It’s the time of the year that most soccer fans look forward to — the return of the UEFA Champions League. Beginning in September, the biggest clubs in Europe start their journey through the Group stages as they try to progress through the competition and dream of an appearance in the final at the San Siro in Milan, Italy.
To help make your experience as enjoyable as possible, we’ve put together a preview, which also includes the schedule and TV times (that are available).
Here’s our preview of the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League group stage:
Welcome to the big stage, Malmö. After defeating Celtic in the playoff round, what is your reward? Ties against Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk.
It’ll be fascinating to see how PSG’s marquee summer signing, Angel di Maria, is deployed and what impact he has particularly against his former club. Gone from the Parisian side is midfielder Yohan Cabaye but his involvement in last season’s campaign was minimal.
Real Madrid’s marquee signing never arrived. The David de Gea saga dragged on right until the last minutes of the transfer window but the deal never went through. Accusations have flown in both directions and perhaps we’ll never know what really happened. Regardless of who scuppered the deal, Real did replace a couple of parts of their starting XI. In the midfield, Croatian Mateo Kovačić has joined from Internazionale while Asier Illarramendi and Sami Khedira have departed. Khedira’s contract expired and he signed with Serie A champions Juventus. The player to watch is Danilo Luiz da Silva. Joining from Porto for €31.5M, he and fellow Brazilian Marcelo should give Real a lot of width when on the attack.
I expect PSG and Real Madrid to battle over the top 2 spots and I see PSG finishing just ahead of Real Madrid with probably a win at home and a draw away at the Spanish side. Despite the personnel loss, Douglas Costa, Luiz Adriano and Fernando all departed over the summer, Shakhtar Donetsk should have enough to get themselves into a Europa League spot.
Despite their good performance against Celtic, Malmö are unlikely to make much impact in this group.
Tuesday, September 15