barcelona’s keeper was magnificent during the clash and helped his team go back to Spain with a point.
Ajax vs. Lille: 3-0
Ajax made it to last season’s Champion’s League semi-finals. The Dutch team opened this year’s campaign with a convincing three-nil win over French team, Lille. Ajax players were dominant over their French rivals throughout the match and were clear favorites to win the game. Quincy Promes put Ajax ahead with a well-taken header before Edson Alvarez added a second after the break.
In the sixty-second minute, Nicolas Tagliafico scored Ajax’s third with a thumping header. The Dutch now lead Group H with three points and a three-goal difference. Ajax had started superbly with Hakim Ziyech’s effort coming off the right-hand post. Lille, on the other hand, had some clear-cut chances. Jonathan Ikone’s low shot was kept off by Ajax’s keeper with Osimhen striking the rebound shot over the crossbar.
Benfica vs. RB Leipzig: 1-2
Benfica hosted RB Leipzig at the Estadio da Luz for the first match in Group G. The game was relatively balanced in the first half and a portion of the second half. In the sixty-ninth minute, Timo Werner scored Leipzig’s first goal after connecting with a Yussuf Poulsen cross. Nine minutes later, Marcel Sabitzer slid a pass into Werner’s path who made no mistake in scoring Leipzig’s second. The goal was disallowed for an offside violation but later awarded after a VAR (video assistant referee) consultation.
Benfica also created some glorious chances. In the first half, Pizzi nearly gave the Portuguese team the lead when his shot flashed across the face of goal. The team then came to scoring again when Peter Gulasci spectacularly saved Alex Grimaldo’s free-kick. In the 84th minute, Haris Seferovic finally scored for Benfica although the team failed to find an equalizer. Leipzig now tops the group after Zenit and Lyon played out a one-all draw.
Napoli vs. Liverpool: 2-0
The Reds began their Champions League title defense with a loss to Napoli. Liverpool was a significantly improved team over the one that lost here in Sao Paolo last season. Robertson tripped José Callejón inside the box resulting in a penalty for Napoli. Dries Mertens stepped up and struck the spot-kick beyond Adrian’s outstretched arms. There was some controversy surrounding the penalty though. To some, it certainly looked like a foul from Robertson. To others, it seemed like Callejón had dived inside the box.
Liverpool’s manager termed the spot-kick as being ‘not clear and obvious.’ As the Reds searched for an equalizer, defender Virgil van Dijk played an ill-timed back-pass into Fernando Llorente’s patch. The former Spurs player made no mistake getting the ball into the back of the net. That second goal sealed Liverpool’s fate on their Italian Champions League encounter. Red Bull now tops Group E on goal difference, followed by Napoli. Liverpool is in third while Genk is in the fourth position.
RB Salzburg vs. Genk: 6-2
Salzburg stormed to the top of Group E after a six-goal demolition of Racing Genk. Erling Haaland was the star of the match, scoring a stunning hat-trick. Haaland is the son of Alf-Inge Haaland, a former Leeds and Manchester City defender. The teenager became the eighth player in history to score a hat-trick on a debut in the Champions League.
Andreas Ulmer, Dominik Szoboszlai and Hwang Hee-chan were also on target as Salzburg ran riot. Haaland had already found the net fourteen times in the domestic league heading into the clash against Genk. Two minutes into the match, the sensational teenager was already on the score sheet, having fired a shot into the lower-left corner. Salzburg now tops Group E with a four-goal difference but on the same points as Napoli who beat Liverpool by two goals to nil.
Inter Milan vs. Slavia Prague: 1-1
Inter Milan was the more dominant side throughout the match. Danilo D’Ambrosio and Stefan de Vrij came close to scoring in the first half. However, Slavia Prague scored against the run of play. An exceptional team move resulted in Olayinka squaring the ball for Jaroslav Zeleny whose effort was saved by Handanovic. However, the Inter Milan could only do so much, and Olayinka fired the rebound into the back of the net.
Slavia Prague seemed to be headed for a victory before Barella struck in the dying minutes of the game. The Inter Milan player scored a rebound after Stefano Sensi’s free-kick had hit the crossbar. Romelu Lukaku then had his effort saved while De Vrij headed over. All four teams in Group F are now tied at one point each and a nil goal difference. In the other Group F match, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund played out to a one-all draw.
Lyon vs. Zenit: 1-1
Lyon hosted Zenit at the Stade de Lyon in a seemingly well-balanced Group G encounter. Lyon had not recorded a home victory in the Champions League since 2016. A drab first-half display meant that the French team was headed for another possible home draw. Zenit took the lead a few minutes after the break. The goal followed a fantastic one-two between Sardar Azmoun and Artem Dzyuba with the former poking a shot past Anthony Lopes.
On the other side of the pitch, Memphis Depay skipped past Yordan Osorio before earning a penalty after being tripped inside the box. Depay stepped up and fired the spot-kick into the back of the net. Jeff Reine-Adelaide, a former Arsenal player, spurned two chances to score for the home side. Lyon’s players were unable to break down the Zenit defence, and the team’s search for a Champions League home win continues to be elusive.
Chelsea vs. Valencia: 0-1
Frank Lampard’s Champions League managerial debut was handed a blow when Chelsea lost to Valencia. The Blues welcomed Valencia to the Stamford Bridge aiming to start their campaign with a victory. Valencia’s forward, Rodrigo Moreno gave the visitors the lead in the seventy-fourth minute when he got a slight touch on Dani Parejo’s free-kick.
Chelsea’s best chance at an equalizer went begging when Ross Barkley’s penalty kick struck the crossbar. The home defeat was Chelsea’s first since losing to Paris St Germain in 2016. Ajax now leads Group H on goal difference, followed by Valencia. Both teams have three points. Chelsea and Lille will be searching for their first points during matchday two’s games.
18th September Champions League fixtures
Here are the games that will take place on 18th September.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Manchester City
Manchester City will be facing Shakhtar Donetsk for the third season in a row. It is the first time two teams have been drawn in the same group for three consecutive seasons since Ajax and Real Madrid in the seasons in 2010/2011, 2011/2012 and 2012/2013.
Manchester City has only lost one of the last four matches against Shakhtar and will, therefore, be firm favorites to win. The English team has also outscored Shakhtar by twelve goals to two over the four recent matches.
Club Brugge vs. Galatasaray
Club Brugge will host Galatasaray in this Group A match. The encounter in Belgium could prove crucial in the outcome of the group. Brugge and Galatasaray are the underdogs in the group which also includes PSG and Real Madrid. The team that earns a favorable result in Belgium may very well end up snatching the second spot in the group. Club Brugge have fourteen points from their opening six games in their domestic league. Galatasaray, on the other hand, has only seven points from four games.
Olympiacos vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs travel to Greece for this potentially mouthwatering Group B encounter. While the Greek side is not the favorite to advance past the group stages, its Karaiskakis Stadium is widely regarded as a fortress. Olympiacos came second in the 2018/2019 Greek Super League, five points behind the champions, PAOK. The team is currently undefeated in the Greek Super League with a single draw and eight victories.
Olympiacos beat FC Krasnodar, Basaksehir and Viktoria Pilzen to qualify for the group stages. The team scored thirteen goals and conceded just one during the qualifications. In addition to being undefeated in the league, the Greek club is yet to concede a single goal. The team’s solid defence, coupled with its unrelenting fans, could prove quite difficult for the visiting Spurs.
Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus
This Group D clash will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting games of matchday one. Juventus kicked Atletico out of the Champions League last season in one of the most thrilling round-of-sixteen encounters. The other teams in the group are Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow. It will be interesting to watch Juventus’s Cristiano Ronaldo against Atletico’s Joao Felix. The two Portuguese players are crucial to their teams’ outcomes.
Ronaldo has repeatedly been a hindrance to Atletico’s Champions League prospects. His contribution was crucial as the Italian side edged the Spanish side by three goals to two on aggregate in the 2018/2019 season.
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
Lokomotiv Moscow and Bayer Leverkusen meet in Germany for the second Group D match. The two teams are the underdogs in a group that also contains Juventus and Atletico Madrid. However, a favorable result between the two favourites could hand a lifeline to one of the underdogs to qualify in the second position. Bayer Leverkusen is the firm favourite to win the match, and it is expected that the prolific Kai Havertz will be instrumental against the Russian side.
Bayern Munich vs. Red Star
Bayern will be hosting Red Star at the Allianz Arena in this Group B clash. Bayern’s coach, Niko Kovac said that he is aiming for the quarter-finals this season as his team was bundled out in earlier stages during previous seasons. The team last won a Champions League trophy in 2013 during the final at Wembley. Since then, the Germans have been less of a threat in the European competition.
Bayern is the heavy favorite to win this encounter, but this being the Champions League, we can only wait and see.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Atalanta
Atalanta will face off with Dinamo Zagreb in the Croatian capital in a high-stakes Group C match. Manchester City is expected to take the top spot in the group comfortably. Whichever team makes the second spot will have to win the ‘mini-league’ between Shakhtar Donetsk, Atalanta, and Dinamo Zagreb. The visitors come into the game as slight favorites in a game which could go either way.
PSG vs. Real Madrid
PSG will face off with Real Madrid in what is arguably the plum tie of the group stages. The two teams are financial heavyweights and are well known for fielding very expensive squads. While Real and PSG are the favorites to qualify from the group, Galatasaray and Club Brugge will be worthy opponents. The sheer talent within the two teams’ lineups should make up for some exciting football.
The first eight matches of matchday one have already been played and yielded mixed results. The teams that won will be aiming to solidify their grip on the top positions. Those that are yet to rake in points will be looking to improve on matchday two. The upcoming fixtures will undoubtedly make for exciting viewing as sixteen more team battle it out. Which team do you think will win the trophy this time?