By John Essien
Three months after emerging winners in Porto, defending champions Chelsea, will start their Group H campaign against Russian side Zenit St Petersburg, as the Champions League group stage returns.
With both teams coming off unbeaten records in their domestic leagues so far, Zenit will be aiming to improve on last year’s early exit.
An ultimately comfortable 3-0 victory over Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on Saturday sees Chelsea in ideal shape to begin the defence of their continental crown this week.
In same vein, Zenit scored three times at the weekend, as they beat Akhmat Grozny 3-1 in the Russian top flight to secure another three points; helping them take an early stranglehold on a division they have dominated in recent years.
Manchester United will be looking to make the perfect start to their 2021-22 group-stage campaign when they take on Young Boys in Switzerland, also on Tuesday night.
The Red Devils will enter the match off the back of a 4-1 win over Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday, while Young Boys thumped Zurich 4-0 in the Swiss Super League in their last match.
Barcelona and Bayern Munich begin their respective quests for Champions League glory with a blockbuster Group E clash at Camp Nou on Tuesday night.
La Blaugrana took third place in the 2020-21 La Liga season to secure another safe passage into the group stages, while Bayern’s perennial reign of dominance in the German top flight continued.
Bayern’s continental crown slipped off their head last term as they also fell victim to PSG in the 2020-21 tournament, but Julian Nagelsmann’s side firmly have the look of a team itching to regain the coveted trophy this time around.
For Barcelona, they will need no reminder as to how PSG also dispatched them 5-2 on aggregate in the round of 16 last term, before yanking Lionel Messi from their grasp. With their final group-stage encounter of last season ending in a 3-0 loss to Juventus, Barca head into Tuesday’s game winless in three Champions League matches.
Amid the storm caused by their star player’s departure, Juventus have struggled to adapt, so they seek to bounce back at Malmo, upon their return to the biggest event in club competitions.
Following a limp last-16 exit last term, Juve only just scraped into Europe’s elite competition on the final day of the Serie A season, while their hosts – who started in the first round of qualifying – are back in the big time after six years away.